Kenya + 2 more

East Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 1 March

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KENYA: Government strengthens security
The Kenyan government has sent out extra security personnel to maintain security along the country's borders with its neighbours, as well as between the warring Pokot and Marakwet tribes in northwest Kenya. "But as a government, we cannot guarantee that there will be no attacks," Minister of State in the Office of the President Marsden Madoka told IRIN. "We are committed to protecting lives and property," he said. "We have reinforced our presence in these areas and are improving on our intelligence information flow." He added that security was a complex issue "and we are doing the best we can within our resources".

On 20 February, a group of raiders believed to be from west Pokot attacked a Turkana homestead killing 40 people. Last Wednesday, some 80 people were killed after heavily-armed raiders from the Merrile community in Ethiopia struck Turkana homesteads in Kokuro area near the Kenya-Ethiopia border. Kenyan news organisations blamed some of the attacks on the "ill-preparedness" of Kenyan security personnel, reporting incidents of security officers trekking for over 30 km to get to troublespots. "Although I am also longing for the day we will have adequate transport and communication equipment, it is important to note that security personnel need to trek because this is the surest way of getting the attackers," Madoka said.

He added that the government was also beefing up security in Nairobi where crime rates are on the increase. Numerous shooting incidents have been reported recently. Currently, all Criminal Investigations Officers (CIDs) who were on leave have been recalled. Madoka decried the proliferation of small arms in the country and said this was possibly a major reason why such crimes were on the rise.

KENYA: UN agencies highlight shortfall in refugee funding

WFP and UNHCR on Monday drew attention to a funding crisis that threatens to undermine humanitarian assistance to refugees in Kenya. Of the 16 countries where WFP and UNHCR had joint operations, Kenya was second only to Tanzania in terms of its funding crisis. A shortfall of US $7.4 million represented 30 percent of the food aid required by WFP for refugees in Kenya, a press release by the agencies stated. Since October 1999, over 20,000 additional refugees had entered the country "to escape harsh conditions in Somalia and Sudan", the statement added.

KENYA: Seminar on peacekeeping

A one-week seminar on peacekeeping in war-torn countries is underway in Nairobi, news organisations reported. The seminar, organised by the US government, will explore the role of military forces in democracies as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in war-torn countries, Kenyan television (KTN) reported on Monday. It has brought together the US government and five African countries. KTN quoted the US-Kenya liaison officer, Major Neal Kiringel, as saying his government chose Kenya as the venue due to its experience in peacekeeping missions. The seminar is also a build-up towards "Exercise Natural Fire", between Kenya, Uganda, Tanzanian and the US, to be held in Kenya towards the end of this month.

UGANDA-SUDAN: Follow-up peace talks in Nairobi

Ugandan and Sudan officials are in Nairobi for follow-up talks on the implementation of the agreement signed between the two governments in December last year. An official from the facilitation team, the Carter Centre, told IRIN the meeting was due to start Wednesday evening. "I cannot talk about the agenda, but I know they will be reviewing the implementation of the Nairobi agreement," she said. The meeting is scheduled to end on Friday. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir signed an agreement last December agreeing, among other issues, not to harbour, sponsor or give military or logistical support to rebel groups on each other's territories.

UGANDA: Parliament passes referendum regulations

The Ugandan parliament last week passed regulations that would create a "level ground" for the forthcoming referendum on political systems, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported. It set 7 March as the deadline for certification of the systems by the electoral commission. The ruling National Resistance Movement and the multiparty group have registered for the referendum so far. The regulations, presented by the country's Justice Minister Mayanja Nkangi, prohibit a side or agent from soliciting, obtaining or receiving any financial assistance or canvassing support from any foreign government or institution likely to pose a threat to the country's security. They also recommend that every side should be free to canvass support in any media.

UGANDA: UNAIDS issues guidelines for HIV vaccine research

The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on Monday released a new set of international ethical guidelines on HIV vaccine research. The document contains guidance points that need to be considered in HIV vaccine development activities and vaccine trials, UNAIDS said in a press release. The guidelines are seen as particularly important for developing activities and vaccine trials that are expected to take place. Uganda is among three countries where the trials will be carried out. The others are Brazil and Thailand. "It is our collective responsibility to ensure that all vaccine trials are conducted under the strictest possible ethical and scientific standards," UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot said.

UGANDA: WFP planning advance deliveries to Karamojong

WFP is planning advance deliveries to the Karamojong area in northeast Uganda, a WFP official in Kampala told IRIN on Tuesday. The deliveries will target the "vulnerable population", including children, pregnant women and the elderly and will be an extension of the ongoing school feeding programme. "We want to make use of the available resources pending the approval of our draft document on a new emergency operation in the area," she said. WFP has drawn up a draft document for a six-month operation aimed at providing essential commodities to the most vulnerable groups. "The objective is to protect health and nutrition, prevent migration of the people and livestock, encourage self reliance through food-for-work," she said. Some 160,000 people are expected to benefit.

ZANZIBAR: Constitutional change bid rejected

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party on Saturday rejected a bid by some of its officials to have the constitution amended to allow Zanzibar President Salmin Amour to seek a further term in office. The decision "disappointed" Amour's supporters but was welcomed by many, including opposition leaders, the Tanzanian 'Guardian' newspaper reported. It said the decision brought to an end "a major issue" that had for some months dominated news and public discussions in the country. Media sources in Zanzibar told IRIN that people were divided about the decision. "Amour's supporters are confused and have said they will only believe he is not contesting when he fails to do so in the forthcoming October general elections," one source said. "Those who agree with the decision say it has shown that CCM leaders truly respect the constitution."

ZANZIBAR: Opposition bail verdict set for April

The verdict on whether 18 jailed opposition Civic United Front (CUF) members in Zanzibar, charged with treason, will be granted bail is due to be passed on 3 April, the presiding judge Garba Tumaka has announced. An independent source who attended the court session on Monday told IRIN that defence lawyers urged the court to drop the treason charges, arguing that Zanzibar had no legal authority to prosecute anyone for treason. Only the mainland government could do this, they said. However, the country's chief prosecutor, Salum Tawfiq, said an act of treason could be committed in Zanzibar because it was a country with a "fully-fledged government". He conceded that the charges presented in court earlier were "legally defective".

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