Want to help save African wildlife? Visit Africa.

Want to help save African wildlife? Visit Africa.

Nairobi — Standing in the pop-out of a Land Rover just a few yards from Fatu and Najin, the last two northern white rhinos in the world, at Ol Pejeta in central Kenya, was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had.

The last two massive members of this subspecies live under armed guard 24 hours a day in a 700-acre enclosure here. Ol Pejeta is the largest rhino sanctuary in East Africa.

In an era when purpose-driven, transformative experiences are the ultimate travel luxury, a visit to Africa should be at the top of any traveler’s list.

Americans are often inspired by African wildlife: there was outrage two years ago when Cecil the lion was shot by a hunter in Zimbabwe; the Trump administration took heat last year when it said it would overturn a ban on the sale of elephant trophy imports from Africa; and in March, when the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died here at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the severity of rhino poaching got international attention.

For those who really want to help save African wildlife, I offer the same advice that Elodie Sampere, Ol Pejeta’s head of conservation marketing, gave to the group of journalists I was traveling with: “The best way to help is to visit, not donate.”

One of the most exciting parts of being here is seeing what the locals are doing to help conserve and protect the continent’s iconic species. Donating to causes from afar helps, but spending money in person shows the local communities that the animals are more valuable alive than dead. And in a selfie-driven era, visitors spread the word far more effectively about the importance of saving these delicate ecosystems.

Beyond that, experiences here can be life-changing, as mine were at Ol Pejeta. More than 85,000 visitors come here annually, taking game drives through Ol Pejeta’s plains, where I encountered elephants, lions and chimpanzees. The high amount of rainfall in this region compared with other parts of Africa means more vegetation, and Kenya’s highest density of wildlife outside of the Maasai Mara. The reserve uses advanced fencing techniques to facilitate the movement of wildlife while, as much as possible, keeping poachers out.

Visitors can either stay at a number of lodges on the conservancy or nearby, as we did, at the Fairmont Mount Kenya. Tour operators like Intrepid Travel offer trips that focus on visiting the last two northern white rhinos and donate part of their profits to protecting them.

Guests at the Fairmont Mount Kenya don’t even have to leave the property to get a taste of animal conservancy. The resort’s founder, 1950s film star William Holden, was a hunter turned conservationist who also founded the onsite Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, which raises and rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with the goal of releasing them back into the wild.

You can get far more up close and personal with cheetahs at the conservancy’s orphanage than you would in the wild. And cyclists setting off from the resort through the conservancy can see the rare white zebras, which are being bred and hopefully released back to the wild, as well as the mountain bongo, one of the most endangered animals in the world.

By Johanna Jainchill

Qatar lifts exit visa system for migrant workers

Qatar lifts exit visa system for migrant workers

By BRIAN NGUGI

Hundreds of African migrants employed in Qatar as domestic workers, cleaners, drivers and chefs can now come back home freely after the Middle East nation abolished its controversial exit visa system, which requires foreigners to obtain their bosses’ permission to exit the country.

Qatar authorities said on Sunday the “Law No 13 of 2018… regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates would be implemented effective this week.

Kenya on Monday welcomed the move saying it raises hope of an end to mistreatment of locals seeking bread and butter in Qatar. It asked other middle east nations to follow suit.

“It is a welcome development of putting to an end a heinous and outmoded system that has sinister echoes of a dark and oppressive time of shackled labour and slavery,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said in an interview yesterday.

“We welcome the development and hope that Qatar’s enlightened leadership will resonate across the Arab Middle East, where similar systems of denial of free passage of peoples and labour continues to cause great difficulties and suffering among migrant workers and even some professionals,” Mr Kamau said.

Kenya has over the years called for abolition of the exit visa system as it had long been abused by employers who would confiscate passports of workers.

Most Kenyan migrants are employed as domestic workers and are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, violence, rape and sometimes murder.

Many of them who have returned home from Qatar and other Middle East nations have come back with harrowing tales of mistreatment, torture and abuse by their employers, with many blaming the exit visa system for their predicaments.

But under the new law, all but five per cent of a company’s workforce-reportedly those in the most senior positions-can leave without prior permission from employers.

Those not allowed to exit Qatar “for any reason” can file a complaint to the Expatriate Exit Grievance Committee that will “take a decision within three working days”, the Qatar ministry was quoted as saying.

Employment contracts involving migrant workers in the Middle East are based on the ancient Bedouin principle of kafala, which many liken to modern-day slavery.

What was once essentially a code of hospitality – that encouraged families to host travelling strangers and treat them as one of their own – has evolved into the sponsorship of migrant workers, which gives employers enormous control over their employees. Common practices include the withholding of wages, confiscation of passports and long working hours in substandard or inhuman conditions.

Domestic workers, who are obliged to live in their employer’s homes, are particularly vulnerable to physical abuse, sexual violence and various forms of mental cruelty, while the almost total lack of labour laws for migrants provides little scope for redress.

Kenya in September 2014 announced a ban on export of labour to Middle East countries but later lifted it last year after instituting reforms that included vetting of recruitment agencies.

In 2013, the Kenyan embassy in Riyadh rescued more than 800 Kenyans languishing in Saudi jails.

Source – Daily Nation

As Trump Closes the Door on Refugees, Uganda Welcomes Them

As Trump Closes the Door on Refugees, Uganda Welcomes Them

 

ARUA, Uganda — President Trump is vowing to send the military to stop migrants trudging from Central America. Europe’s leaders are paying African nations to block migrants from crossing the Mediterranean — and detaining the ones who make it in filthy, overcrowded camps.

But Solomon Osakan has a very different approach in this era of rising xenophobia. From his uncluttered desk in northwest Uganda, he manages one of the largest concentrations of refugees anywhere in the world: more than 400,000 people scattered across his rural district.

He explained what he does with them: Refugees are allotted some land — enough to build a little house, do a little farming and “be self-sufficient,” said Mr. Osakan, a Ugandan civil servant. Here, he added, the refugees live in settlements, not camps — with no barbed wire, and no guards in sight.

“You are free, and you can come and go as you want,” Mr. Osakan added.

As many nations are securing their borders and turning refugees away, Uganda keeps welcoming them. And they keep coming, fleeing catastrophes from across this part of Africa.

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Solomon Osakan, a government official who manages refugee issues, worries about maintaining harmony between migrants and host communities.CreditNichole Sobecki for The New York Times

In all, Uganda has as many as 1.25 million refugees on its soil, perhaps more, making it one of the most welcoming countries in the world, according to the United Nations.

And while Uganda’s government has made hosting refugees a core national policy, it works only because of the willingness of rural Ugandans to accept an influx of foreigners on their land and shoulder a big part of the burden.

Uganda is not doing this without help. About $200 million in humanitarian aid to the country this year will largely pay to feed and care for the refugees. But they need places to live and small plots to farm, so villages across the nation’s north have agreed to carve up their communally owned land and share it with the refugees, often for many years at a time.

“Our population was very few and our community agreed to loan the land,” said Charles Azamuke, 27, of his village’s decision in 2016 to accept refugees from South Sudan, which has been torn apart by civil war. “We are happy to have these people. We call them our brothers.”

South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans gathering fruit after working in the fields in Mireyi, Uganda.CreditNichole Sobecki for The New York Times

United Nations officials have pointed to Uganda for its “open border” policy. While the United States, a much more populous nation, has admitted more than three million refugees since 1975, the American government settles them in the country after they have first been thoroughly screened overseas.

By contrast, Uganda has essentially opened its borders to refugees, rarely turning anyone away.

Some older Ugandans explain that they, too, had been refugees once, forced from their homes during dictatorship and war. And because the government ensures that spending on refugees benefits Ugandans as well, younger residents spoke of how refugees offered them some unexpected opportunities.

“I was a farmer. I used to dig,” Mr. Azamuke said. But after learning Arabic from refugees from South Sudan, he got a better job — as a translator at a new health clinic that serves the newcomers.

His town, Ofua, is bisected by a dirt road, with the Ugandans living on the uphill side and the South Sudanese on the downhill side. The grass-thatched homes of the Ugandans look a bit larger and sturdier, but not much.

Josephine Bako, 13, was adopted by her aunt, Queen Chandia, after her parents died in South Sudan.CreditNichole Sobecki for The New York Times

As the sun began to set one recent afternoon, a group of men on the Ugandan side began to pass around a large plastic bottle of waragi, a home brew. On the South Sudanese side, the men were sober, gathered around a card game.

On both sides, the men had nothing but tolerant words for one another. “Actually, we don’t have any problems with these people,” said Martin Okuonzi, a Ugandan farmer cleaning his fingernails with a razor blade.

As the men lounged, the women and girls were still at work, preparing dinner, tending children, fetching water and gathering firewood. They explained that disputes did arise, especially as the two groups competed for limited resources like firewood.

“We’ve been chased away,” said Agnes Ajonye, a 27-year-old refugee from South Sudan. “They say we are destroying their forests.”

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A crew building the foundation for a nursery school in Imvepi, Uganda. The government ensures that spending on refugees benefits Ugandans as well.CreditNichole Sobecki for The New York Times

And disputes broke out at the well, where Ugandan women insist they should be allowed to skip ahead of refugees.

“If we hadn’t given you the land you live on, wouldn’t you be dying in Sudan?” said Adili Chandia, a 62-year-old refugee, recounting the lecture she and others got from a frustrated Ugandan woman waiting in line.

Ugandan officials often talk about the spirit of Pan-Africanism that motivates their approach to refugees. President Yoweri Museveni, an autocratic leader who has been in power for 32 years, says Uganda’s generosity can be traced to the precolonial days of warring kingdoms and succession disputes, when losing factions often fled to a new land

This history of flight and resettlement is embedded in some of the names of local groups around western Uganda, like Batagwenda, which means “the ones that could not continue traveling.”

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Samuel Lagu set aside five acres in Mireyi for a rice venture in which South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans work side by side.CreditNichole Sobecki for The New York Times

The government encourages the nation to go along with its policy by directing that 30 percent of foreign aid destined for refugees be spent in ways that benefit Ugandans nearby. So when money for refugees results in new schools, clinics and wells, Ugandans are more likely to welcome than resent them.

For Mr. Museveni, hosting refugees has given him relevance and political capital abroad at a time when he would otherwise have little.

A former guerrilla fighter who quickly stabilized much of his country, Mr. Museveni was once hailed as an example of new African leadership. He was relatively quick to confront the AIDS epidemic, and he invited back Ugandans of Indian and Pakistani descent who had been expelled during the brutal reign of Idi Amin in the 1970s.

But his star has fallen considerably. He has clung to power for decades. His security forces have beaten political opponents. Freedom of assembly and expression are severely curtailed.

Students carrying a blackboard outside Imvepi Primary School.CreditNichole Sobecki for The New York Times

Even so, Uganda’s openness toward refugees makes Mr. Museveni important to European nations, which are uneasy at the prospect of more than a million refugees heading for Europe.

Other African nations also host a significant number of refugees, but recent polls show that Ugandans are more likely than their neighbors in Kenya or Tanzania to support land assistance or the right to work for refugees.

Part of the reason is that Ugandans have fled their homes as well, first during the murderous reign of Mr. Amin, then during the period of retribution after his overthrow, and again during the 1990s and 2000s, when Joseph Kony, the guerrilla leader who terrorized northern Uganda, left a trail of kidnapped children and mutilated victims.

Many Ugandans found refuge in what is today South Sudan. Mark Idraku, 57, was a teenager when he fled with his mother to the area. They received two acres of farmland, which helped support them until they returned home six years later.

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Agnes Ajonye gathered hibiscus leaves for tea in a settlement in Ofua in northwestern Uganda.CreditNichole Sobecki for The New York Times

“When we were in exile in Sudan, they also helped us,” Mr. Idraku said. “Nobody ever asked for a single coin.”

Mr. Idraku has since returned the favor, loaning three acres to a South Sudanese refugee named Queen Chandia, 37. Ms. Chandia said the land — along with additional plots other Ugandans allow her to farm — has made all the difference.

Her homestead of thatched-roof huts teemed with children tending their chores, grinding nuts into paste and maize into meal. Ms. Chandia is the mother of a girl and two boys. But over the years, as violence hollowed out her home country, Ms. Chandia started taking in the orphaned children of relatives and friends. Now 22 children call her “mom.”

A refugee for nearly her entire life, Ms. Chandia arrived in Uganda as a young girl nearly 30 years ago. For years, she worried about being expelled.

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A goat shelter on the land being used by Queen Chandia. She said the donated land has made all the difference.CreditNichole Sobecki for The New York Times

“Maybe these Ugandans will change their minds on us,” she said, describing the thought that plagued her. Then one day the worry stopped.

But Mr. Osakan, the administrator who oversees refugee affairs in the country’s extreme northwest, is anxious. There is an Ebola outbreak over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Osakan fears what might happen if — or when — a refugee turns up in Uganda with the dreaded illness.

“It would destroy all the harmony between refugees and host communities,” he said, explaining that it would probably lead to calls to seal the border.

For now, the border is very much open, although the number of refugees arriving has fallen significantly. In one of the newer settlements, many of the refugees came last year, fleeing an attack in a South Sudanese city. But some complained about receiving too little land, about a quarter acre per family, which is less than previous refugees had received.

“Even if you have skills — in carpentry — you are not given a chance,” said one refugee, Simon Ludoru. He looked over his shoulder, to where a construction crew was building a nursery school. The schoolhouse would teach both local Ugandan and South Sudanese children together, but the workers were almost entirely Ugandan, he said.

At the construction site, the general contractor, Sam Omongo, 50, said he had hired refugees for the job. “Oh, yes,” he exclaimed.

How many?

“Not a lot, actually,” he acknowledged. “I have about three.” Mr. Omongo called one over.

“Are you a refugee?” Mr. Omongo asked the slight man.

“No, I’m from Uganda,” he said softly. His name was Amos Chandiga, 28. He lived nearby and owned six acres of land, though he worked only four of them. He had lent the other two to a pair of refugees.

“They asked me, and I gave it to them,” Mr. Chandiga explained. He patted his chest. “It comes from here, in my heart.”

Sources – New York Times

 

DRC: Opposition supporters protest against voting machines

DRC: Opposition supporters protest against voting machines

In Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, a few thousand demonstrators travelled about 7 km on Boulevard Lumumba, one of the city’s main roads.

The opposition supporters in the DRC are denouncing potential fraud in the December elections, which will mark Joseph Kabila’s departure after 18 years in power.

The demonstrations were also aimed at the removal of more than ten million registered voters without fingerprints from the electoral register by the electoral commission.

It is a great show of strength by the Congolese people who refuse the voting machine, who refuse the corrupt electoral register and who want good elections. And as a leader with the people in harmony, in unison, we walked today to say no to electoral fraud.

The opposition considers that these South Korean-made machines will encourage fraudulence during these elections, which must name President Kabila’s successor in a country that has never experienced a peaceful transition since its independence in 1960.

Source – AFP

Burundi opposition MP accused of plot to kill president

Burundi opposition MP accused of plot to kill president

Burundi’s public security ministry has accused a prominent opposition MP of planning the assassination of President Pierre Nkurunziza and other top officials, in an address on state television.

The authorities announced the arrest of a “commando unit” over the alleged plot to murder the president, his two deputies and the parliament speaker, in the televised statement late Thursday.

The spokesman for the public security ministry, Pierre Nkurikiye, accused Pierre-Celestin Ndikumana, of the Amizero y’Abarundi (Burundians’ Hope) coalition, of being behind the plan.

Three alleged members of the commando unit were paraded on television during the address, including a man who was a domestic worker at Ndukimana’s home for a few months in 2015.

“The details (of the plot) are on this piece of paper written by the criminal you have just seen (the domestic worker) while he was in the car of honorable Pierre-Celestin Ndikumana, who dictated it to him,” said the spokesperson.

Nkurikiye said the former domestic worker had confessed to being recruited by Ndikumana to carry out the assassinations, and also confessed to trying to kill a married couple of ruling party lawmakers at the beginning of October.

Parliamentary sources said that a procedure to lift Ndikumana’s immunity would be launched soon, while Nkurikiye said a probe would seek to find others involved in the alleged plot.

Ndikumana told AFP the accusations were a “crude setup aimed at intimidating me and keeping me quiet”.

Burundi has been locked in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 announced he would seek a controversial third term in office, sparking civil unrest that has left 1 200 dead and over 400 000 displaced.

Amizero y’Abarundi, led by former Hutu rebel Agathon Rwasa, is considered the main rival to Nkurunziza’s ruling CnDD-FDD, and local NGOs as well as the United Nations have condemned a crackdown on their supporters.

Source – News 24

3 million Kenyans to get free healthcare

3 million Kenyans to get free healthcare

By AGGREY OMBOKI
Uhuru to pilot universal healthcare in 4 counties

More than 3 million Kenyans in four counties are set to start enjoying universal health coverage after President Uhuru Kenyatta launches a pilot programme on December 1.

President Kenyatta announced that the programme will be launched in Isiolo, Kisumu, Nyeri and Machakos counties.

The launch will coincide with the World Aids Day, whose theme for this year is “Know Yourself”.

The pilot phase is expected to last for a year before it is scaled up to cover the rest of the country.

After registration, patients will be treated free of charge, including referrals.

President Kenyatta formally made the decision on Tuesday after meeting the UHC Inter-Governmental Committee that also comprises governors at State House, Nairobi.

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, who co-chairs the committee with Isiolo Governor Mohammed Kuti, briefed the President on the preparations ahead of the pilot launch.

Ms Kariuki said the pilot programme will cost the government around Sh3.17 billion.

The national government will allocate Sh800 million for each of the participating counties, with an additional 800 million for referral cases.

Governors will also contribute a similar amount towards the programme.

The success of the pilot programme in the four counties will clear the way for the national rollout, which will mark the beginning of a new era in public health service provision.

Governors Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), Prof Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu) and Dr Alfred Mutua (Machakos) represented the counties taking part in the pilot.

President Kenyatta gave the committee his approval to finalise the launch plans and also draft the respective Memoranda of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and the four counties.

The Head of State encouraged the governors to actively sensitisate their people before the pilot project is launched.

The new UHC package will benefit at least 3.2 million Kenyans in the four pilot counties and is expected to contain a new bouquet of services accessible in public health facilities.

According to the government, the decision to pilot the programme in the four counties was based on existing evidence on their disease burdens.

Kisumu was identified because it leads in the infectious diseases category, especially for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, while Machakos records the highest number of injuries mostly from accidents occurring along the busy Mombasa-Nairobi highway.

Nyeri was selected because it leads in non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes, while in Isiolo, the government will seek to establish how the package is well suited for nomadic and migratory populations.

Isiolo Governor and Council of Governors’ Health Commitee chair Mohammed Kuti said the pilot will be done for a year, and its progress reviewed after six months.

Prof Nyong’o said community health volunteers will be paid a monthly stipend of Sh2,500 plus National Hospital Insurance Fund membership as part of efforts to recognise their work.

“Community Health Volunteers were previously known as volunteers, but now we will eliminate that word from the health sector’s vocabularies. We will be paying them Sh2,500 a month in addition to securing their NHIF membership. This is not a salary since the work they do is much more valuable than that, but a stipend to initiate our efforts to bring them into the ranks of the remunerated,” said Prof Nyongo.

Dr Mutua said expenditure on health is a major contributor to poverty. “Many families are falling into poverty because they are spending their savings on health-care services. But under the new scheme, our people will not be paying for health services,” said the governor.

He said if the funds lost to corruption were used for health service delivery, every Kenyan would be comfortably covered in the UHC scheme.

“Piloting the package in a controlled population ensures less chances of failure and we can minimise the risks when the programme is later scaled up to cover the entire country,” said CS Kariuki in an earlier statement.

Ms Kariuki said the programme would also encompass public health education in order to scale up preventive measures and reduce the prevalence of non-communicable or lifestyle diseases. “We have reorganised the community health workers’ service delivery systems to address issues of water, sanitation and health, nutrition, screening for diseases, physical health education and dietary discipliner so that our people can be empowered to make the right lifestyle decisions and avoid falling sick unnecessarily,” she said.

Source – Daily  Nation