senegalese shame

The events in Senegal last Monday are yet another blow to the democratization of a very undemocratic continent of Africa. Senegal has always been a beacon of hope and a symbol of sobriety in the most turbulent region of the African continent. But even its impressive track record could not stop Abdoulaye Wade, one of the few African leaders I have respect for, from extending the presidential term from five to seven years. Why Wade, why?

At a time when you are criticizing Mugabe for being a despot, don’t you think it is inappropriate for you to extend your own term? The Senegalese parliament should go jump over a cliff for this.

(any English speaking Senegalese people out there?)

kenyan new aids figures, cause for concern

Late last year I wrote a peace congratulating the Kenyan government and all those involved of having done a commendable job in reducing the HIV prevalence rate to 5.1%. But new figures out indicate that things are much worse than this. It turns out that the prevalence rate is 7.4% with about 1.4 million Kenyans between the ages of 15 and 64 infected.

Even more worrying is the fact that more than 83% of those infected do not know that they’ve been infected and less than half of them use condoms. The new figures also reported that 10% of married couples in Kenya are infected.

It goes without mention that this should sound an alarm among Kenyans. The truth needs to be put out there. It is true that Kenyan men, and to some extent women, are behaving badly. It is also true that they are not using condoms while at it.

What needs to be done is (I am no expert but this is sort of common sense):

1. The public should be educated bluntly about proper sexual behavior. There is no point in acting like people are not having indiscriminate sex while they are. Men especially should be constantly reminded that they should not be putting their families in danger by their bad habits.

2. Condoms. Condoms. Condoms. I don’t care what the church says. People are having sex. Abstinence is, I concede, the best prevention method. But what do you when people, in their fallibility cannot put down the natural urge to have sex? I say the government should avail condoms, not just to teenagers but to married men as well.

3. Empower women. Empower women. Empower women. Empowered women will be able to say no to unprotected sex. Empowered women will not be forced to have sex in exchange for food on the table for their children. Empowered women will raise well mannered, morally upright children who will not grow into deviants running around having indiscriminate sex.

EMPOWERED WOMEN WILL PROVIDE A SOUND FOUNDATION TO SOCIETY.

These are just three things that the government can do to prevent the figures rising further than 7.4%. They may seem sort of naive, but the truth is they are achievable. They are achievable if the folks in Nairobi behaved like the leaders they ought to be and strove at changing society – for this is part of leadership. Kenya and indeed African leaders can change the course of this terrible disease if they want to.

Some of them like our dear president have more than one wife (or some other hazy definition – partner, wife, concubine etc). What message are we sending to the young. When leaders are allowed to run around having illegitimate children we set a bad example. It should start with leaders having responsible sexual relations and then preaching to the masses to have responsible sexual relations.

Otherwise millions more will die. Millions more will be orphaned. And millions that could have been spent building roads and schools will instead be spent on funerals and health costs.

I think I’ve caught Obamamania too

The speech and the pictures from Berlin did it all. I am a news and political junkie (no apologies) and have been keenly following the US presidential election ever since Iowa set things rolling in December of last year. Until today, I had been caucious about Barack Obama – I mean I read his two books and saw in him a great person but I never really bought the idea that he is the man the United States and the world needs right now.

In Berlin, Obama won me over. More than 200,000 Europeans and citizens of the world (I saw some Angolans in the crowd) showed up to hear him speak about world unity and the idea that we can change things and make life better – however marginally – if we choose to. What won me over was not Obama the person – for I have always admired Obama the achiever – but the idea that he embodies. The idea that this is the time for change and that he can mobilize not just his fellow Americans but citizens of the world into action for a worthy cause.

People like Obama – who can inspire millions – are hard to come by and I think that is why the world over most have come to like this son of a one time goat herder as he likes to remind everyone listening. It is my hope that America will realize how much of a difference it will make to have a president that can inspire beyond their own borders and vote Democratic. But then again knowing Americans (well sort of since I’ve only been here for three years) a part of me still remains apprehensive about the sincerity of the poll numbers I am seeing so nothing is a safe bet yet untill I see Barack Obama on the steps of the US capitol being sworn in as president next year.

slavery in mali, sick and utterly disgusting

The IRIN News website reports that thousands of Malians are still living in slavery in the North of this desert country.

It is a shame that in the 21st century we should still have Africans, of whatever descent, enslaving their fellow countrymen. Last year I wrote a piece on the situation in Mali and pointed out the developments that have been made in the fight against this most heinous crime. Locals however report that in the Northern towns of Gao and Menoka the vice is still rife with Touaregs as the culprits inflicting mental scars on the local Balla people.

Where is the AU on this? Where is ECOWAS on this? Slavery is a most degrading crime and should not be allowed, not only because of what it does to the immediate victims and their families, but also because of the legacy it creates. To erase the effects of this practice will take generations, and the sooner it ceases, the faster the Balla will begin the healing process and may be some day normalise relations with their former slave masters.

al-Bashir accused of war crimes and genocide in Darfur

At last there is some international organisation with some spine. Although the practicality of this accusation is doubtful – nobody even dreams that al-Bashir, the genocidal president of Northern Sudan will ever appear in court for his crimes in Darfur and beyond – the symbolism behind it is powerful. It is powerful because it says it like it is. President al-Bashir’s mission in Darfur is genocidal and utterly criminal. Yes, he is is fighting rebels intent on dislodging him from power (and as I have stated before I am no sympathizer of rebel movements) but the way he is doing it in Darfur is not the right way.

The prosecutor of the international criminal court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, brought the case against al-Bashir on account of the more than 300,000 deaths in Darfur over the last five years.

Again, al-Bashir may never see the inside of a cell in the Hague but it is a triumph for justice, or more appropriately, the quest for justice. Almost half a million have died and millions displaced while the international community ‘dillies and dallies’ about Sudan’s sovereignty. A nation forfeits its sovereignty the moment it starts butchering its own people. Period.

Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir and his kind throughout Africa and the world should be made aware of the fact that there are people out there who are dedicated to bringing them to justice. As usual, I am disappointed by the AU’s reaction to all this. I am kind of curious as to how the more outspoken (radical) presidents on the continent – Senegal’s Wade, Botswana’s Khama and Rwanda’s Kagame – will react to this. I hope that they will continue in their commitment to telling it like it is, unlike their more defensive counterparts.

On a related note. I wish more Darfuri rebels and Janjaweed militia alike could also be brought to book because all three parties (the JEM rebels, janjaweed and the government of Northern Sudan) are causing untold suffering to innocent civilians in this war.

Kimunya exit a loss for kenya

Politics is a dirty game. To that let me also add that all human beings made of bone and flesh are fallible. These two truisms proved their worth once again today when Kenya’s Finance Minister Amos Kimunya resigned in connection to the fraudulent sale of the corruption tainted Grand Regency Hotel.

Corruption accusations, whether valid or not have robbed Kenya of one of its better Ministers in the post-Moi era. Kimunya was, for the most part, a man of principle sprinkled with pragmatism. He is credited for having brought macroeconomic stability to the Kenyan economy and restoring some sanity in the formulation of the government’s monetary policies. Most of all he is the man who was at the helm when Kenya had its best annual growth rate outside the first two decades of independence.

Most of his political detractors may have taken mileage out of the Grand Regency saga but the true loser in this case is not Mr. Kimunya but the Kenyan economy. Yes the man may have erred but by throwing him out we risk discontinuity in the setting of the economic agenda, which besides security, is the most important function of any self respecting government.

I am not saying tha there are no more Kimunyas out there or that corruption in any form should be tolerated. All I am saying is that the chances of our next Finance Minister being as successful as Amos Kimunya was are pretty slim. Most of our cabinet ministers are total clowns – I picture Kajwang singing and dancing on tv, Martha Karua with her vitriol etc etc. To me, Kimunya was one of the most level headed cabinet members and his loss is a real shame.