Kenya + 2 more

East Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 24 May

KENYA: Drought brings severe power rationing
A 12-hour a day power rationing programme to last at least six months has been drawn up by Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) as a result of low water levels in the country's hydro-electric power plants. Businesses will have their power cut between 6.30 pm and 6.30 am from Monday to Saturday - except for the central business district of Nairobi, which has been exempted - while householders will have no supply from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm, the 'Daily Nation' newspaper reported on Wednesday. Supplies would not return to normal until at least October, when the next short rains were expected, Energy Minister Francis Masakhalia announced after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday at which the rationing was approved. The cabinet had backed the immediate importation of an addition 50 megawatts of electricity from neighbouring Uganda and the exploration of other means to supplement the national grid, the 'Daily Nation' stated. Energy stakeholders agreed there was little alternative to the rationing programme, but many were also critical of the failure to plan for such a contingency and diversify Kenya's energy sources, the report added.

KENYA: Doctors to campaign against torture

Kenyan doctors have launched a campaign to stop torture and the inhuman treatment of prisoners and accused people, the 'East African' weekly newspaper reported. The campaign, launched by Mohamed Said, chairman of the human rights committee of Kenya Medical Association (KMA), would address issues that contributed to the abuse of prisoners, including the poor conditions under which prison warders work. The organisation recommended the establishment of a standing commission to hear complaints about the treatment of prisoners, as well as the use of non-custodial sentences to punish petty offenders. It also suggested an increase in prisoners' daily dietary allowances and the adoption of suitable prison uniforms, the 'East African' reported. The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has long encouraged Kenya's medical community to be more vocal in condemning human rights abuses, especially since it is doctors who are usually first to come into contact with torture victims.

KENYA: Civic leaders give "aliens" notice to quit farms

West Pokot councillors in northwestern Kenya on Sunday issued notice to quit to all non-Pokots residing in the agriculturally rich Trans-Nzoia district. The notice, backed by some 73 councillors, gave the "aliens" 60 days "to pack up and go", local newspapers reported. At a meeting held in Cheptuiya in northwestern Kenya and presided over by Pokot County Council chairman David Moiben, Kapenguria Deputy Mayor Jacob Lorema and the chairman of Chepareria Town Council, Edward Soprin, the leaders resolved that since Trans-Nzoia was initially Pokot ancestral land, it was only fair that the nomadic community "returns back home". "We see no difference between white settlers and black settlers because they are all aliens and hence the more reason why we should evict them and repossess our land," the councillors were quoted as saying. They advised those evicted to seek compensation from the government.

UGANDA: Referendum date set

Ugandans will go to the polls on 29 June for a national referendum on political systems, news organisations have reported, quoting Ugandan electoral commission chairman Azizi Kasujja. The referendum will offer Ugandans an opportunity to decide on which political system they wish to have: multi-party democracy or the 'no-party' National Resistance Movement (NRM) model of President Yoweri Museveni. The Multiparty National Referendum Committee (MNRC) is encouraging people to reject the NRM system in the referendum, while the mainstream political parties - including the Democratic Party (DP) and the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) - have called for a boycott on the basis that the principle of democratic pluralism should not be up for debate.

ZANZIBAR: Commonwealth calls for electoral reform

The British Commonwealth secretariat has reiterated its call for a reformed Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) before the 29 October polling day in order "to ensure that complaints of vote-rigging are avoided in the coming general election", the 'Guardian' newspaper reported on Tuesday. Commonwealth special envoy Moses Anafu was quoted as saying that it was crucial that the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) reach a consensus on such reform. He said the electoral commission should comprise members who were neutral and would not favour any political party in the elections. Anafu said he would meet with the Inter-Party Committee (IPC), comprising Members of the House of Representatives from CUF and CCM, to discuss the political situation in Zanzibar in the run-up to the elections.

ZANZIBAR: Government says donor freeze violates human rights

The Zanzibari government last week claimed that an aid freeze imposed by donors was a violation of human rights that they urgently needed to reconsider. Tanzanian radio quoted Information Minister Isa Mohamed Isa as saying the action - taken by donors after President Salmin Amour's dubious victory in 1995 elections and the subsequent trial on treason charges of 18 opposition CUF leaders and members - had also hindered Zanzibar's development. The EU has said it would not resume its assistance to Zanzibar until the government resolved its political problems, especially with regard to the CUF treason trial. The government has continually insisted it has committed no human rights offence, media sources in Zanzibar told IRIN on Tuesday. "The case is in court and we can do nothing" has been Isa's line all along, they added.

Meanwhile, five members of the Civic United Front (CUF) who were arrested last week have been released on bond, the media sources added. The five, arrested following police raids in Magongoni and Magomeni areas on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, were charged with "laziness" and "loitering" and were released on a bond of about $266 each. Their cases are scheduled to be heard on 18 June.

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