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ISSUE 009, January 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

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January 1-15, 2010

ISSUE 009

A bimonthly on-line newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service

Isiolo residents jittery over oil exploration, demand explanation

Africa Woman and Child Feature Service and Media Diversity Centre join the Reject Team wishes all their readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year .

By Hussein Salesa As the government intensifies gas and oil exploration in Northern Kenya, a cross section of leaders and residents in Isiolo are yet to appreciate the new development. This is happening barely a month after a Chinese firm launched the exercise at Boghal Well Block 9 in Isiolo District. According to the Minister for Energy, Mr Kiraitu Murungi, the Chinese firm will inject KSh2 billion in the project that involves sinking the five-kilometre well at Cherab, the 32nd such well since Kenya’s independence in 1963. Hundreds of Isiolo residents are asking the government to explain the nature of activities by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) that has been in the district the past year. The residents claim they have not been involved in the exercise, and that they would not take the issue lightly until a memorandum of understanding is concluded between the Chinese and the locals who own the land. The government had earlier signed an understanding with the Chinese firm to explore oil in the region. The Chinese firm and the government are optimistic at striking oil in the region, especially at the Boghal Well where a lot of activity has been focused over the past few months. But local civic leaders, traders and officials of local non-government organisations have expressed fears over the Chinese firm’s real intentions, with some alleging the project is aimed at dumping toxic waste in Isiolo’s Yamicha and Malkagalla locations under the guise of oil exploration. They claim the Chinese firm had ‘sneaked’ into Isiolo in November 2007 when the country was in the middle of election campaigns and proceeded with oil exploration activities in Dogogicha, Matasaden, Basa and Cherab areas in Merti Division. continued on page 2

The rig for oil exploration that the Chinese have set up in Isiolo. The area residents are up in arms over the project with claims that they have no information of what is going on.


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ISSUE 009, January 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Chinese presence creates unease in Isiolo from page 1

The leaders asked the government to come clean on the issue and that it must involve the locals. They observed that between 1996 and 1998, several oil firms had searched for the mineral at the same sites without involving the local people. They allege that about a decade later, firms operating in the area engaged in toxic dumping under the guise of oil exploration. They now want the government to dispel fears that another round of dumping of toxic or nuclear waste was not in the offing. A civic leader from the area said the government and the Chinese firm ought to have consulted the local authority of any undertaking as provided for by the Trust Land Act. “Even if they are here for oil exploration or drilling, the government should have notified the council. Isiolo is under the Trust Land Act and what is going on must be known to us,” demanded the councillor. The leaders fault both the Ministry of Energy and National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) for taking too long to explain to the locals results of an environmental impact assessment. They claim mysterious diseases and deaths have afflicted both the people and livestock in the region since the oil exploration activities of 1996. Also afflicted by the strange diseases are the neighbouring locations of Laisamis (Marsabit) and Habaswein (Wajir). “We have been hit by strange diseases affecting both human beings and livestock. We have had animals die when they drink

water from certain boreholes,” alleged the civic leader. These sentiments are echoed by the District Public Health Officer, Mr Wario Salah, who agrees that some animals drunk the contaminated water that led to their deaths. However, Salah is not privy to the nature of the contamination. NEMA in its assessment claimed water in some boreholes was too acidic, leading to possible poisoning of the animals. “Oil exploration firms that have been here before had nothing to do with the contaminated water,” said Ms Mary Wanjiru, the Isiolo District Environmental Officer. However, Mr Ibrahim Halake who runs an hotel business said it is in “public knowledge” that parts of northern Kenya sit on crude oil and natural gas reserves, quoting the 1980 survey on world energy resources. “Unless international firms come here with toxic wastes, we do not understand why people act strangely. Let the government involve all stakeholders,” Halake said. “Things are moving on yet the stakeholders believe what is going on is not oil exploration,” said Halake who questioned the government’s failure to adhere to set procedure as was the case in Lamu. Further concern has been expressed over the disruption of cattle-herding activity following the encroachment on pasture land by the oil-drilling firm. The leaders claim herders were being driven out of the area without proper consultation. “We fear our animals will die because we are being pushed from major grazing lands by the government which favours the Chinese firm,” said Mr Ali Jarso, a herder.

He claimed to have been pushed with his livestock towards Merti Division, more than 25 kilometres away from Ururu Plateau where oil prospecting is going on. Mr Abdulah Shande of Merti Integrated Development Project expressed fears of serious unrest in the event that oil is discovered as has been the case in other countries. Shande accused the government of failing to sensitise the local community on the new development to prepare them for the likely consequences. A resident of Bassa Location that borders the drilling centre, Mr Dabaso Guyo, however welcomed the exploration, saying oil discovery would help in spurring development in the region, leading to improvement of the road and communication network. A geologist with the Ministry of Energy who requested anonymity said the residents should embrace the project and the attendant heavy investment as it would uplift their standards of living. “People should stop reading malice in everything happening

The residents claim they have not been involved in the exercise, and that they would not take the issue lightly until a memorandum of understanding is concluded between the Chinese and the locals who own the land.

around them as some are done to benefit the whole country,” said the geologist. A number of residents interviewed are worried over the government’s decision to shroud some of the Chinese firm’s activities in secrecy. They question the exclusion of the civil society from participating in the inspection of containers the company ferried to the drilling site last year. Departments such as Environment, Roads, Public Health and Lands were not represented, while NGOs such as Action Aid and Waso Trust Land were also excluded. Their spokesman, Mr Hassan Shano, vowed to continue fighting for the rights of the people, “with or without the support of the provincial administration”. Only the Isiolo County Council was involved in the inspection but some of the residents are not comfortable with this saying the officials could have been compromised. The initial exercise is said to have been conducted at the port of Mombasa by both customs and Kenya Bureau of Standards officials. The Managing Director Kenya National Oil Corporation, Mr Mwendia Nyagah, during a meeting with stakeholders last year said that Kenya was lagging behind in oil exploration compared to other countries in the continent. He too pleaded with Kenyans not to read malice in oil exploration going on around the country. “Isiolo people should be happy that signs of crude oil are evident in the region out of an area of 350,000 square kilometres available for exploration,” said Nyagah.

Young boys herding cattle in communal pastures within Isiolo. Residents claim they are being moved out of normal grazing fields in favour of oil exploration by the Chinese.


ISSUE 009, January 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

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Man exhumes wife’s body after 32 years over claims of witchcraft By Gilbert Ochieng To many it can be said to be an abomination. For to exhume a body that has been buried is never encouraged among many traditions. However, a man recently exhumed his wife who had been buried almost 32 years ago, sending shockwaves in the superstition ridden Butula District, Western Kenya. Residents of Kanjala Village received news of the bizarre incident with shock and disbelief. They huddled in small groups to discuss the incident in low tones, but with real fear for the unknown. The brave among them, mastered courage to walk or ride to the scene of the abominable act to witness for themselves the bizarre happening that was a first in the region. Villagers were left astonished and dumfounded as to why their mate, Mr George Odeyo had done what had never been done before in the Marachi community, an act they considered a curse. However, only he had an answer and an equally bizarre one at that. In an interview with the Reject, 60-yearold Odeyo confessed he had taken the action to challenge his in-laws’ threat he would never remarry unless he apologised and sought forgiveness from them for allegedly neglecting their daughter. The distraught man said he took the threat seriously. The woman had died in 1977. Odeyo expressed suspicion that his wife’s burial could have been accompanied with witchcraft which for long tormented him, hence his decision to exhume her remains. Odeyo’s elder wife was laid to rest when he was in Nairobi where he worked as a watchman. He claims he had not been informed of the death in good time to enable him participate in the funeral and only arrived a week after the burial, itself an abomination in the Marachi community. Odeyo says he had a rough time with his in-laws dressing him down and reprimanding him for neglecting and subjecting his wife to mental anguish by failing to provide for her. Such was the acrimonious relationship that on a number of occasions they tried to take the children from him without success. He subsequently married another wife but she too passed away a year later, and in circumstances Odeyo could not explain. “I remained a widower for three years after which I decided to marry another wife at colourful wedding ceremony at the local Catholic church,” he says. His in-laws were not done with him, for they allegedly “hijacked” the occasion to attack him over his first wife’s death, compelling him to report the incident to the local assistant chief. The latter’s attempts to reconcile him with the relatives bore no fruit.

George Odeyo (in red T-shirt) points at the fresh mound of the grave where he reburied his wife who he exhumed. He is accompanied by villagers and members of his family.

The seemingly indefatigable Odeyo was determined to remarry, but as previously, this wife number three, was also to die, again under what Odeyo described as mysterious circumstances. Depressed, frustrated and confused, Odeyo at one time contemplated killing his in-laws in his warped bid to exorcise the spell he strongly believed they had cast on him. He instead chose to exhume the body of their daughter (his first wife) to retrieve and destroy the paraphernalia she had been buried with that was tormenting and destroying him. Said Odeyo: “I chose to exhume the body of my late wife instead of killing my troublesome in-laws since the action could have earned me either a life sentence or execution.” He decided to alert the area Assistant Chief Robert Musibi of his intentions. He earned a strong rebuke from the administrator, who warned he would face instant

Residents of Kanjala Village received news of the bizarre incident with shock and disbelief. They huddled in small groups to discuss the incident in low tones, but with real fear for the unknown.

arrest and prosecution if he dared proceed with the crazy plan. A defiant Odeyo that night proceeded with the plan to exhume the body. He filled his hurricane lamp with enough paraffin and placed it on a tree near the grave, and armed with a jembe (hoe) and spade, proceeded to dig up the mound of soil as shocked and fearful neighbours watched at a distance. He believed that by so doing, he would save the fourth wife he had just married from sure death. He kept digging for six hours with an occasional warning to the onlookers to keep their distance before reaching the almost intact casket. It was about 3am. With eyes gleaming, the crazed man told the Reject he was “overjoyed” on spotting the casket, and shouted out his achievement at the top of his voice, drawing the crowd closer to the bizarre scene. The brave milled around the open grave, shocked as to how the casket could have remained intact all those years, as majority of the villagers retreated with fear of the unknown. Unperturbed, Odeyo opened the coffin to find the dress on the decomposed body intact. He then proceeded to grope around the body for any objects of witchcraft. Not surprisingly, he found “a heavy item” that was tied on his dead wife. He remained calm and reflective until sunrise as the crowd discussed what they had just witnessed in hushed tones. Aside from Odeyo’s bizarre act, the good condition of both the coffin and dress was something beyond their belief. He explained his decision to remain by the grave as custom demanded of

one who has performed such an abominable act. The person must stay put until a cleansing ritual that involves some form of sacrificial acts is performed. Failure to perform the cleansing ritual could lead to death of children from the marriage. The ritual entails slaughtering of a black sheep and black cockerel. The male culprit is then served the meal by older women or widows. For a female offender, a black sheep and black hen are also slaughtered and the meal fed to her by the elderly men and widows. An excited Odeyo expressed satisfaction with his action, saying by removing the paraphernalia from his wife’s remains he will now live peacefully ever after. “I strongly believe that what I discovered planted in my late wife’s coffin had been causing the deaths in my home,” he says. While he was exhuming the wife, all his children were asleep so they never knew what was taking place on the material night. He decided to exhume the body when his present wife started ailing. The new wife is assumed to have recovered after Odeyo’s act and is well today. Odeyo is happy that his children are alive and were not harmed by his actions as he underwent the cleansing ritual and ‘things just returned to normal after the paraphernalia was burnt to ashes and disposed in a river’. Odeyo is currently an active member of a Butula based human rights organisation fighting for the rights of children and widows.


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ISSUE 009, January 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Liquor court clamps down illegal outlets in Murang’a By Ryan Mathenge The beer industry in Murang’a last month suffered a major blow after the local Liquor Licensing Court declined to renew 390 bar licenses. Many of the bars ordered closed are alleged to have been flouting liquor court regulations by selling second generation brews, as well as operating in risky areas. Murang’a North liquor court chaired by the District Commissioner, Mr George Natembeya, ordered closure of 167 bars after their applicants failed to meet security and public health requirements. Natembeya said those denied licences will have their cases reviewed in May this year if the applicants meet the set conditions. “Many of the bars closed are those that had continued selling second generation brews after they were described as dangerous to the community by the Department of Public Health,” the DC said. The court further observed that some of the people manufacturing second generation brews could not be traced, thus raising health concerns. Murang’a has over the years been regarded as the origin of many local brews before they penetrate other parts of the country. In Murang’a South District, the Liquor Court’s Chairman, Mr George Onyango said they had ordered closure of 124 beer outlets, especially those located near learning institutions and security posts. Onyango said the court will work with the Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Bureau of Standards to help unearth a cartel that smuggles unlicensed brews into the market. He said some of the brews flooding the market have fake standardization labels, purporting to have been issued by Kenya Bureau of Standards. News that a number of bars in the region had been reduced was well received by local women leaders. Many men and male youths in the region have fallen to alcohol addiction due to the easy availability of cheap brews. The National Council of Women Murang’a Coordinator, Ms Jane Kamwaga, said the liquor court has done women well following complaints that some of the brews in the market were poisonous.

Programme to empower disabled persons launched By Gilbert Ochieng Disabled persons in Busia and Teso are set to be self sufficient as they set up various businesses. The Association of the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK) has disbursed a total of KSh4.6 million to 288 physically disabled persons in Busia and Teso districts. “The loan will go a long way in enabling them to engage in various income generating activities and be self-reliant,” said Mr Gideon Sagalla, the Busia APDK Coordinator, adding, “Those already in business will improve on whatever they are already doing.” The Association aims at uplifting the economic status of communities through the revolving funds where they are encouraged to form groups with the aim of setting up small-scale enterprises, either as individuals or jointly in groups. In an interview with the Reject, Sagalla said they are committed to creating awareness on causes of disability, prevention and management to reduce prevalence as well as overcome prejudices and traditional beliefs. The Association also undertakes various outreach programmes that include assessment of persons with special needs, health education and awareness creation, social mobilisation of clinical camps as well as measurement and fixing of supportive appliances. “We have already mobilised 18 groups in the larger Busia and Teso districts and we intend to extend our services to other neighbouring districts,” Sagalla said, adding, the Association has, as a consequence, established 60 mobile clinics in the whole of Western Province. Sagalla sums up the APDK’s main objective as “enabling of people with disabilities to overcome their physical limitations and empower them socially and economically, so as to become self-reliant and fully integrated members in the community”. Currently, the APDK branch office is involved in promoting quality services through medical and social rehabilitation and economic empowerment by developing low-cost supportive appliances through appropriate technology to meet the needs of persons with disabilities especially at the grassroots level. The Association is networking with the government and other service providers for persons with disabilities with the aim of coordinating activities to avoid duplication of services. A beneficiary of the programme, Ms Jeneveva Amoit, a widow aged 50 and a mother of eight, says APDK Busia branch has been of great help to her family and through it she has been able to set up a cereals’ business at Adungosi market. Since the death of her husband five years

A surgeon attending to a disabled child at the APDK rehabilitation centre within the Busia District Hospital. PICTURE: GILBERT OCHIENG

ago Amoit has been leading a difficult life as there has been nobody to provide for them, Her eldest children are jobless and often carry out casual labour on other peoples’ farms to earn a living. She decided to invest the KSh60,000 revolving loan in the cereals business which is doing well as she is now able to provide for her children in terms of food and clothing. Another beneficiary, Mr Joseph Ochieng, a disabled tailor from Busia municipality says the revolving loan has changed his life and he no longer depends on well-wishers. Ochieng invested part of the KSh60,000 on a second-hand sewing machine to sup-

The Association aims at uplifting the economic status of communities through the revolving funds where they are encouraged to form groups with the aim of setting up small-scale enterprises, either as individuals or jointly in groups.

plement the one he already had and also bought more materials. Ochieng says: I am in the process of acquiring another sewing machine as demand for my services has gone up.” The APDK embraces the rights-based model of rehabilitation which aims at mainstreaming persons with special needs within their community in line with the United Nations Convention on Disabled Persons. Sagalla said all the clients at the Busia Rehabilitation Clinic are assessed by orthopaedic technologists before they are provided with supportive devices such as callipers, crutches, surgical boots, walking frames, wheel chairs and tricycles. The Association provides institutional services which include occupational therapy, physiotherapy, nutrition programmes, counselling sessions, club foot management, parents’ social groups and quarterly surgeon’s clinic. The Association is collaborating with Africa Inland Church (AIC) Kijabe, Cure International, Machakos General, Kikuyu Orthopaedic and Nyabondo hospitals in surgical intervention. Sagalla commends one of the donors, Christoffel Blenden Mission (CBMI) for donating KSh700,000 million to the disabled persons affected by last year’s post-election violence in the larger Busia and Teso districts. The funds will enable the victims to purchase farm inputs to boost their food security. The donor undertook to continue supporting the affected disabled persons in the two districts.


ISSUE 009, January 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Nanyuki to combat cholera By PAUL MWANIKI Shocked by the large number of people who have succumbed to the cholera outbreak over the past few weeks, residents of Nanyuki and its environs are taking measures to wad off the epidemic. They have started the campaign by forming clean up groups within their estates. The idea is an initiative of Laikipia East District public health officers, who together with the residents have vowed to work tirelessly in cleaning up the town and its environs. “We are saddened by the rate at which our town is growing and the issue of waste management is too sensitive to be ignored especially during this rainy season,” said Mr Stanley Musyoka, Nanyuki Municipality Public Health Officer. He noted that although garbage collection was the responsibility of the local municipal council, everybody has a role to play in ensuring they have a clean environment that is conducive for healthy living. “Nanyuki Municipal Council collects garbage after every two days, but we find that the work is not done comprehensively, leaving most of the litter in heaps,” he lamented.

Musyoka said once the general public understood their role in keeping the environment clean, council officers will proceed to form “action groups” comprising of youth, women and other stakeholders that include members of the Kenya Red Cross, Laikipia Branch. At the launch of the exercise held recently, over 130 tonnes of garbage was collected from the estates. He added: “We collected the garbage from all corners of the town even where the council does not go, and were shocked because the previous day was collection day.” Mr Samson Marang’u, the District Public Health Officer, said the Initiative will soon start educating local residents on proper garbage management processes, right from their homes. In recent weeks, scores of Kenyans have died from cholera, as hundreds languish in hospitals. They include 27 in Pokot East, 11 in Nairobi’s Mukuru kwa Njenga slums, 29 in Laisamis, North-Eastern Province and 11 at the Kamiti Maximum Prison. It is reported that the disease has spread to 22 districts with fatalities in excess of 100 so far. Marang’u said the action groups will be working closely with the local council towards achieving a clean environment.

Mrs Ann Ngatia from Likii slums, said the Initiative is also looking into ways of involving women’s groups in the area to promote the use of kiondos (traditional baskets) instead of the environmentally hazardous plastic bags that they use for shopping. “We want every woman to believe she can bring great change just by avoiding the polythene bags in her daily shopping,” Ngatia said. “Right from morning when a mother wants to prepare breakfast for her family, she leaves for the shops without even a bottle to buy milk or paraffin, and ends up carrying these substances in polythene bags,” she explained. Ngatia reiterated: “We feel that women should be the first to end this crisis, and we are geared towards leading by example to other parts of the country.” The Initiative is also targeting local primary schools that will be incorporated in the exercise. The youngsters will also be encouraged to spread the gospel through song, poem and drama. “We can only try to motivate them in this way, to make them understand that it is their right to live in a clean environment,” said Musyoka.

Women urged to go for loans By Ryan Mathenge Women in Central Province are being faulted for shying away from the Women Enterprise Fund. The Fund’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Samuel Wainaina, says it was a pity that women’s groups in the region were reluctant in applying for loans compared to their colleagues from the North Rift and Nyanza. Speaking at Koimbi chief ’s camp in Murang’a East District, Wainaina urged women’s groups in the region to access the fund “as the Government has injected billions of shillings to the Fund to help women in poverty alleviation”. He disbursed, on behalf of Gender and Social Development permanent secretary, Dr James Nyikal, cheques worth KSh700,000 to 14 women’s groups from Kiharu and Kangema. Since its establishment, the Fund has disbursed a total of KSh894 million to more than 114,000 women’s groups countrywide.

NACADA calls for anti-drug policies By David Kiarie

Ms Jennifer Kimani, Nacada CEO is escorted by Ministry of Education officials during a policy guidelines meeting in Embu.

Government departments have been urged to introduce drug abuse component in their programmes to combat the growing vice among workers and especially the youth. National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada) Chief Executive Officer, Ms Jennifer Kimani, said it’s only through a collective approach that the deadly vice can be effectively tackled. Speaking in Embu during a drug abuse sensitisation workshop for stakeholders in the Ministry of Education, the official said all departments should develop workplace policies on alcohol and substance abuse. She challenged the Education Ministry to develop policies that will ensure teachers are role models to students and the younger generation. “They are the custodians of our children and if they do not sensitise them on the dangers of drug abuse at an early age, we shall have lost the war,” Kimani said. She stressed the ministry’s importance in the fight against drugs, saying teachers are key in inculcating values and nurturing children to a bright future.

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The Nacada CEO took issue with the increased number of bars in residential areas, contending it was an offence to position such businesses close to residential houses. She called on the provincial administration in whose docket the licensing of liquor businesses lies, to curb the practice. “The number of licenses being issued contradicts the goal of focusing on national development. We cannot just be interested in the profits that come with liquor businesses without paying attention to the negative impact that may arise.” Kimani also blamed the public for failing to volunteer information relevant to liquor licensing to the provincial administration for appropriate action. This includes the concentration of bars and their proximity to dwelling houses. She also expressed concern at the rising cases of drug abuse in the country noting that the vice led to an escalation of crime, family breakdowns, schools, unrest and an increase in alcohol addiction. She urged parents, the provincial administration and other relevant government departments to protect the youth from drug dealers who are only out to make money at the expense of the future generations.


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ISSUE 009, January 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

No relenting on Migingo Fishermen continue to suffer in the hands of Ugandan security forces

Mr Benson Bunde, a Kenyan fisherman operating on Migingo Island, lies in hospital after being attacked by Ugandan security forces following a scuffle with a hotelier over KSh800 change.

By Odhiambo Odhiambo He had just returned from a fishing expedition and decided to take a meal in a makeshift hotel owned by a Ugandan. The meal cost KSh200 and he produced a KSh1,000 note which he handed to the hotelier over the counter in the hope of getting back his change immediately. But the hotelier did not have change and asked him to come back and pick it later. Little did Mr Benson Otieno Bunde think that a change of Sh800 could pose a danger to his life. However, this is exactly what happened in the disputed Migingo Island on Lake Victoria. When Bunde returned at 9pm to collect his money, it apparently became the beginning of his troubles. Instead of getting his change, the trader reportedly called Ugandan security officers guarding the rocky island, and had him arrested. The 31-year-old fisherman was taken to the makeshift camp where he was tortured for several hours. The police officers first poured cold water on him before tying his hands with a rope and then hanging him on the roof rafters. “They then started clobbering me with batons. The six officers told me to appreciate the fact that Migingo belonged to Uganda and that Kenyans were like refugees there,” Bunde told Reject from his hospital bed at St Cumulus Hospital in Karungu where he was rushed by fellow fishermen when his condition deteriorated. “I was bleeding profusely after being gun-butted on the neck, arms and abdomen from 11pm to 2am when they dragged me out of the camp.”

The fisherman’s eyes were swollen and marks were evident on his arms where the ropes had been tied. The incident led to a commotion on the busy island, prompting the Ugandan security to fire several times in the air to quell the protesting Kenyans. But Bunde’s case is not isolated as he is not the first Kenyan to fall victim of torture and harassment to Ugandan security forces. Since the row over the ownership of the island broke out, Ugandans forces on the island have been accused of mistreating Kenyans who operate there. Bunde was X-rayed by the medical workers who said he had suffered injuries inflicted by blunt objects. Although doctors say he is out of danger, the father of three wants disciplinary action taken against the those who tortured him.

Food and fuel supplies to the island are acquired from the Kenyan mainland. A boat ride from Muhuru beach to Migingo takes about two hours. A similar ride to Bugiri, the nearest beach on the Ugandan mainland, takes eight hours.

“I was only demanding for what was rightfully mine. I had not broken any law. This senseless torture must stop before somebody loses his life in the hands of these Ugandans,” says Bunde. Even journalists visiting the island have not been spared harassment and intimidation by the officers who are keeping watch over Migingo. All the visitors are screened and directed to sign a visitors’ book as an acknowledgement that the island belongs to Uganda. The fisherman who hails from Kajulu village in Uriri District went to Migingo in 2006 following reports of good fish stocks around the island. In August, this year, Ugandan security officers arrested 12 Kenyans including one woman trader who they took to Bugiri District Remand Prisons. The victims were later charged with kidnapping, even as the government pleaded for their release. Each of them was fined KSh4,000 each despite denying the offence. The chairman of the Migingo Beach Management Unit Mr Juma Ombori says: “We are tired of harassment and extortion from these Ugandans. President Kibaki should ensure we reclaim this island by all means if the statement he made while touring Nyanza is to be taken seriously.” The Head of State declared during a tour of Luo-Nyanza that Migingo belonged to Kenya. He was then accompanied by the Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The joint survey being carried out by the two countries stalled soon after the Ugandan experts pulled out to ostensibly consult their seniors in Kampala. The island got media attention about five years ago when Uganda engaged Kenya in a battle over its ownership. The island had been part of Kenya until security officers from

Uganda settled there. The two countries have since been giving different versions over who owns the island. Food and fuel supplies to the island are acquired from the Kenyan mainland. A boat ride from Muhuru beach to Migingo takes about two hours. A similar ride to Bugiri, the nearest beach on the Ugandan mainland, takes eight hours. “Migingo is nearer to Kenya than Uganda and all the maps have shown that it belongs to Kenya. I do not understand why the government is reluctant to act by sending the Kenya Navy officers to guard it,” says Mr Edick Anyanga, MP for Nyatike. Anyanga who insists Migingo is in his constituency says: “We cannot have a conflict going on for years and pretend to be comfortable in the East African Community bloc. The fisheries sector earns Kenya over KSh7 billion annually and must be protected from external interference.” It is reported that fishing on Migingo is lucrative business with fish landings worth over KSh1 million daily during good times. Mr Joseph Obala, who owns more than 50 boats in the lake, says Kenyan fishermen would like to know whether the island belongs to Kenya or Uganda. Kenyan fishermen have always stopped bringing in fuel and food supplies to Ugandan soldiers whenever there has been a dispute and this has always pushed the neighbours to the negotiating table. At the height of the harassments and arbitrary arrests last year, Kenyans embargoed supplies, forcing the admission of Kenyan representatives to the Migingo Beach Management Unit. “We are going to stop supplies to them again. We want them to be pushed out of the island because of hunger since our government appears not to be very keen to flex its muscle,” says Councillor Dickens Warentho of Muhuru beach. Migingo has no chief, with the Ugandans taking up the responsibility of maintaining law and order. They have set up a camp complete with a cell and armoury although their flag remains lowered as the two countries haggle over the boundary. The area is congested and has poor sanitation. Commercial sex workers from both countries have invaded the area because of the high circulation of money derived from fishing. There are about 100 boats operating around the island daily with the highly priced Nile Perch being the main commodity of trade. Kenyan fishermen claim to have lost millions of shillings to the Ugandan soldiers and police. They have also lost boats, engines and nets impounded over alleged trespass without valid permits. Fisheries minister, Mr Paul Otuoma says Kenya’s Strategic Plan on Fishing in the lake was ready and is awaiting Uganda and Tanzania to release theirs before harmonisation and implementation commences. However, Fishermen want the lake to be demarcated to enable them identify the boundaries.


ISSUE 009, January 1-15, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

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Village tormented by strange disabilities cries for help

A disabled girl from Kimunyuru Village, Kieni East Constituency. The number of people who are physically challenged in this village is raising concern among the villagers and medics.

By Catherine Wahome Whether it’s the gods to blame, a curse, incest, witchcraft, health, nutrition, too much Christianity or unexploded explosives, a village in central Kenya is desperate for help. Nearly 50 of this village’s residents — men, women and children — are afflicted with some form of disability. The problems include physical impairment, blindness and mental disabilities that have left residents of Kimunyuru Village in Kieni West District, confused and desperate for solutions. A good example of what is going on in this village can be found in the home of Mrs Jane Wangechi. For the last eight of her 15 year old marriage Wangechi has known nothing but pain and suffering. Her husband of 15 years, Mr Charles Materi, suffers a dilapidating disability that strangely coincided with the birth of their last-born child eight years ago. His legs literally went dead, rendering him totally dependent on Wangechi. Their first two children were both born with physical disabilities and are wholly dependent on her for any movement, including going to the toilet and being taken to school. It’s a tough call for the young mother, considering the meagre income she gets from casual work and the occasional assistance she receives from neighbours. Retiring to bed after a hard day’s work for Wangechi and her stricken family is not common. All is not lost for the courageous woman, thanks to the recent intervention by area Member of Parliament, Mr Nemesyus Warungongo. He has seen to the admission of eight-year-old Alice Wanjiru to Joytown Special School in Thika, while Wangechi’s husband and the other

disabled daughter have benefitted from wheelchairs. A few metres away from Wangechi’s home one finds 25-year-old Daniel Macharia who’ can neither stand nor walk. He depends on his parents, neighbours and friends for movement on his improvised wheelchair. Macharia was born a bouncing baby boy and grew up normal until before disaster struck when he was in Standard Two and just about eight years old. It’s then that both his legs and hands suffered some strange paralysis, forcing him out of school. He has since had to rely on his parents, friends and neighbours. The dependency frequently drives him into dangerous bouts of depression, often leaving him wishing he was dead. These are just examples of the unique problem residents of Kimunyuru Village face. Unlike Wangechi and Macharia, most of the victims are unwilling to disclose their trials and tribulations for fear of being stigmatised and mot knowing what will happen if they speak about their condition. Kimunyuru Village is located in a region not known to harbour superstitions as is the case with other parts of the country. The isolation of the village and the long period it’s taking medical authorities to identify the problem has driven Kimunyuru residents to the brink of despair.

According to Mr Gichuhi Mureithi, headteacher at Ngareng’iro Primary School, both teaching and learning has become a big challenge given the large number of disabled children who come to school. Those who are physically challenged bring the need for specialised learning that is beyond the school’s capacity. Though some of the disabled pupils perform above average, Mureithi notes that it is challenging since they depend heavily on their colleagues and teachers for assistance. “There are also those among the disabled whose disability prevents them from learning anything. They are all the same, brought to the school by their parents to relate to and socialise with their ablebodied colleagues instead of staying idle at home,” says the head teacher. He adds: “We are forced to allocate duties to other pupils to assist the disabled ones even in using the toilets, which leaves them with little time to concentrate on their class work,” laments Mureithi. As a consequence of all these, the school is perennially unable to cover the syllabus and the result ends up being poor performance in national examinations. The head teacher is calling upon the Ministry of Education to provide the school with both special education teachers and requisite equipment for the disadvantaged pupils. A resident of the area, Mr James Ndirangu, links the problem to “incest” and urges parents, teachers and the society at large to teach their children good morals and enlighten them on the dangers of the weird practice. He says most pupils in the area drop out of school at primary school level and end up marrying blood relatives in the same village once they come of age. He attributes the disabilities to this and appeals to the government to intervene. Ndirangu says parents should send their children to schools far away from the village to enable then interact with people from other regions. This, he says, will help eradicate ‘inbreeding and disability’. A local medical practitioner, Dr Susan Karanja, says physical disability can be hereditary due to genetic or biological factors. It can also arise from an accident, traditional births at home, lack of immunisation and poor feeding for the baby.

“There are also those among the disabled whose disability prevents them from learning anything. They are all the same, brought to the school by their parents to relate to and socialise with their able-bodied colleagues instead of staying idle at home.”

She, however, notes that the case in Kimunyuru is different, and is urging the Health ministry to initiate a case study to establish the exact cause of the physical disabilities that have only afflicted a particular area. But Mr John Kamaru, a resident of the village says the selling of inheritance land and failure to honour dowry obligations could be the cause of physically disabilities in the village. He claims that most local people have over-indulged in Christianity at the expense of cultural traditions, leading to the disabilities. A village-mate, Ms Jane Wangare Mwangi whose mother and two children are both physically disabled, blames the problem on a witchdoctor who lives not far from the village. Her mother, 55, woke up one morning to realise she’d lost the use of both her legs and hands, leaving her totally immobilised. It was after her mother’s unexplained misfortune that she gave birth to the mentally challenged children even after observing all the prescribed pre-natal measures. The subsequent immunisation and proper feeding did not help. She is afraid to have another baby, believing that a third birth will suffer similar misfortune. She is calling on the government to identify and flush out the witchdoctor she admits she has never seen. Yet another school of thought at the village attributes the problem to something else — explosives that they say fell in a thick forest that borders the village. It is alleged the ordinance was used against the villagers by white settlers during the Mau Mau freedom struggle in 1950s. Mr James Mwangi, a former area chief states that while digging a pit latrine in his compound some five or so months ago, he came across two canisters buried in the soil. He casually threw the items into his cowshed with the intention of examining them later. One of the three cows in the shed died almost instantly, while the other two developed deformities. He sold them off. The area police identified the cans as explosives that may have been used by the colonial forces against Mau Mau suspects in the village. Mr Peter Kamau of the Department of Explosives, says radioactive materials have long term effects capable of harming the unborn. He, however, points out the colonial forces used landmines against the Mau Mau, adding the explosives do not have the residual effect that could be harming Kimunyuru residents nearly 60 years later. The Ministry of Defence will, however, commission a case study to establish whether the unexploded canisters have a role in the strange disabilities at the village.


8

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

COMMENTARY & Opinion

ISSUE 009, January 1-15, 2010

Africa’s leadership proves to be its own worst enemy

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The president constantly abuses the West while at the same time blaming his PM for not talking enough to bring in foreign aid. Photo: www.thezimbabwetimes.com/wp-content/gallery/n

By Nicholas Odhiambo The African continent is battling with selfinflicted demons — victims of dictatorship, coups, murder, rape, mismanagement, and poverty. I predict more hell for the continent if its leaders refuse change and continue resisting a positive and realistic approach to issues for the good of their people, millions of whom face an uncertain future. Many African leaders have not embraced real change, and are still trapped in the pre-independence mindset that pitted them against their colonial detractors. They attribute most, if not all of the continent’s ills and failures to the ghost of colonial governments. The foolhardiness of their palaver with the ancient past can be viewed from the overwhelming majority of the African people — mostly youth — who were not born at the time of independence. They are, therefore, left in limbo as their inadequate and incompetent leaders rant and scream at an enemy they know not. Ironically, the same leaders perennially troop in droves to the “enemy” for food and economic assistance after mismanaging their countries’ resources through corruption, poor policies and general mismanagement.

Such is the malaise that when US President Barrack Obama sends positive overtures to Kenya that are in tandem with the aspirations of majority of its citizens, the leadership views the same as colonist interference in the country’s internal affairs. The fact that Obama is a true son of Kenya, is lost to a self-serving and visionless leadership. And it is not just Kenya. The paranoia with a colonial past is an African-wide affliction that plays out monotonously in such nations as Zimbabwe where President Robert Mugabe epitomises the worst form of an African leadership groping for non-existent enemies. The loquacious Zimbabwean leader whose aversion to democracy is known universally, has lumped all of his country’s trials and tribulations to the West, when it is obvious to even the most naïve of Zimbabwean national that he is the problem. Under his autocratic rule, Mugabe has steadily driven a nation that was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa, to a food deficit country, thanks to hair-brained land and agricultural policies tainted in racism, itself a consequence of the ‘colonial enemy’. So confused is the erstwhile Presidentfor-life, that as he condemns his coalition partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

of colluding with the West, he in the same vain criticises the Premier for not doing enough to persuade the West to lift economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. Why did Augustine Bizimana, Feliciene Kabuga and Protais Mpiranya among others decide to plan, co-ordinate and execute the 1994 Rwandan genocide as charged in the International Criminal Court? They are accused of securing and providing the weapons that were used to slaughter nearly a million fellow Africans, leading to the existence of what Rwandans today call bapfuye buhagazi (the walking dead). These are girls who had abortion after being defiled, mothers whose children were slaughtered in their full view, and children who have had to live after witnessing their parents murdered. Even after this painful ordeal that beats all human tragedies ever witnessed on

One can hardly be faulted for believing the AU is but a talkshop, where African leaders devote time on how to scheme their self preservation with little concern for their masses.

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello-Orlale Programme Coordinator: Wilson Ugangu Programme Officer: Susan Mwangi Project Editor: Jane Godia Project Designer: Noel Lumbama Copy Editor: Frank Wanyama Contributors: Hussein Salesa, David Kiarie, Catherine Wahome, Nicholas Odhiambo, Odhiambo Odhiambo, Ryan Mathenge, Gilbert Ochieng and Paul Mwaniki

earth, some African leaders have had the temerity and audacity to continue harbouring the masterminds of the Rwandan genocide, among them Felicien Kabuga and his ilk. In Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir walks free after the ICC indicted him for presiding over the massacre of an estimated 300,000 people in the western Darfur region. Interestingly but not surprisingly, the African Union absolves al-Bashir from blame even after 12 peacekeepers were murdered in circumstances that did not exactly vindicate that country’s authorities. That, in any case, was not out of character, considering the AU’s inaction and impotency in reigning in the rampant Mugabe as the world around seethed over his criminal misrule. One can hardly be faulted for believing the AU is but a talkshop, where African leaders devote time on how to scheme their self preservation with little concern for their masses. In the extreme Horn of Africa, Somalis are busy killing their own brothers and sisters in the name of fighting the West. This has blocked their thinking to the extent that they are unable to put in place an authority of sorts to manage their day to day activities. They appear to have resigned themselves to anarchy where he or she with the might of the gun is boss. Across the border in Kenya, the authorities soft peddle criminal gangs that are patronised and funded by politicians including some in government, ignoring the real danger they pose to society at times of political conflict. Need they be reminded of what occurred in the weeks and months that followed the disputed December 27, 2007 General Election? Surprisingly, leaders of gangs such as the proscribed Mungiki that murdered hundreds of innocent people in Naivasha and Nakuru at the behest of some politicians, still enjoy VIP status as the criminal gang continues with its extortion from traders and businessmen. That Mungiki or any other gang could develop and grow into something much bigger than Somalia’s Al Shabaab is a possibility. After all, the enabling environment is there — rampant official corruption, unemployment, poverty and general disgruntlement with the government, issues the country’s leadership has failed to tackle with gusto.

www.mediadiversityafrica.org Write to: info@mediadiversityafrica.org The paper is produced with funds from Ford Foundation

Reject Online Issue 9  

* Isiolo residents jittery over oil exploration, demand explanation * Man exhumes wife's body after 32 years over claims of witchcraft...

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