Monday, December 31, 2007


A British teacher has told how she and her family including her newborn baby were forced from their home in Kisumu, scene of some of the worst violence to follow Kenya's disputed presidential election.
In an interview with BBC News 24, Alison Rogers, 42, also said the school she ran with her husband had been burned down and there seemed to be no way out of town.

Alison Rogers said looting had left the town without food.
We had our whole business burned down.
We have nothing left there and this morning we had a lot of people at the gate trying to break the gate down to the house.
We phoned the police. The police brought tear gas down and helped us to get to a hotel where I am with my family at the moment.
It's very, very terrifying and made all the more so because we have a three-week-old baby with us.
We have no papers, no documents. In the panic of leaving the house this morning we did not even manage to grab clothes for her so it was a horrible situation arriving in a hotel with no clothes, even for the baby.
At the moment, the British Embassy [in Nairobi] are just giving advice to stay put.
They said there was no fuel anywhere around so they can't get vehicles in or out.
We do feel a bit safer in this hotel at the moment so that's a bit easier.
We were looking after another two [local] families with young children in our house this morning, who are in a terrifying position.
Their houses have been burnt. They had run to us and now we have run on to this hotel. They can't afford this hotel.
It's critical for many, many people in this country at the moment.
Temporarily we can't safely get to the airport and we don't know how many flights there are a day out of Kisumu.
We are told there's one tonight but it's fully booked.
Even trying to get to the airport is a very frightening proposition. People can stone the cars or burn the cars or even kill people en route.
We expected a little bit of trouble around the election but nobody expected it on this scale
We are in a better position than a lot of people in that we have got the possibility, when things calm down a little bit, we will be able to leave the country.
They've looted all the shops. There is no food anywhere in Kisumu. Getting hold of any food is almost impossible.
All the lorries have been stopped. There is nothing on the roads so food can't come into the area.
It's completely surprised lots and lots of people. We expected a little bit of trouble around the election - I think a lot of people stayed in around the election day - but nobody expected it on this scale.
So many people are so frustrated they feel the elections have not been fair, have not been carried out right.
They are very frustrated with the democracy that's been on display here.
People are not feeling that their voice has been heard properly. They are not feeling the results have been fair at all.
Over the next couple of days things are going to become very desperate unless the government can take control very quickly.



By Richard Black - Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Alaska.

The Nuvuk site is a snowmobile ride away from modern-day Barrow. It is not the type of a call that an archaeologist receives every day.
There are bodies, the voice on the end of the line told Anne Jensen; we don't know who they were, or why they are here.
"People started noticing stuff eroding out of the bluff," she recalls, "and I got called out, along with the police, the real estate people and so on.
"It was very clearly an archaeological burial. And the bluff was collapsing quickly, so we just got the contents out."
The bluff lies virtually at the end of the Americas, on a narrow, hooked spit projecting northwards from Barrow. It marks the join of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and is prey to the temperamental vagaries of both.
Now known as Point Barrow, the settlement on it was Nuvuk for at least 1,000 years, a spot presumably chosen because of its proximity to the migration path of bowhead whales which would become the cultural and nutritional centre of Nuvuk life.
These bodies, these bones, clearly came from no crime scene. The police could leave, and Dr Jensen's team could get to work on a find more closely related to its own interests. It has been working every summer since.
When I visit in late May, the spit itself is virtually invisible beneath the blanket of ice which carpets land and sea alike.
Led by Laura Taylor, we speed out on to the ice on snowmobiles, bodies swathed in heavy-duty parkas and feet wrapped in "bunny boots" which include a layer of air to insulate the delicate extremities.
We traverse cracks created as the sea-borne ice rides up and down on the tide. We pass a couple of umiaq, traditional sealskin whaling boats left out on the ice, and every so often a scientific instrument or two, testimony to the extraordinary richness of Barrow's research tapestry.
After perhaps 20 minutes we disembark at the point, the site of ancient Nuvuk. The higher level of ice is a clue that we are on land, and grey-brown late Spring melt mush materialises beneath our feet as we walk, to prove the case.
Here, at the edge, is Anne Jensen's bluff, where bodies began appearing a decade ago. Or at least, here is where it is now; then it was 100 metres or further from the sea.
"We've had a lot of changing in currents over the past decade or so," explains Dr Taylor, "and with the changing currents and increased storm activity in the fall especially, it's undercutting the gravels and the point is literally washing out into the ocean."
And as the point washes out, so do the bodies. What used to be an accreting spit - one building up - has become an eroding spit as the coastal ebbs and flows have changed their seasonal patterns, perhaps at the behest of global climate change.
"It's eroding at about 20m per year; we only have an eight-week field season, and we need to cover at least 300m of shore," she says.
"So it's salvage archaeology - we have to beat the erosion."

The team uncovers about 20 complete burials each year. The methodology now involves digging exploration holes every few metres in a lattice pattern - "Swiss-cheesing", as Laura Taylor calls it - and excavating the newly identified burial sites.
Most of the bodies were interred in a rough framework made of wood or whale bones, with a piece of driftwood on top; some were also wrapped in animal skin or fur.

Whalebone tools for making nets have been found in Nuvuk burialsArtefacts have also surfaced, making suggestions about how people lived in Nuvuk. Here, a body holds an ulu, a traditional knife used for taking blubber from whale carcasses; there, a grave gives up weights from a bolus which would have been used to hunt birds.
There is armour made from whale baleen. Many of the graves also contain flat stones, which presumably have some kind of ceremonial purpose.
Researchers can also call on human memory and lore, because Nuvuk retained human inhabitants until about 60 years ago.
And although the houses have gone, Ukpeagvik, in the middle of what is now Barrow, has been an important site for studying remains of dwellings from the same period and culture; dwellings of impressive complexity built with subterranean cold-traps, entrance tunnels supported by whale mandibles, and insulation by sod.

But what period and culture does Nuvuk represent?
Clearly it was complex enough 1,000 years ago to support whaling, an activity which needs great co-ordination within the community. Crews must organise hunting, villagers must turn out for a swift butchering, meat must be stored, seals caught to make umiaq, and trading enacted to bring in caribou meat and driftwood.
"I think these are very early Thule people," opines Anne Jensen.
"One of the big questions is where did the Thule come from? The culture was first described in the eastern Arctic, and it's clearly the ancestor of the modern Inupiat and Inuit cultures; but where did it develop?"

The Thule period succeeded earlier Arctic cultures such as the Birnirk and Punuk. And Dr Jensen now believes she may be sitting on or close to the very first Thule settlement.
"My idea is it started somewhere in northern Alaska, perhaps in a major whaling area; and it doesn't seem to stop, moving from place to place looking for whales."
A community organised for whaling, she believes, would have had an edge over competing cultures. The social hierarchy and regular experiences of mass mobilisation would have made for organised defence and perhaps attack too, while a diet rich in whalemeat meant better nutrition.
Laura Taylor believes you can draw a direct line between the Thule culture and the modern Inupiat, the traditional residents of Barrow and many settlements around. And the line, she says, is drawn in whalemeat.
"Whaling is the keystone; it's what everything in the culture is organised around," she says.
"It is the defining element of what makes Thule Thule, and in modern times, what makes Inupiat Inupiat."

When the first bodies washed out of the sea-battered bluff a decade ago, interest was high, but funding to excavate and examine stubbornly low.
That has changed; and since 2005, the researchers have received grants from Echo, a US federal programme aiming to give high school students a regular taste of real science.
The students spend several weeks digging alongside researchers, which given the shortness of the digging season and the necessity of getting the bodies out fast would be described as a dawn-to-dusk job, if the north Alaskan summer had dawns or dusks rather than 24-hour sunlight.

Flags are used to mark locations meriting a closer look. Some, such as Ben Frantz II, come back for more.
"I thought it would be pretty cool to see how my ancestors lived," the fresh-faced 19-year-old Inupiat tells me.
"Originally it was just a job; but as it turned out we started working on weekends and it was kind of fun, so I decided to stay for a while."
Now employed as a research assistant, his main task is to catalogue artefacts - arrowheads, harpoon shafts, scrapers, tools, and sled runners.
So much has been recovered that he is still working on artefacts unearthed in 2005. But, he says, it has been a worthwhile experience.
"It's changed my view of my own culture. I used to think that my ancestors were really smart, but I never knew they achieved so much."
As the Point Barrow bluff erodes, the rescue mission will presumably continue. Bodies will be snatched from the ocean's grasp each short summer, examined and catalogued before a new internment in the safer soils of modern Barrow.
Each body is a fragment of the town's past, a reminder of the long history of whale-centred culture which binds the threads of a millennium. They are treasures which neither the Barrow community nor its modern scientific boarders are minded to let wash away.






By Noel Mwakugu - BBC News, Kisumu.

Police were deployed to deal with protests at the weekend. Outside the mortuary in the Nyanza Provincial Hospital, to the west of the city of Kisumu, a small angry crowd had gathered on Monday morning.
They had come after hearing that dozens of bodies had been taken there by police overnight and in the early morning.
Inside the main room in the mortuary, I counted 43 bodies - mostly young men, two women and three children.
They had been brought in after a night of violence, blamed on the disputed presidential election.
Mortuary attendants were quietly moving among the bodies, which had been laid on the floor in a single row.
None of them had been covered - some of the men were topless, others were naked.

One man said that police had fired indiscriminately, even after protesters had started running away All of the bodies had sustained at least one gunshot wound, in the legs, chest, stomach and back. One man had been hit by a bullet in the head.
A woman had been laid next to a child, presumably her daughter.
Outside, I spoke to one man who had witnessed their deaths. He said that police had fired indiscriminately, even after protesters had started running away. The woman and her daughter were both hit by the bullets.
Police chief Grace Kahindi said she had no knowledge of any deaths.

There are fears that news of all of the shootings might spark more anger in the city and its suburbs.
The streets of Kisumu - Kenya's third largest city and a stronghold of opposition leader Raila Odinga - are almost deserted. Police in full riot gear are patrolling in their vehicles.
Shops and business remain closed and the water supply to the city has been cut. Many people have moved out to the suburbs.
Following last night's sporadic shooting, barricades built from boulders, trees and tyres have been built across the roads leading to the suburbs.
Small groups of young men are keeping watch for the riot police.
The mood is sombre, mixed with anger.
One man told me that peopled wanted to know why the government was killing them for demanding their rights.



Virgin Atlantic is a key transatlantic carrier operating from main airports. Sir Richard Branson has told Virgin Atlantic staff who are threatening to strike over a wage deal offered by the airline to consider working elsewhere.
In a letter to 4,800 cabin crew, the Virgin boss warned he would not be meeting pay demands.
Workers' union Unite called the letter from Sir Richard "provocative".
It comes after union members voted to strike in January in protest over pay levels they say are lower than at other airlines, including British Airways.
The 48-hour strikes are scheduled for 9 and 10 January, and 16 and 17 January.
The strikes are not the only industrial action scheduled by aviation workers for January.
Union members at airport operator BAA are set to cause mass disruption at some of the UK's largest airports on three other dates next month.

In his letter, Sir Richard said Virgin Atlantic had "drawn a line in the sand" over pay this year.
"To go further would result in unacceptable risks and would set a dangerous precedent to the company as a whole," he added.
"It would be irresponsible of our management and they, rightly, are not going to take that risk."
Sir Richard admitted that rival airlines often offered better basic wages but said that they did not offer the perks that came with working for a "smaller, more friendly" company.
"For some of you, more pay than Virgin Atlantic can afford may be critical to your lifestyle and if that is the case you should consider working elsewhere," Sir Richard said.
Virgin Atlantic has previously said that there would be no "eleventh hour change to our pay offer".
The airline said its offer was worth 8.3% on basic pay over two years, with a 4.8% increase offered in the first year.

A Unite spokesperson said the letter was "unhelpful in resolving the dispute" and would "only make people more upset".
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said that since the letter was sent, a number of union members had contacted management offering to cross the picket line and work on the strike days.



By Jane O'Brien - BBC News, Washington.

Gun control is expected to become a hot topic for the US presidential election as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on a controversial handgun ban in the nation's capital.

Richard Heller says people have a right to defend their lives. For the last 31 years Washington DC has prohibited ownership of handguns in an attempt to curb high levels of violent crime. But security guard Richard Heller has challenged the law, claiming that it denied residents the right to defend themselves.
"An event happened in 1997 when a young man defended his life with a handgun against a criminal who had gotten into his house, and the city prosecuted him," says Mr Heller.
"This could happen to anyone and that's not what we have a government for - to hurt the people. But that's the effect of the gun ban. It makes people victims who have a right to defend their lives - and that's a constitutional right."

The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights has always been open to interpretation - partly because of its peculiar and hence controversial punctuation.
It reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."
Some experts say it implies a collective right to defence through gun control while others say it guarantees individual freedom.
In March, a district court agreed with Mr Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms and that the city's ban was unconstitutional.
The city appealed against the ruling and the Supreme Court will now decide what the 200-year-old Second Amendment really means.
"It's a clash of cultures," says constitutional law expert Professor Randy Barnett of the Georgetown University Law Center.
"It's the culture of individual self-defence as a protection against crime versus the culture of collective defence brought to you by government police departments.
"On the one hand you have a culture of self-defence in which firearms enable us to protect ourselves. And on the other side, at least since the sixties, there has been a culture of using gun control to address the problem of violent crime.
"People who favour this think it's absolutely essential there be controls on the rights of people to keep and bear arms or that people should be denied that right altogether in the interest of preventing crime."
According to the DC Metropolitan Police Department, there have been some 180 murders this year, up on last year's total of 169, a 20-year low.
The vast majority of the homicides were committed with a gun.
Police commander Michael Anzallo says the capital has seen an influx of handguns from neighbouring states where there are fewer controls.

Washington DC has banned handguns for 31 years"The police department recovers more than 1,000 guns a year," he says.
"The problem is easy access to firearms. Most of the motives for homicides are arguments or robbery related and the quick pull of the trigger means somebody's life."
In Washington's notorious SE district, gun crime has blighted the community.
At a youth centre run by the outreach group Peaceoholics, every teenager knows somebody who has been shot. Most have been threatened with guns or have been made victims themselves.
"A lot of my friends and a lot of people I really loved have been killed by guns," says 18-year-old Carlos.
"A number of incidents happened in the summer when one of my good friends got killed while she was sitting in somebody's car. She got shot in the back of the neck. She was just at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Peaceoholics spokesman Daniel Bradley says gun controls are essential to protect the community.
"We've been fighting violence enough in the last 15 or 20 years and repealing the gun ban will just make things a lot worse," he says.
"You're saying we should make it easier to access guns in a place where over a six month span this year we had 16 girls shot and six died? When you put it like that it doesn't make any sense at all."
But gun rights supporters say the issue goes much further than crime and self-defence and raises fundamental questions about the extent of government in the US.
"Guns may not be necessary for everyone but I don't think that the government should tell me I can't do something," says Ben Meyer, an instructor at the Blue Ridge Arsenal in Virginia.
"I'm actually intelligent enough to make my own decisions, and that includes matters of my self defence. What you're assuming, by restricting guns, is that a person isn't capable of handling one or that they are going to break the law, and I think that's a little bit ridiculous."
"This is about the government suppressing the citizens," says Mr Heller.
"I simply thought, gee, let's take this to court and let them settle it, and any intelligent, reasonable set of judges would make the right decision for the people, knowing what the rights of the people are, and knowing the limitations the government is supposed to have."
The Supreme Court will discuss the issue in the New Year but a ruling is not expected for several months.
Surveys estimate that there are 90 guns for every 100 citizens in the US, making the country one of the most heavily-armed nations in the world.
Whatever the Supreme Court decides will have implications for gun control across the country.



There has also been violence in Nairobi and Mombasa.
Violent protests
Scores of people have been killed across Kenya in violence blamed on the disputed presidential election. A BBC reporter has seen 43 bodies with gunshot wounds in a mortuary in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu. A witness said police shot protesters. There have been running battles in Nairobi slums. The local KTN television station says 124 have died nationwide. President Mwai Kibaki has been declared the winner but Raila Odinga says he was robbed of victory by election fraud.

See how the vote was split around the country

There have been violent clashes in slums in the resort town of Mombasa and several other towns around the country.

'Bodies laid out on floor'
'I chartered a plane to flee'
Tension rises after polls

The AFP news agency quotes police as saying that 40 people have been killed in Nairobi. There have been running battles in the slum of Kibera, between police firing live rounds and teargas and protesters armed with clubs and machetes. Large numbers of paramilitary police have been put on stand-by by the government.

In other developments:
European Union election observers have raised doubts about the officially announced results
The government has banned live broadcasts linked to the election
The police have banned a planned alternative inauguration ceremony to be held in central Nairobi for Mr Odinga
The police have urged people to stay away from central Nairobi
Mr Odinga said there was no difference between Mr Kibaki and "military dictators who have seized power through the barrel of the gun"
Those killed in Kisumu include two women and three children, reports the BBC's Noel Mwakugu.
An eye-witness told him that police fired indiscriminately, even after the protesters started running away in the Kisumu suburbs of Manyatta and Nyamasira.


Mwai Kibaki (pictured): 4,584,721 votes
Raila Odinga: 4,352,993
Kalonzo Musyoka: 879,903

Local police chief Grace Kahindi said she had no knowledge of any deaths. A daytime curfew (0600-1800 local time, 0300-1500 GMT) has been imposed in the town. "Police have been ordered to shoot violators," an unnamed senior police official told AFP. There have also reports of trouble in Bungoma, Busia, Eldoret, Kericho and Kakamega. The violence was stoked by opposition claims that the results were rigged. Some of the violence has taken an ethnic dimension. The Luo community are seen as pro-Odinga, while the Kikuyus are seen as supporters of Mr Kibaki. AFP reports that supporters of the president have been celebrating in the streets of towns in the Central Province - Mr Kibaki's home region.

Results changed
The police have cordoned off Nairobi's Uhuru Park, where Mr Odinga's supporters had planned to hold a rival swearing-in ceremony. The police have warned officials of Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement they will be arrested if they turn up. Chief EU election observer Alexander Graf Lambsdorff told the BBC that his monitors had been barred from counting centres in the Central Province. He also said that results from one constituency had been declared by the Electoral Commission of Kenya in Nairobi, which were different from those announced in the same constituency at local level.

He said the anomalies amounted to 20,000-25,000 votes in just one constituency.Mr Kibaki's national margin of victory was 230,000 votes. "I myself have seen forms which have been changed and no-one could tell me who had done the changes," he said. "Interestingly enough, all the changes favoured the same candidate." Elections chief Samuel Kivuitu has admitted some problems, including a reported voter turnout of 115% in one constituency, reports the AP news agency.



Sunday, December 30, 2007


Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga has called on President Mwai Kibaki to admit defeat in national elections.
He accused Mr Kibaki of electoral fraud and described the counting process as "deeply flawed".
The count has been halted while the country's electoral commission reviews dozens of disputed results.
The delays prompted allegations of vote rigging and sparked violence, amid reports that three people had died.



By Fiona Pryor - Entertainment reporter, BBC News.

Adichie started writing at the age of six. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was named 2007's winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction in June. Despite scooping one of the UK's most prestigious literary prizes, the 30-year-old insists her life has not changed much. "The only thing that Orange did was make more readers aware of my work who probably would not have heard of me. "So now I get more e-mails from different parts of the world," she says. Adichie's novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, is her second work and is set during the Biafran War of the 1960s.

Thinking back to the moment when her name was called out, Adichie says she was surprised to take home the award. "I wanted to win, but because I thought I wouldn't and because I had been told that I was the bookies' favourite, I thought it was a bad sign. "I had really psyched myself into expecting not to win in case I didn't. "For a minute I didn't know what to think and then I realised how happy I was," she says.

Even though Odoh Okonyedo, the literary editor of Nigeria's Weekly Trust, had hailed Adichie as "the new face of Nigerian literature", the writer says winning was a sort of "validation" for her work. Becoming the youngest winner to date and the first from Africa also made this an extra special achievement for Adichie. However, after taking the £30,000 prize money, the author says she is not interested in winning any more literary awards.

"Prize winning is nice but it's never been my goal. My goal is to write better and to write my next book and have it be better and to mean something to people who read it," she says. "I realised how horribly subjective prizes are and so I never write with prizes in mind." Adichie, who began writing at the age of six, has certainly come a long way since her early days as a writer."I remember my first rejection making me hopelessly depressed until I realised that it's part of it. You can't be a writer and not have rejection," she says.

Despite sounding humble she does admit to the temptation of writing "nasty letters" to those agents who rejected her but so far has managed to restrain herself. It is clear how much writing means to Adichie and running out of ideas is not what bothers her. "What I do worry about sometimes is something happening to me that would make it impossible for me to write, because I don't know that I would want to live if I couldn't write," she says. "I'm very much committed to my writing and it's what matters the most to me. I think I'm doing what I would have done if I hadn't won the Orange."



Gordon Brown has used his New Year message to say 2008 will be a year of "real and serious changes" in the UK.
The prime minister said combating the threat posed by terrorism was crucial and there would be "measurable changes in public services" over the next year.
The government would see through reforms in "vital areas" such as secure energy, pensions and health, he said.
In his message, Tory leader David Cameron said the Conservatives were an alternative to "hopeless" Labour.

Meanwhile, Jack Straw, one of Mr Brown's closest cabinet colleagues, has warned that the Conservative's campaign is "resonating" with the public and the government must "adapt" and show "clear progress" if it is to hold on to power.
The justice secretary told the Sunday Times that he accepted that the prime minister had faced difficulties in recent months that had to be put right.

New Year message in full

Giving his first New Year message since becoming prime minister, Mr Brown said: "With important legislation making long-term changes in energy, climate change, health, pensions, planning, housing, education and transport, 2008 will be a year of measurable changes in public services.
"A year for stepping up major long-term reform to meet challenges ranging from globalisation and global warming to the great unfinished business of social reform in our country."
Mr Brown, who became prime minister in June after Tony Blair stepped down, also said tackling the global credit problem was an "immediate priority" and a challenge for every economy.
The prime minister said the government would "continue to work with our international partners to counter the ongoing threat of global terrorism".
"We will not shirk but see through changes and reforms in the vital areas for our future - secure energy, pensions, transport, welfare, education, health and national security," he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron used his New Year's message to commit himself to working as if there would be a general election in 2008, even though he believed there would not be one.
He said his party now offered a "clear and credible alternative" to what he described as a "hopeless and incompetent Labour government".
"I want 2008 to be the year in which we offer the people of this country the hope of real change, by setting out a clear and inspiring vision of what Britain will look like with a Conservative government," he said.
The Tories would offer safer communities through police reform and more prison places, as well as "the hope of a decent education for every child" with radical reforms of the school system, he said.

Mr Straw, who ran the prime minister's leadership campaign, told the Sunday Times that these Conservative messages "have been resonating" with voters and that the key for Labour was showing the public that it was making "decisions that are relevant to their futures and not just resting on our laurels".
"All periods are crucial in government - and up to two-and-a-half years before the next election, which is a long time - but for sure we have got to make clear progress in the next year and everybody understands that," he added.
Since taking over as prime minister, Mr Brown's fortunes have fluctuated.
He enjoyed initial success in the opinion polls after dealing with a number of high-profile issues, ranging from a foot-and-mouth outbreak to an attempted terror attack. But his popularity has faltered in recent months.
He was widely criticised for appearing indecisive about calling a general election and his government has been hit in recent months by revelations of alleged impropriety in Labour party funding, as well as the loss of discs containing the personal details of 25 million people.






Only 25% of people succeeded in quitting smoking. Most of us will make a New Year's resolution - maybe to quit smoking or lose weight - but only one in 10 of us will succeed, say researchers. But before you give up altogether, it is possible to boost your chances of success, UK psychologists report.
A year-long study of 3,000 people found men should set specific goals and women should tell the world about their resolution if they are to succeed.
And the key for everyone is not to leave the decision to New Year's Eve.

Men should set specific goals
Women should tell others about their resolution
Choose a new approach
Do not leave the decision to New Year's Eve

Study leader Professor Richard Wiseman, who is based at the University of Hertfordshire, found more than half of those in the study believed they would be able to stick to their resolution.
But by the end of the year, just 12% had been successful.
Giving up smoking seemed to be the hardest goal to stick to, with three-quarters of people lighting up again in the New Year.
Only 28% of people succeeded in losing weight and 29% of people who vowed to improve their fitness managed to do so.
Men were 22% more likely to succeed when they set goals for themselves, such as losing a pound a week rather than just saying they wanted to lose weight.
Telling others increased women's chance of keeping resolutions by 10%.
They benefited from family and friends encouraging them to stick to their goals.
Professor Wiseman said it was possible to increase the likelihood you will keep your resolution.
"Deciding to revisit a past resolution sets you up for frustration and disappointment.
"Choose something new, or approach an old problem in a new way.
"Think through exactly what you will do, where you will do it, and at what time."
He said those who made vague plans were more likely to fail - for example instead of planning to go running twice a week you should plan to go running at specific times every week.
He added: "Men may be more likely to adopt a macho attitude and have unrealistic expectations, and so simple goal setting helps them achieve more.
"Likewise, women might be reluctant to tell others about their resolutions, and so benefit more from the social support provided by friends and family once they have made their goals public."



Drug gangs are strong in Mexico's border region. The Mexican army has confiscated guns from the entire police force of the town of Rosarito, near the Mexican border with the US. Mexican authorities suspect that the town's police have been colluding with drug trafficking gangs.
Mexican troops carried out a similar crackdown in January on Tijuana police.
The Rosarito force's 200 guns will be examined to see whether any were used in an attack on the town's police chief earlier this month.
One of his bodyguards was killed in the attack.

"We recognise that the enemy is inside our house and for this reason we are purging the ranks - we need to have confidence in our police," Baja California state police chief Daniel de la Rosa said.
Drug gangs are strong in Mexico's border region, which includes Rosarito, a beach resort town south of Tijuana.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has deployed about 25,000 troops to the region, and to the western state of Michoacan, since taking office 12 months ago.
Some 2,500 people have died so far in 2007 in turf wars between rival Mexican drugs gangs.


Saturday, December 29, 2007


The delay in vote results has sparked disorder on the streets. Kenya's knife-edge election result has been delayed amid chaotic scenes at the offices of the electoral commission.
There were scuffles at the counting centre in Nairobi as party rivals demanded recounts of Thursday's vote, amid claims of rigging.
Officials suspended the count until Sunday. The delays have already sparked violence and looting across Kenya.
The lead of opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, 62, over President Mwai Kibaki, 76, has dwindled to under 40,000 votes.
While the candidates are neck-and-neck, the election has seen a clear rejection of Mr Kibaki's government, with about 20 ministers losing their seats.
With almost 90% of votes tallied in 180 out of a total 210 constituencies, the Electoral Commission gave Mr Odinga 3.88m votes to Mr Kibaki's 3.84m.
Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement has held the lead since vote counting began after the poll but has since seen his advantage evaporate.
Chaotic scenes erupted at the count in Nairobi on Saturday afternoon, when election chair Samuel Kivuitu announced results that largely cancelled out much of Mr Odinga's lead.
As rival party agents clashed, paramilitary police had to rush in and restore order.
Mr Kivuitu told politicians: "Nobody can push me, not even you!" He added: "We are Kenyans, not beasts."
The BBC's Karen Allen in Nairobi says Mr Kivuitu has outlined a number of electoral irregularities that have dogged the process.
These include returning officers vanishing due to intimidation and a case in one constituency of turnout being higher than the number of registered voters.
Mr Kibaki's Party of National Unity said it would wait for the official results, and urged officials to speed up the count.

Kibaki: Dream or nightmare?
Odinga: King-maker

Both sides have raised allegations of vote rigging and rioting has broken out in some opposition strongholds.
There were also reports of trouble in Kisumu, Bungoma, Busia, Eldoret, Kericho and Kakamega.
Police have fired tear gas and gunshots into the air to disperse angry demonstrators who lit bonfires, set up roadblocks and even burned down homes.
Several people have died in the violence, including a man shot dead in a row at a polling station in western Nyanza province, police said.
"They want to steal votes. They are counting votes from regions favouring Kibaki and then they want to declare him the winner," said one protester, Peter Oduor.

Much of the violence was enacted along ethnic lines, with Luo supporters of Mr Odinga clashing with members of Mr Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.
An Electoral Commission spokesman told the BBC that turnout had perhaps been more than 70%, from an electorate of 14m.
Results so far show a majority of MPs have lost their seats.
Kenyan parliamentarians gained notoriety in the past five years for arbitrarily increasing their salaries and allowances, while a majority of Kenyans continued to grapple with meagre wages and a high cost of living.
Vice-President Moody Awori was one of about 20 ministers who lost their seats.
The vote also saw three sons of retired president Daniel Arap Moi lose their seats in three different constituencies in the Rift Valley province.
Mr Moi has helped fund Mr Kibaki's campaign. If he loses, Mr Kibaki, who came to power with a landslide victory in 2002, will be Kenya's first sitting president ousted at the ballot box.



The Pakistani government has released a transcript of a purported conversation between militant leader Baitullah Mehsud and another man identified as a Maulvi Sahib. The government alleges the tapped conversation proves al-Qaeda was behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Maulvi Sahib: Peace be on you.
Mehsud: Peace be on you, too.
Maulvi Sahib: How are you Emir Sahib?
Mehsud: Fine.
Maulvi Sahib: Congratulations. I arrived now, tonight.
Mehsud: Congratulations to you, too.
Maulvi Sahib: They were our men there.
Mehsud: Who were they?
Maulvi Sahib: There were Saeed, the second was Badarwala Bilal and Ikramullah was also there. Mehsud: The three did it?
Maulvi Sahib: Ikramullah and Bilal did it.
Mehsud: Then congratulations to you again.
Maulvi: Where are you? I want to meet with you?
Mehsud: I am in Makin. Come, I am at Anwar Shah's home.
Maulvi Sahib: OK, I will come.
Mehsud: Do not inform their family presently.
Maulvi Sahib: Right.
Mehsud: It was a spectacular job. They were very brave boys who killed her.
Maulvi Sahib: Praise be to God. I will give you more details when I come.
Mehsud: I will wait for you. Congratulation once again.
Maulvi Sahib: Congratulations to you as well.
Mehsud: Any service?
Maulvi Sahib: Thank you very much.
Mehsud: Peace be on you.
Maulvi Sahib: Same to you.



By Peter Biles BBC - southern Africa correspondent.

When the African National Congress (ANC) marks its 96th anniversary on 8 January, it will also be the start of another testing year for South Africa's ruling party.

The newly elected ANC leader has been recharged with corruptionThe ANC's recent national conference in Polokwane that elected Jacob Zuma as the new leader, was a watershed for Africa's oldest liberation movement.
In voting for Mr Zuma and his allies, the ANC's rank and file sent a powerful message that it wanted a change of leadership style - with leaders who are more in touch with the grassroots.
"This was an attempt to reclaim the party for the poor and the working class," said political analyst Judith February as allies of President Thabo Mbeki were voted off the ANC's National Executive Committee.
The extent of the rebellion against Mr Mbeki and his subsequent humiliation caught many people by surprise.
Two centres of power
Paradoxically, this was the rejection of a president who had led South Africa through a decade of solid economic growth.
But Professor Adam Habib from the University of Johannesburg says one of Mr Mbeki's greatest weaknesses was that he failed to identify with the fears and hopes of the people he governs.
"Whether it was on crime or the crisis in the public health system, Mbeki never had the humility to acknowledge there was a problem," wrote Prof Habib, in the Sunday Independent newspaper.
President Mbeki has brushed aside suggestions that he is too "aloof". He insists that he travels all over the country, listening to people at "imbizos" (public meetings).
However, there is no question that Jacob Zuma is more the man of the people.
So, expect many more renditions of "uMchini Wami" ("Bring Me My Machine Gun") - the liberation struggle song that Mr Zuma has made his own, and sings with gusto at every opportunity.
South Africa will enter 2008 with two centres of power.
Thabo Mbeki remains president of the country until his term of office expires at the next general election in 2009, while Jacob Zuma has taken over the running of the all-powerful African National Congress.
This unprecedented and potentially awkward situation makes Mr Mbeki something of a lame duck president, but he has said there is no reason for his government not to serve its full term. Mr Zuma has supported this.

President Mbeki has overseen a decade of economic growth
Blade Nzimande, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), hopes a stronger ANC will emerge in the coming year.
The SACP and the trade union federation, Cosatu, have been among Mr Zuma's key supporters, and have also been strident critics of President Mbeki's economic policy.
"We need to lay the foundation for rebuilding a stronger (tripartite) alliance that is capable of moving together on the key challenges that face our country," says Mr Nzimande.
But Jacob Zuma was only given a week to savour his victory before the National Prosecuting Authority recharged him with corruption, in connection with a controversial arms deal dating back to 1999.
An ANC leader who will to be involved in court appearances over a prolonged period will be a serious distraction for the party.
Mr Zuma has said only that he will cross that bridge when he comes to it.

Zuma has strong support from the ANC rank and file
Should Jacob Zuma eventually be convicted, it would lead the ANC's new deputy leader, Kgalema Motlanthe, to take over at the helm of the party, and make him the frontrunner to succeed Thabo Mbeki as South African president in 2009.
Nowhere is the transition within the ANC being watched more closely than in neighbouring Zimbabwe where another year of economic chaos looms.
John Nkomo, the national chairman of the ruling party - Zanu-PF - was among the international delegates invited to the ANC conference in Polokwane.
In a New Year message, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai called on the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to "invest more political capital" into Zimbabwe's transition.
President Thabo Mbeki has been mediating on behalf of Sadc since last March.
MDC policy co-ordinator, Eddie Cross, says: "Jacob Zuma is now leader of the ANC and this strengthens the pro-change position of South Africa."
The ANC's traditional 8 January statement will outline the priorities for 2008. Jacob Zuma will have plenty to think about as he assembles his leadership team, and tries to satisfy the huge expectations of his party and the country.


Friday, December 28, 2007

The Litany Bird is still away !

Friday 28th december 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

The Litany Bird is still away from the nest; let's hope she's having a good break.

I can remember three or four years back sitting with her round the kitchen table discussing the various cut-off points beyond which life would be unbearable in Zimbabwe. For the Litany Bird it was medical care and education for her son; once those had gone, she said, life would be insupportable. For me, it was not being able to get my own money out of the bank; that would be the point at which life would simply be untenable I thought. At the time Argentina - or was it Mexico - was in the headlines with inflation over 1000% and pictures of desperate people trying to get their money out of banks before the whole economy crashed.

Inexorably over the last few weeks the pace of Zimbabwe's collapse has accelerated; the decision by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, to introduce the new bearer cheques within days of Christmas has brought about the nightmare scenario of thousands of Zimbabweans unable to get at their own money. It's not the first time this has happened; this is the so-called Operation Sunrise Two designed, says Gono, to relieve the shortage of bank notes. The new notes were issued on December 19, just six days before Christmas. The timing of Operation Sunrise could not have been more insensitive with thousands of people trying to get to their rural homes and buy a few little extras for the 'festive' season. Was it an act of callous indifference on the government's part or just the usual short-sighted inefficiency, or was there some more sinister plan at work, designed to cause panic and mayhem among the populace?

In the Litany Bird's hometown and in towns up and down the country, desperate people have been standing in queues for days on end, some even with their cooking pots while they wait in the endless lines. In an unprecedented move the Governor ordered the banks to remain open on Christmas day and Boxing Day but his order was disregarded and the only resource for desperate Zimbabweans was the ATM. There are strict limits on the amount one can withdraw and with the issue of the new notes, prices went rocketing up again; even the state mouthpiece, the Herald, was forced to admit that a bottle of Mazoe orange now costs 9 million Zim dollars in a state owned supermarket in Harare! The banks are saying that they were just not sent enough of the new bank notes to satisfy the demand so what was the point of their opening? Christmas for Zimbabweans was simply a non-event and with their usual arrogant disregard for the well-being of the people the Reserve Bank Governor and all the rest of the Zanu PF fat cats disappeared to spend their Christmas breaks far from the public eye. One thing you can be sure of is that none of the 'chefs' will be sharing the misery of the masses they claim to care so much about.

What next for a nation whose citizens have no cash and no food? Will it be more of the same in 2008 or will the people of Zimbabwe finally tell this utterly rotten government that 'Enough is enough'. I hear the ZBC is playing a jingle every fifteen minutes promising ' the mother of all harvests' next year. I'm sure the cruel irony of that cheap propaganda is not lost on the flood victims in Muzarabani and the millions of near-starving people throughout the country.

Ndini shamwari yenyu. PH



Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga is ahead of President Mwai Kibaki in a hard fought election, according to partial and unofficial results.
In a setback for Mr Kibaki, 16 of his ministers lost their seats.
But Mr Kibaki's camp has said it can still win the presidential race, with the count taking longer than expected.
Despite isolated incidents of violence, international observers have said that the election was generally well organised and peaceful.
President Kibaki trails Mr Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) by around a million votes in the presidential contest with 50% of votes declared, the BBC's Adam Mynott reports from Nairobi.
But he says many of these votes had not yet been officially approved.
Late on Friday, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) had released results from just 46 of the country's 210 constituencies, with Mr Odinga leading by 1,143,353 votes to 831,458 for Mr Kibaki, Reuters news agency reported.
The ECK head, Samuel Kivuito, has said there were delays in voting and counting, and the process of compiling results was going slowly.
Unofficial and partial results from local TV stations gave Mr Odinga a commanding lead.
Not giving up
"It is true that the ODM is ahead, but it's only fair to wait until the last ballot is counted before we know the winner of the elections," said Ngari Gituku, a spokesman for Mr Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU).
"We are not going to lose hope until the last soldier is shot down and we have no intention of giving up until such a time," he told AFP news agency, adding that his party had evidence of widespread rigging.

At the polls: Reporters' log
Voters' views
Vote in pictures

Mr Odinga's ODM has in turn accused the electoral commission of deliberately delaying the results, and now says Mr Kibaki should concede.
"Kibaki seems to be going out in a very untidy manner and really is not being respectful or grateful to the democratic process that put him in power," said ODM official Anyang Ngong.
ODM General Secretary Joseph Nyaga said the delay threatened to cause instability and unrest right across the country.
Police Commissioner Hussein Ali has urged poll losers to respect the outcome.
High turnout
A spokesman for the ECK told the BBC that turnout had perhaps been more than 70%, from an electorate of 14m.
Early results show that a majority of MPs have lost their seats.

Kibaki: Dream or nightmare?
Odinga: King-maker

Kenyan parliamentarians had gained notoriety in the past five years for arbitrarily increasing their salaries and allowances while a majority of Kenyans continue to grapple with meagre wages and a high cost of living, says the BBC's Josphat Makori in Nairobi.
At least 16 cabinet ministers from Mr Kibaki's PNU also fell in the parliamentary elections.
Among them was Vice-President Moody Awori, who lost his seat to arch-rival Dr Paul Otuoma of the Orange Democratic Movement.
Also significant is the fall of three sons of retired president Daniel Arap Moi in three different constituencies in the Rift Valley province.
Mr Moi has helped fund Mr Kibaki's campaign.
Fraud accusation
Mr Odinga, who fell out with Mr Kibaki shortly after helping him to win the presidency in 2002, alleged fraud before the polls opened.
Mr Odinga was at first not allowed to vote on the grounds that his name was not on the voters' roll, though he did cast his ballot later in the day.
The president has denied involvement in any election fraud.
Correspondents say that in Kenya's previous elections, the outcome has been obvious before polling, or at least there has been a strong favourite.
President Kibaki hopes his economic record will secure a second term.
Mr Kibaki's critics accuse him of failing to keep his promise to tackle corruption.
There were six other candidates in the presidential elections besides Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga.



Pakistan says it has intelligence that al-Qaeda assassinated opposition politician Benazir Bhutto at an election rally on Thursday.
Citing what it said was an intercepted phone call, the interior ministry said the killing had been ordered by an "al-Qaeda leader", Baitullah Mehsud.
The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says it is too early to establish the truth of what happened.
Ms Bhutto has been buried in her family tomb amid scenes of mass grieving.
Video of her last moments before the attack in Rawalpindi was shown at the news conference given in Islamabad by the interior ministry.
According to the ministry, the primary cause of Ms Bhutto's death appears to have been a knock on her head as she tried to duck her attacker, and not bullets or shrapnel. Her party denies this.
Pakistani security forces are on high alert, with at least 31 people killed in protests by Bhutto supporters across the country since the assassination.
Baitullah Mehsud is a tribal leader in Pakistan's South Waziristan region.

Search for stability continues
Shock in home province
'Al-Qaeda plot' transcript

Pakistani intelligence services intercepted a call from him in which he allegedly congratulated another militant after Ms Bhutto's death, interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told reporters.
There was, he added, "irrefutable evidence that al-Qaeda, its networks and cohorts were trying to destabilise Pakistan".
There have now been so many conflicting versions coming out of Pakistan of how Benazir Bhutto died and who sent the assassin that it is hard for anyone to build up an accurate picture, our security correspondent says.
Both al-Qaeda and the Taleban are perfectly plausible culprits since they hated everything the secular Ms Bhutto stood for, he adds.
But critics of President Pervez Musharraf are unlikely to be convinced by his government's insistence that it has proof al-Qaeda ordered the murder.
Brig Cheema said Ms Bhutto had smashed her head against a lever of her car's sun roof.
Pakistan is at the brink of civil war, courtesy of the dictatorship -Dr Rubab Ahmed, London.

Have your say
Bhutto in her own words
Mourners blame Musharraf

She was, he said, trying to shelter inside the car from the gunman, who set off a bomb after opening fire with a gun.
A surgeon who treated her, Dr Mussadiq Khan, said earlier she may have died from a shrapnel wound while Ms Bhutto's security adviser, Rehman Malik, said she had been shot in the neck and chest.
Farooq Naik, a senior official in Ms Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, said the government's explanation of her death was a "pack of lies".
"Two bullets hit her, one in the abdomen and one in the head," he told AFP news agency.
Brig Cheema added that all possible security arrangements had been put in place for Ms Bhutto.
Her supporters say the government did not do enough to protect her.
After a previous attempt on her life in October that killed 130 people, Ms Bhutto accused rogue elements of the Pakistani intelligence services of involvement.
Ms Bhutto was buried next to her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the family mausoleum near their home village, Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, in Sindh province, as thousands of mourners attended.

Rioters in Peshawar shouted slogans against President Musharraf.
Rioting and unrest has been reported across the country since her death.
Six bodies were found among the remains of a factory set on fire in Karachi
At least one passenger train was set ablaze in Sindh Province and a number of railway stations were reportedly burnt as security forces in the province were ordered to shoot rioters on sight
In the city of Multan in Punjab province, a mob ransacked seven banks and torched a petrol station
Other cities across Pakistan are at a virtual standstill.
Schools, businesses and transport are all closed, and people are reluctant to step out during the three days of national mourning declared by Mr Musharraf.
Election questions
Plans for a general election on 8 January, for which Ms Bhutto had been campaigning when she was killed, remain unchanged, the government says.

Father led Pakistan before being executed in 1979
Spent five years in prison
Served as PM from 1988-1990 and 1993-1996
Sacked twice by president on corruption charges
Formed alliance with rival ex-PM Nawaz Sharif in 2006
Ended self-imposed exile by returning to Pakistan in October
Educated at Harvard and Oxford

Obituary: Benazir Bhutto
Life in pictures

The election is meant to pave the way for a return to democratic rule, suspended in October 1999 when the then Gen Musharraf seized power through a coup.
But opposition parties are now against the election taking the place and it is hard to see how they it would be a true test of the democratic process, the BBC's Karishma Vaswani reports.
Ms Bhutto returned from eight years of self-imposed exile in October, following an amnesty agreed with President Musharraf.





Thursday, December 27, 2007


Building collapses happen frequently in Egypt's cities. Rescuers in Egypt are still looking for survivors in the rubble of a block of flats that collapsed in Alexandria on Monday, killing at least 20. Only three people have been pulled out alive from a building said to house about 30 in the suburb of Loran.
Collapses happen frequently in Egypt's overcrowded urban centres, where many buildings are constructed with poor materials and regulations are flouted.
An investigation has started into the cause of the collapse.
Two storeys had been added illegally to the building and local authorities ordered them removed as long ago as 1995, though the order was never implemented.
Prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for the building's owners.
Emergency workers continued their search of the site on Wednesday with heavy equipment and sniffer dogs.

Rescue official Maj Gen Abdel-Meguid Selim told Associated Press news agency: "We are in a race against time. We hope to get as many victims alive as possible."
Alexandria Governor Adel Labib said renovation work was being undertaken on the first floor of the block when the building started listing and collapsed.
Among those brought out of the rubble on Tuesday was a four-year-old girl.
Another was a 24-year-old woman, described as "in good condition".
"She can move and speak, and is now undergoing X-rays on different parts of her body," official Mena news agency quoted Alexandria hospital doctor Mahmud al-Damati as saying.
In 2005, at least 16 people died when a building collapsed in another residential area in the Mediterranean city - Egypt's second largest.
That block, which had had three extra floors added illegally, collapsed onto the wall of a neighbouring school as mothers were waiting to pick up their children.



Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has issued a decree appointing new members of the former southern rebel movement to the national unity government.
The ministers are due to be sworn in shortly under the terms of a 2005 peace deal that ended the 21-year civil war.
The southern ministers left the government in October but most differences have now been resolved.
Recent clashes between southern forces and pro-government militiamen have reportedly left 100 dead.
The fighting in Bahr el-Gazal has now stopped.
Southern leader Salva Kiir said the militiamen "were acting under local commanders only... the situation is now under control."
The continued presence of northern militias in the south was one reason why the ex-rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement pulled out of the national government in October.
They will be withdrawn soon and other issues have also been resolved.

However, the demarcation of the disputed oil-rich Abyei region has still not been settled.
The SPLM's Deng Alor replaces Lam Akol as foreign minister, while other former rebels are to take up senior jobs.
The BBC's correspondent in Khartoum, Amber Henshaw, says many people feared Sudan was on the verge of sliding back into the brutal 20-year civil war that ended in 2005 and cost the lives of 1.5 million people.
But the SPLM agreed to end its boycott after its leader Salva Kiir met Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
The unity government will also set up a development commission to speed up road links between the more developed north and the south, which has little infrastructure after the long war.
Under the peace deal, the SPLM leader is also national vice-president.
There are currently 10,000 UN peacekeepers in South Sudan.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Banks in Zimbabwe failed to open on Christmas Day, despite earlier pledges from the central bank governor.
Instead, long lines of Zimbabweans desperate for local currency queued at the few machines dispensing cash.
On top of rampant inflation, mass unemployment and shortages of fuel and basic goods the country is now suffering shortages of bank notes.
The shortage remains despite the introduction of higher-denomination notes last week.
On Monday the central bank's governor, Gideon Gono, said banks would remain open on Christmas Day and Boxing Day to dispense cash after the new notes failed to cut long bank queues.
But reports from the capital Harare on Tuesday said the banks were closed, leaving customers empty-handed and forcing many to join the lines at cash machines instead.
Just spoke to my mother, it's heart breaking for me to send them money from here in Canada and they're unable to cash it anywhere - Tafadzwa, Toronto.
"I was hoping to find a shorter queue since it's Christmas, but it seems everyone has come out," Tawanda Moyo told Reuters news agency.
Ms Moyo said she was a teacher trying to get money to buy passage home to the countryside for Christmas.
"After a year in which the struggle to survive got harder, one expected to rest through Christmas, not to be queuing for hours," Ms Moyo added.
State media reported on Monday that the central bank had put another Z$20 trillion (worth about US$667m at the official exchange rate, or US$10m at the black-market rate) into circulation by introducing the new notes, Reuters reported.

Long queues for cash have become a common sight. But only a fraction of the existing cash in circulation is in the formal economy - the majority is in the black economy.
Mr Gono blames the currency shortages on foreign-exchange currency dealers, the so-called "cash barons", and Zimbabweans are being urged to report anyone flouting currency exchange laws.
Zimbabwe has the highest level of inflation in the world at more than 8,000%.
Critics of President Robert Mugabe accuse him of allowing the economy to go to ruin but he has remained defiant, blaming the problems on a Western plot to oust him from power.


Monday, December 24, 2007

TURNING THE Tables on Nigera's e-mail conmen !

By Dan Damon BBC, London.
Mike is a "scambaiter," dedicated to fighting back against those who send out the notorious 419 e-mails, promising untold wealth to anyone gullible or naive enough to disclose their bank details.
Mike asked us not to use his full name because he's dealing with some heavy cross-border criminals.

Those who fall for the 419 cons are hoping for millions. His group of volunteers at use their computer skills to fool the scammers, to disrupt their crimes, and to have some fun at the scammer's expense.
Every day, millions of people get e-mails like this:
Dear Sir/ Madam,
I am fine today and how are you? I hope this letter will find you in the best of health. I am Prince Joe Eboh, the Chairman of the "Contract Award Committee", of the "Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)", a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
NDDC was set up by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha who died on 18th June 1998, to manage the excess revenue accruing from the sales of Petroleum and its allied products as a domestic increase in the petroleum products to develop the communities in the Niger Delta Oil producing areas. The estimated annual revenue for 1999 was $45 Billion US Dollars...
And of course, if you were only willing to help the writer siphon some of it off, a few of those many millions could be yours.
Police estimate that every year, US citizens alone are conned out of some $200m.
Painted breast
Mike told me how he baited the writer of the e-mail above, Prince Joe Eboh.
"I'm sure he's not a prince at all," Mike says. "He contacted me with a standard 419 [so-called after a section of Nigeria's legal code] scam.
I have been troubled recently after the death of a dear friend of mine, Minnie Mowse
'Father Hector Barnett'"I tried to turn it round by saying I worked for a church and we couldn't do any business with people who are not of our faith."
Mike sent a response in the name of Father Hector Barnett of the Church of the Painted Breast.
Dear Sir,
I would dearly love to help you. If you ever decide to join our faith then of course I could help you both with my experience and financial support. I wish you well in your endeavour my brother.
Yours, Father Hector Barnett
"Now I knew the guy would write back and say: 'Well, can I join your faith?' and indeed he did," says Mike.
Dear Father Hector,
If joining your faith is what it takes to help me of course, I am ready to join you. I'm from a good Christian family. I will do anything you want me to do in the faith. Don't forget that I have to transfer the money to your account as urgently as possible. Send me your account details. I hope to read your mail soon.
Prince Joe Eboh
Dear Joe,
Our ministry was founded in 1774 by a wonderful lady by the name of Betsy Carrington. She spent many of her first preaching years in Kenya, spreading the holy gospel amongst the local people there. She was the first person male or female to promote Christian texts and beliefs to the Masai warrior tribe.

The Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast 'initiation ceremony'The most famous account is when as a test she had to remove the top part of her clothes and paint the top half of her body and breast with the red Masai war-paint as a gesture of faith and belief to them so that they would accept her and trust her. She was almost immediately accepted by them and was one of the most trusted westerners known at that time.
As a qualification to enter the Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast, all followers must go through the initiation procedure that Miss Carrington made so famous. I have attached a photograph of four of our young inductees going through the procedure.
Please use this picture to enable you to make the same marking on yourself. I have also attached a small picture showing the design in more detail. I look forward to welcoming you into our membership my brother.
Father Hector Barnett Financial Development - Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast.
'Processing fees'
Using image software, Mike made up an "initiation" picture. And Prince Joe duly carried out the induction and e-mailed back a photo of himself in the properly sanctified state.
Dear Brother Hector,
I want to thank the Almighty God himself for the opportunity I have to be a member of this great church The Holy Church Of The Painted Breast. I'm looking forward to establishing a branch of the Church here. But I'll like us to finish everything about the business proposal, which I sent to you earlier...

The picture sent by Prince Joe Eboh"He then tried to hit me for $18,000 for processing fees for transferring millions," Mike says.
He wrote back as Father Hector, saying that the church had plenty of money, but there was a withdrawal fee of $80.
"I persuaded him to send me the $80, which he did, inside a birthday card, by courier," Mike says.
However, former Scotland Yard fraud officer Tom Craig says that it is unprecedented for the 419 con artists to part with any money - he suggests the notes may have been forged.
Mike says that any money they get from these reverse stings goes to a children's charity in the north of England.
Exporting snow
Father Hector of the Church of the Painted Breast then entered a troubling period of religious uncertainty.
Dear Joe,
This is your good friend Hector Barnett. Please do not be alarmed that I am contacting you from a different e-mail address. I will explain what has happened.
The guy obviously thought he was going to get $18,000 so easily, he was blinded by his own greed
MikeI have been troubled recently after the death of a dear friend of mine, Minnie Mowse. She was a very, very dear friend indeed, and her death affected me greatly and started to make me question my faith. I have decided to leave the church and join a travelling circus.
I have already made two very good friends, and tomorrow I will be starting my circus training with them...
Prince Joe then began receiving e-mails from another "Reverend" of the Church of the Painted Breast worried about the disappearance of Father Hector and $18,000 from church funds.
Joe already knew from Hector's increasingly eccentric e-mails that he had put the money into a business exporting snow to Siberia.
Lottery winnings
Despite that, Prince Joe still hasn't given up, even though he's $80 down. The e-mail exchange between the probably fake prince and the obviously fake church continues.
At the same time, the scambaiters are running several other such stings.
I asked Mike why these people who are themselves scammers can't spot an obvious scam.
"I think it operates in much the same way as it does with real victims. Greed clouds their judgement. The guy obviously thought he was going to get $18,000 so easily, he was blinded by his own greed.
"Which is what happens to those who fall for the 419 scams; they just see all these millions."
This would all be funny if it wasn't for the millions of dollars being stolen and probably put into drugs or other criminal activities.
Mike and his friends send all their e-mail exchanges to the police in the UK, Nigeria and to the FBI - he says they've had no response. And even warning the victims does no good. Most of them don't want to believe they're being scammed.
The latest e-mail scam concerns lottery winnings you didn't know you had.
If you're tempted, just remember Prince Joe who's still sending e-mails saying he's sticking to his promise and saying the daily prayer: "When all above seems a great test, Get on down with the Holy Red Breast."
Dear Father,
When I said the prayer this morning, something like a fountain went down my system making me to feel strong & happy. I have spent money to process all the necessary documents for the transfer of this fund. What remains now is the registration of your name as the contractor who executed the contract.
Yours, Joe.



All sides in the conflict use children, Save the Children says. Recent fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has led to a surge in child abductions by armed groups, the charity Save the Children says.
The situation for children in the east of the country is "catastrophic", says a report for the aid organisation.
Around the town of Goma, all sides in the conflict are making children act as soldiers, sex slaves, porters and spies, the charity said.
Conflict in the east has driven about 800,000 people from their homes.
Save the Children says it has managed to free about 800 youngsters from the militias in the last year - although some have been captured again.
'Frontline fodder'
Hussein Mursal, the Congolese director for the charity, said: "The situation for children in eastern DRC is catastrophic.

Voices of Violence
"Fighters from all sides are using children as frontline fodder."
Schools have been targeted by the militias as "rich recruitment ground", the charity said.
In the intensifying conflict all sides have recruited child soldiers as young as 10 years to boost their cause.
Save the Children spokeswoman Sarah Jacobs told the BBC's World Today programme about one of the child soldiers she had met around the town of Goma.
"I spent some time with a 15-year-old boy who had just escaped, so he had run for two days, no water, no food, fearing death to escape a militia group," she said.
"Listening to his tales - he had been forcibly taken; he had been fighting on the front line; his eyes were damaged from the gunpowder.
"He had been forced to kill, at point blank range, four children in his own militia group, so essentially his friends, because they were being punished; but all he talked about was wanting desperately to get back to his family."

Behind rebel lines

Fighting in the area escalated at the start of this month, when the army launched a long-planned offensive against dissident general Laurent Nkunda, with the support of United Nations troops.
BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the offensive went badly wrong and the general quickly gained the upper hand.
Gen Nkunda says his forces are protecting DR Congo's Tutsi population from Rwandan Hutu rebels, who have been based in eastern DR Congo since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
He told the BBC he was not interested in using child soldiers.
"We are demobilising them, in three years I have demobilised around 2,500, so I would not be recruiting them," he said.
He also called for a ceasefire ahead of an internationally sponsored peace conference due to take place in Goma in a few days time.
"I wanted to convince our government to call for a ceasefire because we cannot undertake negotiations and talks when there is fighting," Gen Nkunda told the BBC.


Saturday, December 22, 2007


21 December 2007
Dear Friends,
My phone rang at 8.0'clock this morning and I guessed straight away that it was Zimbabwe calling because the Brits rarely call at that time in the morning! I was right. My friend in Murehwa wanted to tell me that a certain parcel had arrived but more than that he wanted to talk about what has just happened in South Africa and what it means for the negotiations going on between Zanu PF and the MDC. Knowing how passionately I'm concerned about everything Zimbabwean my caller wanted to describe to me the feeling on the ground in my old home area when they heard that Jacob Zuma had beaten Thabo Mbeki in the election for leadership of the ANC. Naturally enough after seven long nightmare years, Zimbabweans are principally concerned for what this result might mean in terms of their future.

Will events in South Africa make any difference at all? My caller assured me that's the question everyone's asking even in the smaller centres of the country. I admit my own first reaction to the news had been excitement but on reflection I think it is really only significant in that it puts additional pressure on Mbeki to solve the problem. Change in the leadership at the top of the ANC might possibly mean that there will be a firmer line on the Zimbabwe question and that might filter through to Thabo Mbeki himself.
There is no doubt that Mbeki's position is seriously weakened inside his own country and presumably in SADC and the international community. With the end of Mbeki's presidency in sight, he will surely want to score a breakthrough with this thorny and seemingly intractable problem? But Zimbabweans would do well to remember that the South African President will still be the one facilitating the negotiations. Perhaps even more significant is that Zanu PF's endorsement of Robert Mugabe as their candidate in the forthcoming elections means that the one intransigent element preventing genuine negotiations will also still be in place, ie. Mugabe himself. What has become very clear to me is that Mbeki shares at least one characteristic with his friend Robert Mugabe. Both men are in denial about the realities on the ground in their countries and yet both leaders seem to think they reflect grass-root feelings when in fact they have become totally divorced from their own people. Mugabe denies his own responsibility for what has happened in Zimbabwe and Mbeki's denies the terrible reality of the Aids pandemic decimating his country. But, despite the blow to his pride and to his own standing, I can't believe Mbeki is suddenly going to change his stance of support for the man he regards as a Liberation comrade. It would, I believe, be a mistake to assume that Zuma's victory is going to make any immediate difference to the Zimbabwean situation. The suffering and near starvation continues as do the daily arrests and beatings of opposition supporters and the response from the South African government is a deafening silence. It is hard to understand how South Africa can conduct its own affairs in an apparently fair and democratic way and yet remain silent when its close neighbour is putting in place the mechanisms that will ensure the 2008 elections are already rigged.
My early morning telephone caller wanted to tell me also how people on the ground are feeling about the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe. Looking at the situation from the diaspora, I had been of the opinion that the MDC should boycott the whole exercise for the farce that it is but it seems that the people on the ground do not share that view. Despite Zanu PF's tinkering with the oppressive legislation and amending the constitution - again - ordinary people appear to have understood very well that the only way open to them to bring about change is through the ballot box. The MDC are yet to decide whether to participate or not but judging from my contact's comments the people on the ground are anxious to exercise their democratic right. It's a tough choice for the opposition but I hope they will listen to the people's voice.

Chaos in the banking sector was further exacerbated yesterday with the issue of new notes and pictures of desperate people being turned away from banks illustrated very clearly how frantic ordinary people are with Christmas just around the corner and the dreaded school fees due in January. It's hard to see how issuing larger denomination notes will help the economic collapse in the country, as I said last week the truth is that Zanu PF have no clue how to solve the problems besetting Zimbabwe. And they seem to care even less; even RBZ governor Gideon Gono admitted to the Congress that it was top people in the country who were milking the system. One little story this week proved to me how callous and indifferent the ruling party is to the interests of the people. They respect nothing and no one but their own selfish and corrupt interests. Teachers marking national examination papers at Belvedere Teachers College and Harare Polytechnic were ordered to vacate their living quarters so that delegates attending the Congress could be accommodated. As always politics in the form of Robert Mugabe and his interests takes precedence over every other consideration, even children and the nation's future.The next generation deserves better from their leaders; it really is time for change.
Yours in the struggle. PH



Valerie Begue has been told she should immediately take off her Miss France crown because of suggestive pictures published by a French magazine.
Ms Begue - who became Miss France less than a fortnight ago - refused to resign, saying she had been betrayed.
She had returned on Thursday to an enthusiastic welcome on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
Before the competition, contestants guarantee that they have never been photographed in compromising positions.
One of the pictures shows her licking yoghurt provocatively, while another has her floating on a wooden cross in a swimming pool.
The President of the Miss France contest, Genevieve de Fontenay, went on French radio to insist that Valerie Begue would have to stand down.
If she did not, Ms de Fontenay said she would be stripped of her crown.
"She is in Reunion. Well, let her stay there," she said.
She went on to say that if she had been aware of the pictures, Ms Begue "would never have been let into the Miss France competition".
"I wouldn't want to be seen touring the provinces with a girl like that," she said.

After the contest organiser's comments were broadcast in Reunion, radio listeners expressed their shock.
It was the first time since 1978 that anyone from the island had been named Miss France.
And the honour came after a series of setbacks in Reunion including a tropical cyclone.
Hundreds of fans had converged on the airport to mark what newspapers described as the return of a princess.
At a news conference late on Friday, Valerie Begue told reporters that she would have some time for reflection before making a final decision.
If she does stand down, her title will be awarded to a runner-up.
The competition ran into similar controversy in 2005 when the then Miss France was stripped of her crown for posing for Playboy.


Friday, December 21, 2007


The bottle may have been washed ashore by stormy seasA message in a bottle thrown into the sea at Atlantic City in the US has been found on a beach in Cornwall.
The bottle, discovered by a beach ranger on Summerleaze Beach near Bude, contains a sun-bleached letter from a 12-year-old girl from Durham.
In the letter the girl, called Alexus, asks the finder to send her the bottle, but the contact details are illegible.
It is thought the bottle was washed up in Cornwall because of the recent high winds and stormy seas.
The message on blue-lined writing paper was written on 18 December 2006, but only the writing on the top half of the letter has remained clear and legible, with the remainder being bleached by the sun.
The beach ranger is hoping to send the bottle on its final journey.
Alan Coltart said: "This bottle has travelled for nearly a year across over 3,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean.
"The message requests the finder reunites the bottle with its sender. Sadly the contact details are illegible, but we would like to help the bottle travel its final 300 miles back to Durham."
Anyone who knows Alexus is asked to contact North Cornwall Council's beach ranger service.



Mr Mbeki was defeated by Jacob Zuma as party leader on Tuesday. South African President Thabo Mbeki has said his government will stay in office despite huge losses in elections for senior African National Congress posts.
Mr Mbeki told a news conference in Pretoria that his government would serve until its term expired in 2009. Jacob Zuma, who defeated Mr Mbeki in the vote for ANC leader, has said the pair can work together. But a BBC correspondent says questions continue to be raised about having two centres of power in South Africa.
"I have no reason to assume that there would be anything that would stop the government serving the full term for which it was elected," Mr Mbeki said. "So I would expect the government to serve its term until the elections in 2009," the president added. Mr Mbeki urged ANC members to "respond positively" to Mr Zuma's promise to "develop smooth working relations between government and the ruling party".

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Tony Yengeni, former chief whip, convicted of corruption
Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, sacked deputy health minister
Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (known as Dr Beetroot)
OUT - Mbeki loyalists:
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota
Pahad brothers

Elections for the ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) confirmed the groundswell of support for Mr Zuma in the party, with several cabinet ministers close to Mr Mbeki being voted off the committee. The ex-wife of former President Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, emerged top in the NEC vote in the northern town of Polokwane, endorsed by 2,845 of the 3,605 delegates. She has not been active in the ANC since 2003, when she was convicted of fraud.

Among the prominent Mbeki allies who did not make it onto the NEC were national Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad and his brother, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad.


Played key role in fight against apartheid
Plagued by corruption allegations
Acquitted on rape charges
Seen as charismatic

Mr Zuma could still face new corruption charges, which prosecutors say are imminent. He has said he is ready to go to court to clear his name. Referring to the allegations against his rival, Mr Mbeki said: "All of us in the ANC have insisted, even... Zuma himself, that the law must take its course." Mr Zuma's supporters have always said the charges are part of a political conspiracy against him.
On Thursday, chief prosecutor Mokotedi Mpshe told South Africa's 702 Talk Radio that the investigation into Mr Zuma was complete, and that "all we are doing now is tying [up] the loose ends". Mr Zuma refused to comment, only saying: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
The charges relate to a controversial arms deal, which saw Mr Zuma's adviser Schabir Shaik jailed for 15 years.



The BBC's Jonah Fisher is on a Greenpeace ship tracking the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. You can follow his travels for the next two months on the Ten O'clock News, and in this diary.

There are lots of smiles on the Esperanza this evening.
News that humpbacks are being taken off this year's Japanese whale hunt had been rumoured for a few days but confirmation came just as the sun was setting.

Guide to the Humpback
Japan's point of view
I'm not sure if someone on board was privy to inside information but a party had already been planned for the helicopter hangar at the back of the ship.
I am told it went well. Unfortunately, the huge interest in this story meant drinking beer was the last thing on my mind. It was more a question of working out which combination of tea, coffee and gingernut biscuits would keep me standing the longest.
The prevailing opinion on the ship is that the decision had come as a result of Australian pressure.

This week it was announced that Canberra would be sending a customs ship to the Antarctic waters to photograph and film the whalers, with a view to possibly taking Japan to court.
With the Australians an important trading partner, it seems Tokyo was unwilling to allow things to slip too far.
For Greenpeace, no sooner had the news come out than it was playing down its significance.
Fan base From the campaign room at the top of the ship, it was being stressed that this was just 50 of almost 1,000 whales which would still be killed.
Some 935 minke are on the list and 50 fin whales.
The fins are considered an endangered species but, unluckily for them, they do not have the same sort of fan base as the humpbacks.
So, the Esperanza continues on its steady journey south.
Friday was the smoothest day so far with beautiful crisp clear skies and albatrosses looping round behind the ship.
On Saturday, the ship goes into port for the last time.
A two-hour pit stop in Bluff, on the southernmost tip of New Zealand, will ensure that the Esperanza's fuel tanks are full to the brim so that she can last even longer at sea.


At 0400 local time, water came racing through the rusty porthole on to the cabin floor.
After 10 days waiting for the Greenpeace ship - the Esperanza - to leave port in Auckland, my first night at sea was useful preparation for the tough conditions that lie ahead.

The Japanese fleet will be trying to lose the boats following it
Luckily for me, my two room-mates quickly leapt out of their bunks and fastened the porthole shut before another wave crashed through its circular pane of glass.
Our cabin is at the very front of the Esperanza which means we hear and feel every contact between the ship's bows and the waves outside.
Technical problems with the Greenpeace helicopter delayed the ship's departure from New Zealand.
Glum faces
The chopper is a vital part of this anti-whaling operation. Firstly, to locate the Japanese whaling fleet, and then to provide aerial video footage of the whalers' in action.

The truth is that we live in a world in which humans hunt and kill animals, for recreation, food and resources.
Bryan, Manchester
Send us your comments

Greenpeace knows only too well that there is little point making its protest in the isolation of Antarctic waters if it does not have graphic television footage of its actions to quickly send around the world.
So there were glum faces in the Esperanza's mess when news of the ship's departure from Auckland was posted on the communal chalkboard.
"NO HELI" was scrawled underneath it - crucial parts needed for the maintenance of the helicopter had not arrived in time, so the decision was taken to leave without it.
For the Greenpeace cameraman and the three-person German documentary crew - planning to film spectacular shots of icebergs and whalers from the air - it was particularly bad news.
The Esperanza is not the only ship heading to the Antarctic waters.
Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation group, has already made it to the ice with its ship, named after the late Steve Irwin.
But it has been forced to go north again to Australia for repairs to one of its engines.
The Australian government has also got plans to send a ship to monitor the whalers' activities.
The Japanese have been whaling under government-issued scientific permits since the moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986.
But the number of whales killed has steadily risen from about 200 to more than 1,000 planned for this season.
This year, for the first time, 50 Humpback whales are included.
They are not just a favourite with whale-watchers, but population levels are considered to be vulnerable worldwide.
For the next two months, I'll be reporting for BBC News from the Esperanza as it journeys south down to the ice and searches for the Japanese whalers.
It is no free ride. We are paying our way and, of course, I have absolute editorial independence to say what I want without fear of being taken off air or thrown overboard.

I'll have sea-sickness pills to hand in the infamous Southern Ocean
Once we reach the Antarctic ice, an elaborate game of hide-and-seek between whalers and environmentalists will begin.
If the Japanese prove better at hiding than the Greenpeace crew are at seeking, it is very possible that I may see very little and this web diary will turn into long discussions about the relative merits of passing icebergs and penguins.
I am still not sure whether or not sending me on this trip is a big in-joke by BBC editors back in London.
I am certain that a colleague was only looking for a quick laugh (and found it) when they first suggested that they send a Jonah down to cover this whale story.

But, as the chuckles died away, the idea stuck and here I am preparing to cross the infamous Southern Ocean - sea-sickness pills firmly in hand.







By Will Ross - BBC News, Polokwane

As 4,000 delegates made their way towards the conference venue, a huge white tent on the campus of the University of Limpopo, many were wondering what Jacob Zuma might say. Would the new president of the African National Congress call for unity at the end of a divisive week?

Or would he use it as an opportunity to assure South Africans, who have become increasingly disillusioned with the country's President, Thabo Mbeki, that change was on the way? Many of the Jacob Zuma supporters have been partying since his election victory on Tuesday. Judging by the tired look on the faces of the barmen of Polokwane, mornings have not been getting any easier for some of the delegates. But on the way to the conference hall some may have heard news on their radios which would have taken a bit of the sparkle out of it all.

During an interview on South Africa's Talk Radio 702, the acting national director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, was asked whether Mr Zuma could face imminent prosecution. "I should say so," was the gist of the reply. A corruption cloud has been hanging over Jacob Zuma's head for some time and the cloud is not blowing away. For more than two years an investigation has been going on into the allegation that he benefited financially following a controversial arms deal in 1999. His financial adviser would have been following the week's political events from his prison cell, having been found guilty of fraud.

The hall was full of delegates eager to hear the new leader. "The investigation is complete. We are tying up loose ends and the evidence we have now points to a case that can be taken to court," said Mr Mpshe. Mr Zuma's allies were keen to criticise the timing of the news and express their belief that the court case is part of a plan to stop him reaching the presidency. But judging by the volume inside the tent as delegates awaited Mr Zuma's speech, few of them were put off by Mr Mpshe's comments.

The delegates belted out songs from the ANC's liberation struggle, including Bamba Isandla Sami Tambo. One morale-boosting song - Hold My Hand Tambo - referring to the late Oliver Tambo, the anti-apartheid stalwart who was a father figure to Thabo Mbeki. Jacob Zuma made it clear at the opening of his speech that he was joining an illustrious list. "I stand before you with great humility, as the 12th president of the ANC," he said.

He may have won a bitter election contest but Mr Zuma's message was one of unity - and it was warmly received inside and out of the tent. He praised Thabo Mbeki, calling him "a comrade, a friend, a brother" and a leader, whilst asserting that Polokwane 2007 was not a conference of winners and losers.

Controversial arms deal
Looking tired but at ease addressing the crowd, Mr Zuma's style was clearly different from Thabo Mbeki, who is viewed by his critics as aloof and out of touch and has been known to entertain audiences with a two-and-a-half hour speech full of statistics. Jacob Zuma left the podium after 45 minutes, but returned seconds later to join in one final rendition of his trademark song Machini Wami - Bring Me My Machine Gun. It may seem a strange chorus but it sends the crowds into a frenzy. Mr Zuma's speech had hit all the right buttons. "It was a wonderful speech - a unifying speech. We only have one ANC," said one delegate. "It was very progressive. Bury the past and move forward. We are one," another added.

At the press conference that followed, Jacob Zuma laughed at the awkward questions and was in a jovial mood. It was no surprise that the very first question was about corruption and the possibility of an imminent trial. "We will cross that bridge when we come to it," he kept repeating as several journalists tried to draw him on the issue. However, Polokwane 2007 will be remembered for the divisive ANC election and it will take more than a speech to heal the rifts.

The question now is - will the conference be Jacob Zuma's political zenith or will he make it into the top job? In the coming months he could well be in and out of the courts, and may well feel like he needs a few more renditions of Bamba Isandla Sami Tambo.