From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ALL AFRICA NEWS AGENCY January 13, 2003 BULLETIN No. 01/03 (b)

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Wed, 15 Jan 2003 12:53:49 -0800

ALL AFRICA NEWS AGENCY January 13, 2003 BULLETIN No. 01/03 (b)

AANA Bulletin is an ecumenical initiative to highlight all endeavours and 
experiences of Christians and the people of Africa.  AANA Bulletin is 
published weekly and, together with the French Edition - Bulletin APTA - is 
also available through e-mail.	For editorial and subscription details, 
please contact: 

AANA Bulletin	: Acting Editor - Mitch Odero		
Bulletin APTA: Edition en frangais, ridacteur intirimaire : Sylvie Alemba

All Africa News Agency
TEL : (254 2) 442215, 440224 ; FAX : (254 2) 445847/443241
E-mail :


Election Victory Offers Fresh Hope To Kenyans

For 40 years, Kenyans were ruled by one political party - the Kenya African 
National Union (KANU).	That changed dramatically after the December 27, 
2002 general elections.  Our writer Mitch Odero traces what Kenyans endured 
in the past and examines the promises and challenges ahead.

n time, the euphoria marking the successful election victory of the 
combined force of Kenya's opposition parties will rescind and the need to 
get down to serious business will take the center-stage.

Then it will be realised that cleaning up the mess of an entrenched system 
of misrule is daunting.  For now, the celebration of change, brought about 
by the unity of the will of the people, is deserving.

During the last 40 years, since Kenya's independence in 1963, the nation 
was ruled through  single-party political system.

Kenyans contended that insects with their small brains were more social; 
particularly bees and ants.  They live together socially, they are not 
selfish.  They are not involved in deceitful communication. They support 
each other more than the humankind.

The state became a conspiracy of the rich, using state apparatus to protect 
ill-gotten possessions of the high and mighty, while they kept the poor in 

Accordingly, Kenyans sunk deeper and deeper into the abyss of poverty, 
while their country joined the league of the most corrupt countries in 

Infrastructure and public services collapsed.  High inflation, unemployment 
and crime rates made the national cocktail.

Little attention was paid to human development.  University graduates 
become touts for public commuter vehicles or engaged in roadside maize 

Misuse of powers became the order of the day.  The government ceased to 
regard itself as bound by the constitution.

Liberties and rights including academic and press freedoms were restricted 
until 1990s.  Preventive detention of those with dissent opinions was 
recklessly exercised.

This writer was severally arrested by the police over reports published by 
the East African Standard - a daily he served as the editor-in-chief.  The 
aim was to silence him.

The expression that humankind by nature is social, rung hollow.  The Kenyan 
society lived under constant fear of the government.

As such, Kenyans contended that insects with their small brains were more 
social; particularly bees and ants.  They live together socially, they are 
not selfish.  They are not involved in deceitful communication.  They 
support each other more than the humankind.

In that state of fear and repression, Kenya's intellectuals became 
wandering scholars, a denationalised lot wandering from one country to 
another, aware that constructive dialogue geared to objectivity had no 
space back home.

It was therefore understandable when Kenyans resorted to what was described 
as a peaceful popular uprising against the ruling party during the 
pre-election period.

In their thousands, they influenced a unity of purpose among the hitherto 
divided opposition front.

The result?  Opposition parties formed a formidable alliance - the National 
Rainbow Coalition (NARC) whose leader Emilio Mwai Kibaki clinched a 
landslide victory in the presidential race, polling 3.6 million votes.

It was therefore understandable when Kenyans resorted to what was described 
as a peaceful popular uprising against the ruling party during the 
pre-election period.

His closest competitor, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, the KANU presidential 
candidate, had to make do with 1.8 million votes.

History was thus made.	It was like a single bite of the forbidden fruit in 
the Garden of Eden, which changed the world overnight.

The Church in Kenya played a key role too, reminiscent of Europe's 
reformation era of the 16th and 17th centuries, when theology and law 
joined hands to determine political theory, and propel renaissance that 
later affirmed modern political thought.

The Church conducted voter/civic education for citizens to realise their 
common power and direct their actions for their common benefit. It worked.

The Church also led the rest of Kenya's faith community to avert a 
constitutional crisis and kept the prayerful Kenyan nation to 
constantly  seek divine intervention.

Upon taking over power, Mr. Kibaki, a refined economist and veteran 
politician, promised Kenyans that in return they will have "a government 
that serves the people instead of a situation where people have to serve 
the government".

NARC promised that Kenya would be a welfare society which provides free 
primary education and health delivery in public health institutions.

Kenyan's, having suffered for far too long will be excused to expect so 
much too soon.

In fulfilment of one of the promises free primary education was declared 
from this month.  It received an overwhelming response as thousands of poor 
parents sought to enrol children who would have otherwise been kept at home 
for lack of fees.

Kibaki's government will need some public relations strategists to 
effectively explain that the walls of their Jerusalem cannot be rebuilt in 
a day and that every citizen must become a Nehemiah for the reconstruction 

The Kibaki government must continue to cherish democracy with the 
realisation that the fundamental authority of the State resides in the 
people.  The State therefore must continuously be in partnership and 
agreement with the people.

For this to be, the Kibabki government should see itself as the arm, the 
conscience and the will of the people.

Transmission Of HIV Among Refugees Still Lowest

Contrary to wide expectations, transmission rate of the AIDS virus among 
refugees in camps in East Africa is still one of the lowest in the region. 
But reduced funding of the UNHCR's programmes currently being experienced, 
analysts say, could trigger a spiral of the spread of HIV/AIDS, besides 
hastening progress to the terminal stages among HIV/AIDS patients, reports 
AANA Correspondent Pedro Shipepechero.

ccording to data provided by the United Nations High Commission for 
Refugees (UNHCR) regional office in Nairobi, infection rates in Kakuma and 
Daadab refugee camps in northern Kenya and Ngara refugee camp in western 
Tanzania average between two and five per cent, compared with the region's 
average of 10 per cent.

However, the commission's senior health co-ordinator, Dr Mohammed Qassim, 
says these statistics are not foolproof as the HIV/AIDS sentinel 
surveillance has not been instituted to generate reliable data for the UN 
humanitarian agency.

Past experiences show that the fleeing populations, particularly women and 
girls, are exposed to rape or provide sex in exchange for protection in 
situations of armed conflict at the risk of contracting the killer virus.

"One reason why the infection rates are low among refugees is that most of 
the displaced people who arrive in the camps come from rural areas where 
cultural taboos disprove of casual sex", says Dr Qassim.

The same cultural  norms that disprove of promiscuity, however, says the 
medic, have been an inhibition to the flow of information on the AIDS 
pandemic. He says that the refugees, especially adults, shy away from 
discussing sex openly, which they say must be done in privacy.

It is for the same reason that condom acceptance is still low even among 
the refugees who have the correct information. Consumption averages 100 
condoms per 1,000 people. Most of the users of the contraceptive are  the 
youth, who do so to protect themselves against contracting common sexually 
transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea, syphilis and genital 
inflammations, and pregnancy, says Dr Qassim.

"It is difficult to discuss the problem openly with adults and we have to 
turn to the youth to spread awareness - including the use of contraceptives 
- to the rest of the refugee population," he says.

"All camps appear to have a problem in providing condoms in public places 
with enough privacy to allow people to take them without feeling 
embarrassed," says UNHCR in one of its reports on the situation of HIV/AIDS 
in refugee camps in the region.

Dr Qassim observes that a return to calm in countries such as Rwanda, 
Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (which together account for 
the source of the more than two million refugees in the Great Lakes Region) 
could result in a fresh wave of danger as returning infected refugees could 
become a new medium of transmission of the killer virus.

A report on the exploratory mission undertaken by UNHCR in western Tanzania 
and northern Kenya in June-July last year, says of the risks in the camps: 
"From the limited data available, it appears that that HIV/AIDS prevalence 
is lower in most camps than the host country. Therefore, behavioural change 
and communication programmes in the camps should concentrate on high-risk 
and bridging groups, for it is these (returnees)  who will spread the 
disease to the general population."

The high-risk groups in the UNHCR context are commercial sex workers and 
the youth who engage in sex as a pastime. "Having been uprooted from their 
homes, the refuges are usually idle and indulge in sex as a form of 
entertainment ," says the UNHCR health co-ordinator.

The UNHCR findings, however, point out that the low infection rates in the 
camps could be overlying a gloomier scenario as there has never been a 
systematic method of screening the refugees of HIV/AIDS.

The report notes: "The prevalence of HIV among blood donors is currently 
being used in camps as a proxy for population prevalence," which it says, 
is only acceptable until antenatal surveillance systems are established and 
mortality registers stating  "the underlying cause of death" are in place.

Food and other supplies  to refugee  camps have been scaled down partly due 
to cutbacks in international funding  of the UNHCR activities and 
escalating conflicts.

In September last year, UNHCR announced it would reduce its humanitarian 
missions in the region as a result of reduction in funding. This was after 
its  Atlanta-based Centre for Disease Control in the United States said it 
would cut down its $300,000 per annum funding of the organisation's health 

In northern Kenya, supplies to refugees have been checked by the Southern 
Sudan People's Liberation Army	offensive against the Sudanese government 

  In the Great Lakes Region, the activities of the Movement  for 
Liberation  of Congo and the Rally for Congolese Democracy rebels in the 
east, which border Rwanda and Burundi, have prevented supplies from 
reaching  the more than four million people in the region  displaced by the 
fighting in the region.

The World Food Programme food rations for the refugees has dropped from 
2,100 calories per day to 1,700, which the health co-ordinator describes as 
"survival rations."

"The refugees do not have a choice as they are a dependent lot. The present 
level of malnutrition  has made many of them susceptible to infections as 
their immunity has been compromised by insufficient  diet and food 
quantities," he says.

Dr Qassim says that current reduction in funding of UNHCR's programmes is 
likely to trigger a spiral of the spread of HIV/AIDS, besides hastening 
progress to the terminal stages among HIV/AIDS patients.

According  to the UNHCR survey, girls aged between 14-18 years are 
particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, as 
they engage in sex in exchange for gifts - often money to buy food and 
clothing - because they are the most afflicted by poverty and hunger.

Since the beginning of last year, international humanitarian agencies have 
been forced to scale down their operations with the return to relative 
peace in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mozambique and Angola.

The operations have been redirected to new trouble-spots in the world, 
particularly  in the Middle east and East Asia that have in recent months 
witnessed a sharp rise in terrorist activities and US-led military 
retaliation  to terrorism.

Against the backdrop of the growing global threat posed by the HIV/AIDS 
scourge, UNHCR faces  a growing challenge  of not only protecting the 
refugees from harm, but also ensuring that they do not become a medium of 
transmission of the virus to either  the host population or their villages 
of origin.

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