Kenya + 1 more

East Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 16 February

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KENYA: Government appeals for emergency food aid
The Kenyan government at the weekend launched an appeal for emergency food aid of about US $61.6 million to help it combat a looming food shortage. In a letter signed by the head of the civil service, Richard Leakey, the government said that early warning assessments had revealed that 1.8 million people in 29 out of the 54 districts in the country were going hungry. It said a total of 18 districts, including the hunger-stricken Turkana, "are worst hit areas, while 11 others have varying degrees of severity". The government said an average of 20,000 mt is now required in the affected districts and that relief and urgent rehabilitation support are required until beyond June 2000.

Meanwhile, four more divisions of the drought-stricken Turkana district have been added to the list of areas requiring urgent famine relief food. Lokiri, Lokichar, Lokitaung and Kalokol have all now been classified as "emergency zones" along with Kaaleng, Kerio and Lapuro. Turkana District Officer Alloys Otieno was quoted by the 'Daily Nation' newspaper as saying that all the 17 divisions in the district will be declared "disaster zones" by the end of this month if it does not rain soon. The administration has classified the district into "emergency", "alarm" and "alert" divisions.

KENYA: Draft bill aims to reduce presidential powers

A two-day seminar for Kenyan legislators, which ended on Tuesday, came up with a draft bill putting parliament in charge of its own affairs and reducing presidential control. In the bill, presidential powers are to be cut further, news organisations reported on Wednesday. "It will prevent the president from dissolving parliament at will," the 'Daily Nation' said. It would also stop the President from summoning parliament when he chooses, "and in effect, controlling the parliamentary calendar". Such issues would be decided by a newly-created Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), answerable to the House and not the president. The commission seeks to make parliament autonomous from the executive and the judiciary.

KENYA: HIV vaccine trials to begin in December

A preventive HIV vaccine trial is set to begin on 1 December in Nairobi, researchers from the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) told journalists last week. They said the trials will be done in three phases and will involve a small number of volunteers. The first phase will involve volunteers from the low risk group comprising those who have tested HIV negative and are not highly exposed to the virus. The experts stressed that the vaccine was preventive and not curative. The vaccine is also to go on trial in two months in London. It was developed after years of research between scientists at the University of Nairobi and the Oxford University.

UGANDA: Reports confirm worsening food situation in Karamoja

Recent reports have confirmed a worsening food situation in the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda. WFP said the districts of Kotido and Moroto in Karamoja had been "severely" hit by drought and some people had already died of hunger. "People from rural areas are migrating to towns in search of food and as a result prices of food commodities in markets have increased by over 50 percent," WFP said. "Sales of cattle have increased and prices have plummeted by up to 75 percent." WFP is preparing an emergency operation to address the new serious food insecurity problems caused by the drought. It said an inter-agency drought assessment mission to Karamoja carried out in December 1999 had already recommended provision of food aid for the area through the expansion of the WFP school feeding project and food-for-work activities.

UGANDA: Northern rebels abduct eight

At least eight people were abducted and several shops looted when rebels of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) raided Nora trading centre in Apac district, northern Uganda. The semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper quoted the northern Regional Police Commander (RPC) Marshal Odur as confirming the incident. He said the rebels broke into shops at the trading centre on Saturday and looted shop items. "The rebels abducted some people to carry their loot," he said. "Despite the incident, the rest of the northern region is still calm with no major rebel activities reported."

ZANZIBAR: Ruling party holding meeting on constitutional change

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party in Zanzibar is currently holding a special meeting to discuss a constitutional amendment that would probably pave way for President Salmin Amour to run for a third term of presidency. A government official contacted by IRIN confirmed the meeting was underway, but said he did not have details of the agenda. He said the debate on the "president issue" had been pushed as the last agenda to be discussed late Wednesday. The Tanzanian 'Guardian' newspaper on Monday said the meeting, which is chaired by President Amour, will discuss recommendations to the CCM's national executive committee on the proposed constitutional amendments "aimed at prolonging the president's stay in office". President Amour's maximum two terms in office will end in October and the country's current constitution bars his re-election.

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