From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
All Africa News BULLETIN No. 07/03 February 24, 2003 (C)
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Thu, 27 Feb 2003 18:09:11 -0800
All Africa News BULLETIN No. 07/03 February 24, 2003 (C)
ALL AFRICA NEWS AGENCY
P. O Box, 66878, 00800 Westlands, NAIROBI, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-4442215, 4440224
Fax: 254-2-4445847, 4443241
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com
AANA Bulletin Acting Editor -Elly Wamari
Bulletin APTA Acting Editor - Silvie Alemba
Intricacies Of Balancing Environmental Concerns
Environmentalists wound up their recent meeting in Nairobi on February 7
after a five-day deliberation. The high profile meeting, the 22nd Session
of the UNEP Governing Council, was a follow-up to the World Summit on
Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg last year. It remains to be
seen if the recommendations passed at the Session will save the world from
environmental degradation caused by human activity, writes Joseph K'Amolo
an's activities are putting him at crossroads with nature, signalling a
threat to his own very existence. In the manifestation of all these, Africa
appears to be more vulnerable to prevailing environmental challenges than
any other continent.
Activities that continue to strangle the continent's environment include
deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and over-harvesting of natural
resources. Besides, the continent faces poverty, poor sanitation
facilities, inadequate supply of clean and safe water, and bad urban
conditions, all of which are manifestations of an unfavourable environment.
Poverty in Africa is a serious issue, since it has direct link with
environmental degradation. Much as it is complex and multidimensional, it
is one of the driving forces of environmental degradation.
While it is widely believed that the solution to poverty might be found in
rapid industrialisation, it must be done within the framework of
sustainable development. The continent has considerable resources that have
not been processed in optimally beneficial ways. There may be need to add
value to its natural resources and agricultural commodities.
Industrialisation would create employment opportunities for the people and
raise financial resources needed to promote accelerated economic growth.
The environment should be able to meet present needs without compromising
those of the future, hence environmental consideration should be well
integrated into development agendas for sustainable growth. This requires
policies that focus on sustainable development, rather than just economic
development and growth.
However, it cannot be said that Africa has lagged behind in formulating
environmental policies to check its grim environmental picture. It has in
the past developed and tried to implement various sectoral policies with
varying levels of impacts.
Nonetheless, it is clear its efforts have generally not been fruitful. The
environment has continued to deteriorate, leaving millions of people more
vulnerable to environmental change than ever before, states Africa
Environment Outlook 2002, a UN publication.
In another scenario, environmental mismanagement in the continent continues
to suffer in the hands of increase in population.
As people scramble for space, encroachment into forest reserves becomes a
norm. Forests begin to disappear. The consequences of this can only be
measured in terms of the decline in water catchment areas and expansion of
The other negative result of rising populations is reflected in the
increasing demand for food, causing people to cultivate marginal areas and
sensitive ecological sites. In some instances, fragile lands have been
ploughed or have been settled by displaced people. The pressure manifests
itself in degradation of the land, evidenced by soil erosion, loss of
productivity, and dwindling biodiversity.
Africa Environment Outlook 2002 warns that the future generation might not
be able to pay this environmental debt.
Africa's predicament is seen in yet another dilemma, where the First World
introduces trade policies that frustrate entry of Africa's agricultural
products into their markets, but encourage dumping of products from
developed world into Africa.
Globally, a comprehensive look at the world reveals that it is still under
threat of multiple atmospheric pollutants, which include acid-forming
sulphates and nitrates, gaseous sulphur-dioxide, and heavy metals.
Wind currents, rivers and streams carry pollutants thousands of kilometres
from their sources. Environmental problems thus transcend boundaries.
Enormous spills of dyes, insecticides, and mercury among other hazardous
wastes have had serious consequences.
On an even larger scale, the global environmental problems of ozone
depletion, climate change, deforestation, and the loss of the earth's
biological diversity, threaten all nations. One country working alone to
remedy environmental degradation is powerless in the face of these problems.
It is in this spirit that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),
through its 22nd Session of the Governing Council, brought together
delegates from across the world to chart the way forward to sustainable
development. The delegates included environment ministers, activists,
scholars and legal experts.
The blueprint for the Session had been set by the World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD). The Governing Council meeting was thus to
endorse implementation of WSSD resolutions.
Some of the serious environmental concerns included what a UNEP report,
compiled by a team of experts, revealed on the status of mercury pollution.
Africa, a continent that for long could not be identified with industrial
pollution, is not spared by the report. It lists the continent as the
second largest culprit in mercury emission after Asia. Europe and North
America occupy third and fourth positions respectively. The rise in
mercury emission is attributed to increased use of fossil fuel,
particularly coal-fired power stations, and increase in waste incinerators.
Pollution from fossil fuel combustion dates back well over a century to
Industrial Revolution period. That, there is increase in the use of
combustion of fossil fuel to meet the demand by both developing and
developed countries, is something to worry about. It is causing anxiety
because there are no control mechanisms.
Mercury is known to be able to travel hundreds of miles, contaminating
places far away from the origin. Most people get exposed to this hazardous
metal, particularly methyl mercury, through eating contaminated fish.
Pollution caused by coal burning is not limited to mercury emission. There
are other pollutants associated with coal-fired power stations that need
control as well. They are sulphur and nitrogen-oxide emissions.
Another environmental concern is that cities in Africa and other urban
centres are dotted with garbage heaps that emit choking odours. Ironically,
even Nairobi, the seat of the UN body charged with environmental matters
(UNEP), is such an eye-sore in this respect.
All these spell doom for mankind, and more so, for the future generation.
The world is therefore in dire need of a quick solution to reverse the trend.
An Account Of Tribulations Of Sudanese Refugees
Sudanese refugees in Kenya have spoken. They say they are living in fear.
According to them, the government is yet to take steps to stop wanton
harassment they have had to endure in the hands of authorities. In this
exposi, they give accounts of how police officers mercilessly extort money
from them, irrespective of their legal status in the country.
By Makur Kot Dhuor
udanese refugees in Kenya have exposed being subjected to beatings, sexual
abuse, arbitrary arrests and wanton detention by police officers.
A southern Sudanese living in Nairobi describes the situation in police
cells as follows: "The conditions in these police stations are bad.
Detainee refugees are sometimes denied food, and one cell would be jammed
with about 19 people.
"People suffocate inside, because of poor ventilation. There is hardly
provision of sanitation facilities. Remanded suspects use buckets. The
cells are infected with lice and irritating bugs.
"Torture is common, unless one pays a bribe of between Ksh 3,000 to 5,000
(approximately US$ 39 to 65), upon which one can be released. It does not
matter whether one has proper documents or not."
Zakaria Marual Chol, a 23 year-old refugee complains: "We have come here
for safety but if we are treated like this, where do we go now? The war is
still going in the Sudan".
Zakaria has been detained in police cells in Nairobi three times. In one
instance, he spent more than Ksh 5,500 (about US$ 71) to buy his release.
"We need protection from the government. Now there is new [government] in
Kenya... This change cannot be only for Kenyans. It [should benefit] all
of us, because we have all suffered under the old regime, refugees and
Kenyans alike," says another refugee who does not wish to be named.
25 year old Jok Amon Wantok remarked that it appears like refugees have no
right to appeal or complain. "They are being seen as people without
quality," he says.
A number of refugees complain that many police officers who stop them are
not really interested in establishing their legal status, but only want to
extort money from them.
They talk of how officers sometimes threaten to tear into pieces, their
documents, should they object to producing kitu kidogo (a little
bribe). Others have had to part with valuable sums of money. Following
are two painful examples:
Event one: A Sudanese student was about three years ago robbed of Ksh
40,000 (US$ 520) in Nairobi by police officers.
He was carrying Ksh 50,000 (US$ 650) in school fees. The officers
intercepted him and asked him to surrender all that he possessed.
They took the whole cash. It was only after he pleaded that they gave him
back Ksh 10,000 (US$ 130).
Event two: Police officers, not long ago, entered a house of a Sudanese in
a slum area in Nairobi. Inside was a woman who had just given birth. She
had to give out all the money in her possession (Ksh 5,000) to avoid being
arrested for "lack of proper documents."
She had no money left for her and the infant baby. Her condition did not
seem to have bothered the officers. "Where is humanity from the Kenyan
police if they could not pity my condition with the new born baby," the
An interesting revelation made by some refugees is that sometimes police
officers work in cohorts with youths around estates. They say that some
officers use the youth to harass and collect money from refugees on their
"These people are given pistols, fake IDs and they walk in plain uniforms
to cheat the public that they are the police, when in actual sense, they
are not," says a Sudanese refugee.
"They do this in several estates and slum areas in Nairobi to collect money
from place to place," he continues.
Some of his colleagues differ in this, saying they suspect such people
could be robbers disguising themselves as police officers. They all agree
though that whichever the case, they (the refugees) are still victims.
There are two different categories of Sudanese refugees in Kenya. Urban
refugees are residents in towns. Many prefer Nairobi.
They are under the protection of the United Nations High Commission for
Refugees (UNHCR), who give them protection letters. These letters allow
them to stay in urban areas.
But under this status UNHCR is not obliged to offer them food,
accommodation, money, health or education for their children. They fend for
themselves by doing small businesses or receive assistance from friends in
The other category are those who are accommodated at Kakuma refugee camp in
north-western Kenya. They stay in the camps, but occasionally make trips to
urban towns to contact relatives in Europe and USA, or in cities like
With this in mind, police officers have developed a perception that
refugees have large sums of money, and in dollars. They even follow them to
banks, such as Western Union Money Transfer outlets.
Others intercept refugee travellers at Kitale and Lodwar towns as they
travel to or from Kakuma camp.
A Sudanese woman known as Adit Nhomngek complained that she was mishandled
by police officers on her way to Nairobi last month. She lost the only Ksh
3,000 (US$ 39) in her possession to the officers. Adit tried to appeal to
the District Officer in Lodwar in vain.
"These officers do not respect women. They are not after money only. They
also want to rape women," complained Adit at an interview with AANA.
To the refugees, the fear of losing money hard-obtained to police officers
is traumatising. Even more scary to them is when convicted in court and
deported to Northern Sudan.
They contend that those who get deported to the north of Sudan suffer more
than their counterparts in Kenya or any other part of Eastern Africa.
"It is better to be deported to the refugee camp or south Sudan than to
the North," says Dut Amon, a southern Sudanese living in Kenya.
Hunger Gnaws As Villagers Wait In Vain For Maize
No words can best describe the debilitating effects of food shortages and
the hopelessness that have hit rural Zimbabwe than those of Josephat
Madzamba, a leader of a Pentecostal church in rural Headlands. Church halls
are either empty or congregations have shrunk, reports AANA Correspondent,
ifty-two-year old Madzamba says that food shortages in villages have become
so acute that it is difficult to try to spread the Word of God.
"There is nothing new for the people. When I pay home visits to members of
my congregation and other members of the community, they confess to still
being Christians. But they make it clear that they can no longer attend
church services due to hunger. There is nothing I can do," he says.
Villagers in Chiendambuya area in rural Headlands are going without sadza
(a local staple food) and are surviving on vegetables, due to the critical
shortages of maize. They say they are uncertain about their future as
their children now have to do with the little food available. They are
The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that nearly six million
Zimbabweans are in need of food assistance until March this year.
Luis Clemens, WFP spokesperson, says 630 metric tonnes of maize have so far
been distributed to 50,000 people in nine wards in Makoni North since early
January. The remaining 60,000 villagers in another nine wards are expected
to receive food relief by the end of this month.
Madzamba says several villagers he has visited narrate harrowing
hunger-related ordeals, which vary in nature and magnitude. "We see and
read a lot of media reports claiming there is plenty of food in the
country. [But] there are severe food shortages here, which have potential
to kill vulnerable members of the community," he notes.
According to the church leader, during food shortages caused by drought,
maize was available to members of the community in a transparent and
impartial manner. That changed when allocation and distribution was reposed
in the hands of the National Youth Services members and the army.
The green-uniformed national youth service officers, who have become a law
unto themselves, determine who should receive the food largess or buy grain
from marketing depots.
Madzamba says people recently spent several days and nights camped at the
Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depot at Chiendambuya business centre but ill
treatment by the youths forced a large number to return home empty-handed.
The villagers last received food rations from the GMB at the end of
November, before stocks reportedly ran out.
Zimbabwe's food distribution exercise has been tainted by greed and
corruption among government officials and overzealous ZANU-PF (Zimbambwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front) party functionaries, leading to
near riots in Bulawayo and Chitunqwiza districts recently.
Julius Kamwendo, 41, a villager, said the food distribution exercise by the
state was heavily weighed against those suspected of supporting the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). It favoured known supports of ZANU-PF.
Kamwendo said he had failed to secure maize, despite his ill-health and
constant pleas to the youths and GMB officials. "I had not eaten sadza
since mid-November until December 5, when the WFP came to our rescue," he
He went on: "My wife had to fend for the family, doing part-time jobs in
exchange for maize meal. She continues to do various chores but it's
draining her energy. We hope the WFP assistance will continue until we are
able to feed ourselves."
Didymus Mutasa, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Makoni North, under which
Chiendambuya falls, said he could not comment on the hunger facing
villagers. He declined to give reasons.
Villagers most seriously affected are in drought-prone Mayo, Nyagadzi,
Tanda and Chikore areas. Godwin Manyara, 38, of Sherenje village, said the
food crisis looked far from being over as their maize crop was wilting due
to prolonged dry weather.
Across the country in south-western Zimbabwe, the food situation has
deteriorated rapidly in most parts of Bulilima District, following a
setback in distribution by World Vision. The organisation, which
distributes food aid in the Beitbridge area, was forced to suspend
operations late October after running out of supplies.
Moses Mzila, the MP for Bulilimangwe, says villagers resorted to eating
wild roots, which they survived on before the introduction of food aid in
the area a few months ago. "A crisis of unimaginable proportions is
unfolding in that area, and if steps to arrest the situation are not taken
immediately, lives could be lost," he said.
He implored the international community to rescue the villagers from the
clutches of hunger, which he said, had reached frightening levels.
"The situation is very desperate, and I am appealing to the international
community to consider people's lives and ignore the current political and
diplomatic row, and deal with this human crisis," he said.
Zimbabwe is embroiled in a diplomatic row with western countries,
particularly the European Union, Britain and the United States of America
over its abuse of human rights and lack of good governance.
Mzila said the Plumtree area was among the worst hit by food shortages in
the country, accusing the government of neglecting it. He said the
government should complement efforts by non-governmental organisations to
assist people with food.
World vision recently said food distribution would resume "very soon" as
they had replenished supplies. Vongai Makamure, the World Vision
information officer, said distribution had resumed. Mzila, however, said he
was in the area recently, and no food had been distributed.
He said: "What the World Vision did was to add more names to their list of
beneficiaries, but up to date, no food has been distributed, and the level
of expectation is very high, as everyone is waiting for the food."
Mzila said he visited a number of health centres and established that there
was also a critical shortage of drugs, and that the incidence of
malnutrition was high.
Nurses at Ndiweni and Tshitshi clinics confirmed the rising rate of
malnutrition and related diseases, but would not give statistics, referring
all requests for data to the district medical officer at Plumtree District
"Yes, it's true the situation is extremely pathetic, but I would rather
have you speak to the district medical officer at Plumtree," said a Ndiweni
At Madlambudzi, the head of the clinic, a Mr Ngwenya, said, his latest
records reflected a nine percent increase in malnutrition.
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