From the Worldwide Faith News archives

All Africa News BULLETIN No. 07/03 February 24, 2003 (C)

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Thu, 27 Feb 2003 18:09:11 -0800

All Africa News BULLETIN No. 07/03  February 24, 2003 (C)

P. O Box, 66878, 00800 Westlands, NAIROBI, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-4442215, 4440224
Fax: 254-2-4445847, 4443241
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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 
woman asks?

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 
countries abroad.

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, 
Tim Chigodo.

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 
clinic official.

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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