From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
All Africa News Agency June 2 2003 (c)
Worldwide Faith News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mon, 02 Jun 2003 13:57:38 -0700
AANA BULLETIN No. 21/03 June 2, 2003 (c)
ALL AFRICA NEWS AGENCY
P. O Box, 66878, 00800 Westlands, NAIROBI, Kenya. Tel: 254-2-4442215,
Fax: 254-2-4445847, 4443241; Email: email@example.com ,
AIDS Is Quietly Decimating Africa's Strong People
Little is said or written about military forces in Africa and HIV/AIDS, but
across the continent, soldiers are being decimated at a brisk pace by the
scourge. Peer pressure has been underlined as a major contributing factor
to the spread of HIV among military personnel, writes Sam Gonza.
n spite of the fact that some of the best trained soldiers are being lost
to HIV/AIDS, many African nations have treated this as "a military secret",
and what gets presented more often than not conflicts with the actual
Ethiopia, with 250,000-strong army, claims five percent infection rate.
Details made available to the United States National Security Agency show a
projected 7-10 million people infected with HIV in the country by 2010.
When such a large pool of civilians are affected, there is little doubt
that the military too, is paying a heavy price.
Kenya's Vice Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen John Koech has sought to break
with the past, revealing that the country loses 8-10 soldiers to the
disease every week.
It is significant that Koech mentioned "peer pressure" among factors
leading to high infection rates in the armed force. "The military must be
open and fight a disease that takes the lives of eight soldiers every week."
Peer pressure, in which young soldiers imitate the actions of their older
colleagues and engage in sexual sprees with numerous temporary partners,
occurs during wars and in peacekeeping periods.
Those who have served in the military are aware of the cruel term "single
file", in reference to women being subjected to multiple partners, one
after the other . This habit often occurs when troops are away from base.
This is not limited to African troops. British soldiers conducting training
exercises in northern and eastern Kenya have on occasions been accused of
If reports emanating from across Africa are correct, then Africa's armed
forces have to act fast to protect their troops from runaway infection with
For example, between 25-50 per cent of the men and women in Malawi Defence
Forces may die of AIDS by 2005, according to a UNAIDS report two years ago.
In the early 1990's, a contingent of troops from Malawi sent to the United
States was returned home on account of being infected with the deadly virus.
Reports from South Africa indicate that as many as 60 percent of South
Africa's military personnel may test positive for HIV.
The country has vigorously disputed these claims. Media reports last year
said that a South Africa Defence Forces unit based at Josini in Kwa Zulu
Natal, was found to have 30 out of 33 men, infected with HIV/AIDS .
Kwa Zulu Natal, according to South Africa Medical Journal, is the hotbed of
HIV/AIDS in South Africa, with 35 percent of all pregnant women affected.
In reference to his troops in the Congo, a Zimbabwean commander has also
cited a disturbing high figure of 90 percent infection rate.
The United States National Intelligence Council has prepared a paper for
the American Central Intelligence Agency, underscoring an HIV surge for
Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, China and India by 2010.
The briefing paper suggests Nigeria will have 10-15 million cases, while
Ethiopia will have 7-10 million. "Nigeria and Ethiopia will be the hardest
hit, similar to South Africa."
There is often a feeling of despair and urgency as medical personnel in the
military seek to help their men ride over this storm.
This may explain why the Tanzanian army helped a South African drug company
to skirt drug testing regulations with a compound called Virodene p058,
which they tested on army personnel.
The drug, said to have been developed by Michelle Olga Visser, has been
criticised as falling short of medical standards.
Military personnel in Uganda have been credited as an example of effective
military response to the scourge. Their secret is an aggressive
preventative programme, putting emphasis on knowledge, regular testing or
respect for marriage.
Uganda' military infection rate is said to be lower than that of the
civilian population today - a real measure of success.
Army Major, Rubaramira Ruranga, one of the earliest soldiers in the country
to publicly declare his HIV status, has lived with the disease since the
late 1980s. The Army takes care of his anti-retroviral requirements.
But as Uganda Army battalions prepared to pull out of north-eastern Congo
in April, hundreds of Congolese women turned up with children they said had
been fathered by the departing soldiers.
Similarly, a BBC report of May 19 indicated that departing Guinean soldiers
were leaving behind in Bo, Sierra Leone, children they had fathered.
In recent years the United States defence department has stepped up its
involvement in the AIDS situation within military forces in Africa.
In Angola, which is emerging from 30 years of internecine war, the
department predicts a serious situation, where the disease is already the
leading cause of death in the military.
The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, has observed that there is a
lot of hope in the armed forces of Africa, if things get done right.
According to him, a military and police force well trained in HIV
prevention and behaviour change, can be a tremendous force against AIDS.
Controversial Clause May Delay Consensus On Debate
A proposition in Kenya's draft constitution that Kadhis' or Islamic courts
be accorded a higher status than is catered for in the current body of
laws, has turned out to be explosive, and may delay consensus on the
content of the final document currently being discussed at a constitutional
conference in Nairobi, reports Pedro Shipepechero.
Behind calls by a number of delegates at Kenya's constitutional conference
that a clause seeking to upgrade Kadhis' courts be purged from the draft
constitution, is fear of religious fundamentalism that could lead to civil
strife similar to the situation in southern Sudan, Nigeria, Northern
Ireland and the Middle East.
The contentious provision has been described as a "mistake" occasioned by
an earlier disagreement among members of the Constitution of Kenya Review
Commission (CKRC), that resulted in its deferment to the conference.
Former Mayor of Kisumu city in western Kenya, Shakeel Shabir, blamed CKRC
for including in the constitution, details that should have been covered by
an Act of Parliament. Shabir is a delegate at the constitutional conference.
In his opinion, the roles of Kadhis' courts, which are constitutionally
mandated to arbitrate in personal laws relating to divorce, marriage and
inheritance, are adequately covered by the current constitution. "I won't
endorse further extensions at the risk of being vilified by community,"
While Shabir's moderate stand appears to draw consensus over the issue, a
number of Muslims have hardened their positions, accusing non-Muslims of
being sponsored by the West, to torpedo the enhancement of the status of
The conference is taking place at a time when relations been the West and
most Muslim states are sour, each accusing the other of sponsoring terrorism.
East Africa has never experienced religious extremism, the closest to it
being a clash between Catholics and Muslims in Nairobi, during which a
mosque and a church were burnt down in 2000, and religious riots in Dar es
Salaam, when Muslims demanded that Tanzania government gives them more room
to practise their faith.
In general, constitutions of the three East African countries provide for
secular states, with special interest groups being catered for by Acts of
Wary of the non-Muslim majority in Kenya's parliament, Muslims at the
conference have been lobbying delegates to support entrenchment of the
proposed expanded roles of Kadhis' courts in the constitution.
The draft constitution is seeking to create Kadhis' Courts of Appeal headed
by a Chief Kadhi, besides provincial and district courts being mandated to
preside over commercial and civil disputes.
According to Joel Kipyegon, a delegate at the constitutional conference,
two judicial systems could result in a "two nation system", in which the
interests of certain sections of society, particularly the so-called
minorities, override the spirit of the constitution.
The parallel judicial system, he says, could precipitate a situation where
the "special" interest groups would ask for autonomy or the creation of
Mr Kipyegon says that the apparent contradiction in the draft is a source
of conflict, and has even curtailed informed debate towards the creation of
homogeneous society, which inspired collection of views from all Kenyans.
The divergent views on the status of the Kadhis' courts brought to the
fore, division that nearly paralysed collation of views.
Shabir says that Muslims never asked preferential treatment, an impression
he asserts, was created by some commissioners who had vested religious
It was revealed that during the writing of the draft, the expansion of
Kadhis' courts was contested by non-Muslim commissioners, but later allowed
in to appease members who had threatened to pull out of the team.
Fears that the enhancement of the courts would entrench Islam into the
constitution became even more manifest when some delegates complained that
Islam is mentioned in the constitution 60 times, Hindu only once and other
religions not named at all.
The conflict results from Article 10 of the draft constitution, which
provides: "State and religion shall be separate; there shall be no state
religion; and the state shall treat all religions equally."
Citing this provision, non-Muslim delegates argue that expansion of Islamic
courts would create rival, rather than complementary judicial systems.
They want the courts to be covered under family and religion sections of
the law, in recognition of the unique Islamic values that cannot adequately
be catered for by common law.
"The expansion of the Kadhis' courts would result in a situation where many
groups would demand that the constitution recognises their justice too," Mr
Kipyegon, a political scientist, points out.
The fear among Christians is the possibility that the proposal could be
taken advantage of by Muslims to later force the government to recognise
Sharia (Islamic law).
Sharia has been a source of civil unrest in Nigeria, where states in the
north are demanding autonomy in order to enforce Islamic judicial system.
In view of this, it is becoming apparent that Christians would not relent
in their disapproval of the enhanced jurisdiction of the courts.
A member of parliament, Danson Mungatana, observes that the matter could be
put to rest by either retaining the status quo in the current constitution,
setting up a "concessionary committee" to decide what should be purged from
the article through give-and-take negotiations with non-Muslims, or
organise a national referendum to vote on the issue.
According to Mr Mungatana, there is a possibility that if the issue were to
be determined by the second and third options, it would be removed from the
constitution or be moved to the bill of rights, which spell out individual
freedoms to religion, beliefs and opinion.
Mr Kipyegon contends that whereas Muslims were right in demanding that
their values be incorporated in the constitution, they had failed to make a
convincing argument that would favour the case.
"It is true that the constitution was derived from Judeo-Christian values.
The granting of limited powers to the Kadhis' courts would assuage Muslims,
whose values are not covered by the constitution," he says.
Crocodiles Are Breaking Families In Border Region
Crocodiles in Lake Victoria and rivers along the Uganda-Kenya border have
marred economic activity in the region, and forced communities to forego
social contact, basically bringing life on both sides of the border to a
near standstill. Oscar Obonyo, reports.
wo years after Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) embarked on an operation to
cull crocodiles in Lake Victoria, residents of Tororo District continue to
bury loved ones devoured by the predatory reptiles.
Now residents from the area on the Uganda-Kenya border are appealing to
local authorities to summarily eliminate the crocodiles.
The calls come in the wake of a series of crocodile attacks. According to
a village head in the region, Mr Muhamood Mayanja, more than 18 persons
have so far died this year. An estimated 63 were devoured last year.
Crocodile attacks are fairly common in Tororo, some 205 kilometres east of
the capital city of Kampala, with women who fetch water and fishermen at a
particularly high risk. "We are overwhelmed by the increasing number of
people killed," laments Mayanja.
Locals, still in anguish, narrate how in February this year, one of the
reptiles pounced on a man identified as Joseph Othieno, when he went to
Lubango landing site to bathe.
Not far off in River Suo along the border, crocodiles have virtually
brought life on both sides of the border to a near standstill. For long,
locals have lived in fear of attack.
In April, the family of Mr John Opio conducted a memorial service in his
honour. Opio was mauled to death a decade ago.
According to his widow, Maria, Opio was on his way home after grazing
cattle across the neighbouring plains in Kenya. He was so badly mauled that
whatever little of him that was left could only be buried in a box.
So far, most victims include children who have been attacked while fetching
water for domestic use, says District Fisheries Officer, Fred Igoma.
UWA began its culling operation in mid 2001, following massive loss of
human life to crocodile attacks.
The authority's armed patrol hunts down the crocodiles that usually wait
for their victims in shallow waters before attacking and dragging them
further into the lake.
Despite efforts by UWA officials and their Kenyan game department
counterparts to kill them, the crocodiles have remained elusive. They only
surface to cause terror and then disappear.
Presently, movement across Suo river has almost ceased. The river forms
part of the border between Uganda and Kenya, separating people of Busia and
Tororo districts in Kenya and Uganda respectively, most of who are kinsmen.
The crocodiles have marred production, forced people to erect artificial
barriers and forego social contact.
"We have enjoyed bathing and swimming in the river and basking along it
from time immemorial. The emergence of these creatures has virtually ruined
our lifestyle," mourns 67 year-old Wandera Mujivi.
The menace, he observes, has also separated kinsmen on both ends of the
river, who are scared of exchanging visits.
The Samia, of the wider western Kenya Luhyia community is most affected.
Incidentally, Moody Awori, Kenya's Minister for Home Affairs and his
younger brother Aggrey Awori, presidential candidate in Uganda's last
polls, represent the community, separated only by colonial boundaries.
Business has equally stalled. A trader, Mr Joseph Adika, was crippled by a
crocodile, which ripped off his entire sole as he ferried merchandise
across River Suo.
"I cannot ride a bicycle. This means that I can't meet the demands of my
family anymore," says the father of five, who now supports himself on a
Miss Julia Majanja of Lumino village has also sworn never to visit the
nearby river after surviving a face-to-face encounter with the reptile.
She was ambushed jointly with others as she prepared to draw water, forcing
her to abandon the container and flee for her dear life.
Majanja can now only draw water from one of the muddy ponds in the
neighbourhood, an option that worries public health officials here.
The Suo, they say, is a source of relatively clean water for about 70
percent of the local population.
The absence of tap water and bore holes means the remaining 30 percent of
the population depends on dirty water from ponds, and exposing themselves
to waterborne diseases.
Tororo District, which lies north of Lake Victoria and east of Uganda's
Mbale District, covers an estimated 2,597 square kilometre area.
Now, its population of over 674,000 comprising of mainly Samia, Bagisu,
Balugwere and Ateso communities, are yearning for a lasting solution to the
An official of the state-run UWA, Mr Moses Mapesi, explains that increasing
human contact with the reptiles largely causes attacks.
UWA accordingly aims to help villagers co-exist with wild animals. "The
government should also provide water points and designated fishing sites so
that people do not interfere with the crocodile areas," suggests Mapesi.
Residents are, however, not amused by UWA's proposals, and accuse the
authority of placing animal safety above that of people.
Since the problem at hand affects people from both countries, locals
suggest that apart from family and domestic chit-chats, the Awori brothers
had better start talking business as well.
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