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Posts tagged ‘Wild Land of Kenya’

Kenya: At least 10 missing after Nairobi building collapses

June 13, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — An eight-story building has collapsed in a low-income area of Nairobi and 10 people are missing, witnesses and officials in Kenya said Tuesday. The collapse occurred late Monday night, Nairobi Police Chief Japheth Koome said.

Police fired tear gas after residents angered by the slow deployment of government rescuers hurled stones slowing search and rescue efforts, said a resident, Hailey Akinyi. Akinyi, who lives in an adjacent building, witnessed the collapse and said three people had been rescued from the debris. The collapsed building and the building she lives in had been marked with an “X,” meaning they had been condemned by the National Construction Authority, she said.

Most of Nairobi’s 4 million people live in low-income areas or slums. Housing is in high demand and unscrupulous developers often bypass regulations. Building collapses have become common. After eight buildings collapsed and killed 15 people in Kenya in 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered an audit of all the country’s buildings to see if they are up to code. The National Construction Authority found that 58 percent of buildings in Nairobi are unfit for habitation.

Last year a building collapse in another low income area killed 37 people and injured 70. The rescue mission took days during which a six-month-old baby and a pregnant woman were among those pulled safely out of the rubble. After that collapse the government ordered all condemned building demolished and residents evacuated but the operation was never completed after media attention waned.

Last month eight people died when a wall collapsed on them in the coastal city of Mombasa following heavy rains.

World’s biggest refugee camp in Kenya to stay open

09 February 2017 Thursday

Kenya’s High Court on Thursday blocked the government’s decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp — the world’s largest — and force Somali refugees to return home.

Judge John Mativo ruled that the plan to shut down the camp was unconstitutional, violated Kenya’s international obligations and amounted to the persecution of refugees.

Dadaab is home to some 256,000 people, the vast majority of them Somalis who fled across the border following the outbreak of civil war in 1991. Many have lived there ever since.

The government unilaterally decided to close the camp in May last year, saying it was a terrorist training ground for Shabaab Islamist militants based in Somalia.

But Mativo ruled that a “decision specifically targeting Somali refugees is an act of group persecution, illegal, discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional”.

The shutdown was ordered without proper consultation of people affected by the decision, in violation of the constitutional right to fair legal proceedings, he said in his ruling.

“Hence the said decision is null and void,” he said.

He also blocked a government decision to disband Kenya’s Department for Refugee Affairs.

But the government later cautioned that it aimed to “strongly” appeal the ruling.

“We as a government have the cardinal responsibility of providing security for all Kenyans,” a statement said. “The camp had lost its humanitarian nature, and had become a haven for terrorism and other illegal activities.”.

Mativo also said the forced repatriation violated the 1951 United Nations Convention on refugees.

He was ruling on a challenge to the shutdown filed by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and rights group Kituo Cha Sheria.

Amnesty International’s East Africa chief Muthoni Wanyeki hailed Thursday’s outcome as “historic”.

“Today is a historic day for more than a quarter of a million refugees who were at risk of being forcefully returned to Somalia, where they would have been at serious risk of human rights abuses,” Wanyeki said.

“This ruling reaffirms Kenya’s constitutional and international legal obligation to protect people who seek safety from harm and persecution.”

Security threat?

The government caught refugees, aid groups, the United Nations and Kenya’s Western partners offguard last May when it announced plans to shut down the huge camp near the border, citing security concerns.

Since sending troops into neighboring Somalia in 2011, Kenya has come under repeated attack from Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militants.

The government has presented Dadaab as a security risk, saying Somali rebels inside the camp planned the Shabaab attacks at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013 and the Garissa university attack in 2015, though it has not provided evidence.

Authorities initially planned to close Dadaab at the end of November, but delayed the shutdown until May 2017 at the request of the UN refugee agency and against a backdrop of growing accusations of forced refugee returns to Somalia.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the numbers have dwindled thanks to voluntary repatriations as well as resettlement in the Kakuma camp in northwest Kenya.

In September, Human Rights Watch warned in a report that the repatriation of Somalis violated international standards and that refugees were returning home involuntarily to face persecution and hunger.

Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) on Thursday welcomed the ruling as “a very positive step”.

It urged the government to consider “alternative solutions to long-term encampment on such a large scale,” including resettlement to third countries or to smaller camps in Kenya, or integration in Kenya.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=184517.

Kenya court quashes government order to close refugee camp

February 09, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Kenyan court ruled Thursday that the government must not close the world’s largest refugee camp and send more than 200,000 people back to war-torn Somalia. Kenya’s internal security minister had abused his power by ordering the closure by May of Dadaab refugee camp, in eastern Kenya, Judge John Mativo said.

The minister and other officials had “acted in excess and in abuse of their power, in violation of the rule of law and in contravention of their oaths of office,” Mativo said. The judge said the decision to close the refugee camp is discriminatory and goes against the Kenyan constitution as well as international treaties that protect refugees against being returned to a conflict zone.

“The government’s decision specifically targeting Somali refugees is act of group persecution, illegal discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional,” he said. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has also not proved Somalia is safe for the refugees to return, Mativo said.

Kenya has said the closure of Dadaab is necessary because the sprawling camp is a recruitment ground for al-Shabab, Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, and a base for the group to launch attacks on Kenya.

Al-Shabab has carried out several attacks on Kenya, which sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the militants who are waging an insurgency against Somalia’s weak western-backed government. Al-Shabab’s attacks on Kenyan targets include the September 21, 2013 attack on Westgate mall that killed 67 people and last year’s attack on Garissa University that killed 148 people, mostly students.

But Kenyan officials have not provided conclusive proof that Dadaab camp is a staging ground for extremist attacks. Some Kenyan officials have said the Westgate attackers came from Dadaab but investigators later said they came from a different refugee camp, Kakuma, which is mostly populated by South Sudanese refugees in northern Kenya.

Kenya president: International Criminal Court not impartial

December 12, 2016

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s president on Monday criticized the International Criminal Court as “not impartial,” saying his government “will give serious thought” to its membership of the court. In a speech during celebrations marking 53 years since Kenya became independent, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he believed he would win a second term next year despite what he called “divisive politicians, external powers, the ICC or paid protesters.”

Kenyatta was elected in 2013 as he and his running mate, William Ruto, faced criminal charges at the ICC over their alleged roles in post-election violence in 2007-2008. The charges against Kenyatta were withdrawn in 2014 while the case against Ruto was terminated earlier this year.

“In our pursuit of a more stable and just order, we are champions of global institutions grounded in fairness and respect for national sovereignty,” Kenyatta said Monday. “The Kenyan cases at the International Criminal Court have ended but the experience has given us cause to observe that this institution has become a tool of global power politics and not the justice it was built to dispense.”

He added: “We have started to see many more nations openly recognizing that the ICC is not impartial. Some have withdrawn. Others have considered that step. Twice, our parliament has passed motions to withdraw. We have sought the changes that will align the ICC to respect national sovereignty. Those changes have not been forthcoming. We will therefore need to give serious thought to our membership.”

South Africa, Burundi and Gambia have announced plans to withdraw from The Hague-based court. Meanwhile, Kenyan police fired tear gas on Monday to disperse a protest march against government corruption.

The march was part of a protest movement by activists who want the government to do more to stem what they charge is rampant graft within the administration. Police arrested at least three protesters in the capital, Nairobi, when they broke up the demonstration. The group later reunited at another location and resumed the march.

Kenya is considered to be among the world’s most corrupt countries, ranking 139 out of 168 countries in a 2015 index by Transparency International.

Kenya accuses UN of targeting general fired in South Sudan

November 04, 2016

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Kenya accused the U. N. secretary-general on Thursday of instigating an investigation of deadly attacks in South Sudan with the “preordained” outcome of blaming the Kenyan commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force, who was fired over events that occurred just three weeks after he assumed the post.

Kenya’s U.N. Ambassador Macharia Kamau told a news conference that Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki was sacked by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon as “a scapegoat” for the systemic failures of the U.N. peacekeeping system.

He said the investigation was demanded “by certain current and future members” of the Security Council who wanted to protect their interests during the July attacks in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. He refused to identify them.

The investigation sharply criticized the U.N. peacekeeping force’s response to attacks on a U.N. compound in Juba housing 27,000 displaced people. Over three days in July, at least 73 people were killed, including two Chinese peacekeepers and more than 20 internally displaced people who had sought U.N. protection. The investigators also criticized U.N. peacekeepers for failing to respond to an attack on a private compound just over a kilometer away where U.N. staff, aid workers and local staff were robbed, beaten, raped and killed by armed government soldiers.

Kenya’s Foreign Ministry, expressing “dismay” at Ondieki’s firing and the way the investigation was conducted, announced Wednesday that it was withdrawing its 1,000 troops from the U.N. peacekeeping operation in South Sudan and will not contribute to beefing up the force by 4,000 troops.

“Kenya had warned that any unfair or prejudicial action taken on the basis of this investigation would compel Kenya to re-evaluate completely its engagement in South Sudan,” Kamau said. “The secretary-general, in his lame-duck season, seems to have found the courage that has eluded him throughout his tenure by choosing to ignore Kenya’s plea.”

Ban’s 10 years as U.N. chief ends on Dec. 31 and Antonio Guterres will take over as secretary-general on Jan. 1. South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has been riven by ethnic violence since shortly after gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011. Civil war broke out in 2013 when government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battled rebels led by his former vice president Riek Machar, who is a Nuer. Tens of thousands have been killed, more than 2 million displaced, and despite an August 2015 peace agreement, fighting has continued.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric rejected Kamau’s accusations, saying there was “no preordained conclusion” to the investigation led by retired Dutch Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert. He said the investigators looked at “leadership, command decisions taken on that day,” and the secretary-general fired Ondieki on the basis of their findings, which “deeply distressed” him.

“The decision to ask for his removal is an initial decision,” Dujarric said. “Other decisions might be taken, but obviously the secretary-general stands by the report that Mr. Cammaert did and the way it was done.”

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said “there is, of course, the system-wide accountability. We all have a degree of responsibility.” As for the firing of Ondieki, he said, “I don’t want to add salt to the wound. I think that conclusions were irrefutable.”

Ladsous spoke to reporters after briefing the Security Council at a closed meeting. A council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the session was private, said the United States proposed a press statement welcoming the report and the U.N.’s transparency, but there was no agreement because China was not willing to accept any reference to the report.

In the attacks on the U.N. compound, the report said confusing senior leadership and the lack of leadership on the ground, where the Chinese battalion commander had been appointed as the incident commander, “contributed to incidents of poor performance among the military and police contingents at UN House.”

This included “at least two instances in which the Chinese battalion abandoned some of its defensive positions” and an “inadequate” performance by Nepalese police to stop looting by some displaced people and control the crowd, it said.

Kamau said “the sources used to inform the investigation, according to our information, were people who were … in the direct line of command and related colleagues to the force commander. “These individuals, who had been in position years and months before the force commander arrived, have reason to miscue information in a manner that protects them and apportions blame elsewhere,” he said.

Kamau said “the investigation could not and should not have been just about the force commander.” Instead, the investigation should have centered on response to events, the failure of the peacekeeping system, and the need for collective responsibility and accountability from the U.N. peacekeeping department in New York to the joint operations command at the U.N. mission in Juba, Kamau said.

Associated Press writer Michael Astor contributed to this report from the United Nations.

Kenya Greens Drylands to Combat Land Degradation

By Justus Wanzala

NAIROBI, Oct 25 2016 (IPS) – Faced with growing degradation that is swallowing large swathes of land in arid and semiarid areas, Kenya is heavily investing in rehabilitation efforts to stave off the threat of desertification.

Charles Sunkuli, secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, says a program targeting 5.1 million hectares of degraded and deforested land for restoration by 2030 was launched in September 2016. He added that Kenya is increasing its forest cover from the current seven percent to a minimum of 10 percent.

“We have introduced an equalization fund to help communities living in dry and degraded lands eke out at a living and participate in rehabilitation initiatives,” said Sunkuli.

He was speaking in Nairobi during the Fifteenth Session of the Committee of Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which concluded last week.

Afforestation, he noted, will mainly be done in the country’s arid and semiarid areas which make up 80 percent of Kenya’s land cover, although other areas of the country to are being targeted too.

To succeed in its ambitious endeavor, Sunkuli said Kenya is implementing a program to promote drought-tolerant tree species such Melia volkensii (locally known as Mukau) in the country’s vast drylands to increase forest cover.

Indeed, Kenya is heavily investing in research into drought resistant trees to enhance afforestation of dry lands and improve livelihoods. At Tiva in the dry Kitui County, eastern Kenya, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) has established a research center to breed tree species ideal for planting in arid and semiarid areas. The center is supported by the government in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

James Ndufa, director of the Drylands Eco-region Research Program (DERP) at KEFRI, says growing population and conversion of forest into farms has led to unsustainable land use, thus contributing to land degradation and desertification.

Ndufa says the Tiva center focuses on developing drought-tolerant trees for adaptation to climate change in dry lands. “Breeding is done to adapt tree species to much warmer and drier weather conditions linked to climate change,” he says.

Breeding is undertaken by the conventional method of selecting better performing trees. Ndufa says they intend to provide farmers with genetically improved seeds that are drought-tolerant, fast growing and produce quality timber in addition to fodder for livestock. This, he says, will eventually aid in rehabilitation of degraded land and conserve biodiversity.

DNA analysis is undertaken during selection and grafting is done to achieve desired results. They thus have established a seed orchard and progeny test site for Melia (Mukau) and acacia species.

The project, which started in 2012, gives genetically improved seeds of the two species to farmers. Apart from JICA, Kenya Forest Research Institute’s partners in the project are Kenya Forest Services, local universities, the Japan-based Forest and Forest Products Research Institute as well as the country’s Kyushu University.

The center is located in a semiarid area that receives just 700 ml of rain per year. Farmers have meager harvests and as a result they put pressure on natural resources by overexploiting them. Ndufa says the communities depend on cutting trees for charcoal sold in places such as Kenya’s capital Nairobi, leading to deforestation and land degradation.

Others wantonly harvest sand thus affecting the vegetation and causing land degradation. He adds that Mukau timber fetches 100 Kenyan shillings (one US dollar) per foot. “Approximately 400 trees can be grown on one hectare and when mature can yield between two million to two and half million Kenya Shillings (USD 200 -250,000),” he says .

According to Ndufa, the two tree species they are targeting have been over-harvested. Mukau, whose wood is red in color, is equivalent in value to mahogany and preferred by furniture makers, while acacia species are treasured for charcoal.

The aim is to develop fast-growing trees that can be ready for harvest in 15 to 20 years. Some 3,000 Mukau trees and 1,000 acacias have been planted on 100 hectares at the Tiva research site. About 2,500 kilograms of seeds have so far been collected.

They are also exploring breeding varieties from the two species which can retain leaves for a long period to serve as fodder for livestock such as goats. The project is also undertaking extension work to distribute seeds and create awareness about the trees using field trips, agriculture shows and field days.

The trees are easy to manage so women farmers are increasingly adopting them. Veronica Kioko, a resident of Kitui county, says low adoption rates in some areas could be linked to food insecurity and poverty.

She said that although farmers have been educated about the benefits of the trees, they find waiting for 15 to 20 years for trees to mature before harvesting difficult. She says trees are mainly cut for making charcoal before they fully mature.

The situation is exacerbated by drought and hunger and fueled by the overall state of poverty in the region. “People usually go without food when seasons fail, and without money they cut trees for charcoal and sell it cheaply,” said Kioko.

In terms of acacia breeds, Ndufa says the aim is to develop a variety that produces a lot of pods, branches and leaves to feed goats and camels apart from timber.

Frank Msafiri, chair of the Kenya chapter of the East African Sustainability (SusWatch) network made up of nongovernmental organizations from East Africa, says large-scale national and cross border interventions are necessary to combat desertification and land degradation.

He says high levels of poverty, low water availability, deforestation and land degradation are fuelling conflicts among communities.

“Players from sectors such as water, forest, agriculture and research bodies in Africa should not pursue conflicting strategies. They should harmonize their strategies under the umbrella of sustainable land management,” stresses Msafiri.

Speaking during the CRIC 15 in Nairobi, Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the UNCCD, said many countries engaged in land restoration have recorded positive results. Giving the example of Ethiopia, she said the land restored under that plan withstood the El Nino-related drought that affected eastern and southern Africa for the last year.

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).

Link: http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/kenya-greens-drylands-to-combat-land-degradation/.

Kenya: Protests over talk of assassinating opposition leader

June 14, 2016

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Demonstrations erupted in Kenya’s largest slum Tuesday over footage appearing to show a pro-government legislator saying top opposition leader Raila Odinga can be assassinated, an opposition official and witnesses said.

Analysts say the remarks reflect long-simmering tribal tensions that are heating up again, eight years after they exploded into violence that left more than 1,000 people dead in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election. Kenya is holding general elections next year.

A coffin marked with the name of the legislator, Moses Kuria, was burned during Tuesday’s protests, said the head of the Orange Democratic Party in Kibera slum, Sam Ochieng. Odinga is the party’s leader, and Kibera is an opposition stronghold.

An Associated Press reporter saw police fire tear gas at demonstrators, who responded with stones. Kuria and seven other legislators have been questioned by police over remarks that police say may amount to hate speech. The legislators include four opposition members of parliament who threatened to storm the office of the police chief if he doesn’t take action against Kuria.

In a video shot at a party over the weekend, Kuria apparently refers to recent opposition demonstrations to remove Kenya’s electoral commission, which the protesters accuse of corruption and bias. “He should be careful because he can as well bite a bullet,” Kuria says. “We won’t be disturbed by one person. He can bite a bullet, we bury him the next Monday, they (Odinga supporters) throw stones for one week and life continues, isn’t it so?” He made the remarks in his mother tongue, Kikuyu.

Kuria is out on bond for two separate charges of incitement to violence and hate speech related to previous remarks.

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