KENYA: Head count underway in Kakuma
A refugee head count is underway at Kakuma refugee camp, northwestern Kenya, the UNHCR's Saber Azam said on Wednesday. The operation, also known as the card revalidation exercise, was being carried out by some 127 government officials from the home affairs ministry, the national bureau for registration and immigration department, alongside UNHCR personnel, he told IRIN. "By the end of May, we will know the current refugee population in the camp," he said. After the census, the refugees will be issued with identity cards. "It will be the first time in Kenya that refugees will be issued with identity cards ... it is important to be rightfully recognised," Azam said. "It is a highly welcome move and we are really grateful." Kakuma has reached saturation point and the UNHCR is considering the need either to expand the camp or open another site, he said. "Because of the increase in the number of refugees, we need more space. We have asked the government to assist in this but, whichever the place, the availability of water is a priority," Azam added.
KENYA: Government issues statement on "land invasion"
The Kenyan government on Tuesday reaffirmed that private land and commercial property were fully protected by the constitution and laws of Kenya. The head of the civil service, Richard Leakey, said in a statement that land disputes had arisen in the country and had always been resolved within the confines of the laws, Kenyan radio reported. Leakey was reacting to a news report that hundreds of families had invaded two white-owned farms, including that of Basil Criticos - an Assistant Minister for Roads and Public Works until he was sacked by President Daniel arap Moi on Thursday. He said the government was aware of the dispute involved and the matter was in court, adding that the inference in the report that the invasion followed the Zimbabwean pattern was "wrong and misleading". He said the land disputes and an alleged arson attack on the sisal plantation would be resolved legally "without political undertones".
KENYA: Top officials named in corruption probe
Senior government officials were on Tuesday named by a parliamentary anti-corruption select committee report as having been involved in corrupt deals, Kenyan newspapers reported. The list included Vice-President George Saitoti, influential cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott and other top officials, as well as Phillip Moi, the son of the president. The report was tabled in parliament and coincided with a visit to the country by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team assessing whether reforms had been undertaken by the government in the financial and political sectors to allow the resumption of IMF loans, suspended in 1997. The report suggested, among other recommendations, that a partial amnesty be offered to officials who admit corruption within a year and pay back stolen money, the BBC reported. The head of civil service Richard Leakey, quoted by the BBC, said the report showed Kenya was serious about tackling graft, but cautioned that it dealt only with allegations. "I would think it very surprising if a lot of people mentioned didn't face action, but we must do it by due process," he said.
KENYA: Parliament endorses state protection for MPs
Kenyan MPs on Wednesday approved a bill requiring that the government provide them with guns and bodyguards for protection. Their move followed the shooting on 20 February of two MPs, Sammy Leshore and Mohammed Shidiye, who are recovering from their injuries in a London hospital. The ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) party had opposed the bill, arguing that its implementation would be too costly and that insecurity was a problem for "all Kenyans" from which MPs should not set themselves apart. The annual cost to the government of the new security requirement has been estimated at 25 million shillings (approximately $3.6 million) a year.
KENYA: First private power station proposed
Plans are underway for the construction of a 74 megawatt diesel generation plant in Mombasa at the cost of $86 million, the 'Daily Nation' newspaper reported on Tuesday. The plant, to be known as Kipevu II power project, will sell electricity to the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) under a 20-year power purchase contract, it said. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) had recently signed an agreement to invest up to $41 million in the project, it added. Kenya has been facing an acute power shortage due to prolonged drought affecting hydro-electric generation, and power rationing has been in place since last September. The 'Kenya Times' newspaper on Thursday quoted Energy Minister Francis Masakhalia as saying that the government was set to import more electricity from Uganda, bringing the percentage of total domestic supply met by Uganda up to 30 percent.
UGANDA: Rebel group crosses into northern district
An estimated 150 to 200 rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) are reported to have crossed into the northern town of Kitgum from southern Sudan, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Thursday. It quoted sources as saying the rebels, "heavily armed and carrying supplies", entered Palabek-kal sub-county in Lamwo, Kitgum District, last Saturday night. The LRA group was reported to be under the command of the rebel group's 'director of military intelligence' Vincent Otti. Unconfirmed reports estimated their [rebels] number to be between 150 to 200.
TANZANIA: President denies persecuting opposition
Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa on Wednesday urged western countries to desist from claims that the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party was persecuting the opposition. Speaking at a rally in Makunduchi, southern Zanzibar, Mkapa called on them to stop their claims of human rights abuses whenever "the government took action against people who had committed disruptive acts which jeopardise peace and stability in the country." He warned that Tanzania would not allow the freedom of multiparty politics to be used as a weapon to violate the laws of the land.
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