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Archive for February 10th, 2011

More startling news in Gatundu petition

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2011

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – Former Gatundu North Member of Parliament Patrick Muiruri on Thursday stunned the High Court when he admitted he paid Sh2.1 million to have illegal money printed for him ahead of the 2007 general election.

Mr Muiruri who was being questioned in an election petition, told the court that he parted with the money to purchase paper and chemicals to make an estimated Sh30 million in the black market.

He told the court that he paid a Mr Moses Oyondi the money after he claimed he worked for money printing firm De La Rue and knew how money was minted.

He said Mr Oyondi convinced him, his wife and Personal Assistant that the special chemical would turn plain paper into legal tender.

But Mr Muiruri said the deal went sour after Mr Oyondi disappeared with his Sh2.1 million and never delivered his fortune.

He made the revelation as he was being cross-examined by lawyer Evans Ondiek who is representing the sitting MP Clement Waibara in the petition.  A voter Bernard Chege is challenging Mr Waibara’s election as the MP for Gatundu North.

The election petition has been marked by strange revelations. 

On Tuesday, a voter in Gatundu North caused a stir when he confessed that he sat a proficiency test on behalf of Mr Waibara.

Martin Ndungu told Justice Fred Ochieng that the MP pleaded with him to sit the language test, which is mandatory before one is allowed to vie for the position of MP.

Mr Ndungu told the court that he sat for the exam and passed with flying colours scoring 23 out of possible 25 marks and the panel didn’t raise any query and he was cleared to vie and a certificate was issued.

He later took the certificate to the lawmaker.

The voter told the court that the issue had been haunting him since 2007 and he has since realised that he has committed a crime and offended the people of Gatundu.

He pleaded with the court to pardon him and said that he believed that Mr Waibara was not eligible to be an MP.

Mr Ndungu also denied that he was paid or promised something to come up with such an allegation.

Read more: http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/Kenyanews/More-startling-news-in-Gatundu-petition.html#ixzz1DZJ81zya

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Rising above his plains life

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2011

Deep in the bush of Kenya’s Masai Mara, the tribe had begun to wonder whether Jackson Njapit had lost his mind.

For years, he had spent his mornings at the one-room clinic, treating people for malaria, botched female circumcisions, the occasional lion and buffalo attack. Now he roamed the savanna, chasing hot-air balloons filled with tourists, and he had begun to sell his cows, his goats and his sheep.

He spoke grandly of traveling to America and coming back with something precious, a skill that would help keep the clinic going.

“When I return,” he said, “it will be great news for all of Kenya.”

Villagers in Talek heard his plan and laughed. They pointed from their huts to the floating wicker baskets and said surely he would fall out of the sky.

“They told me, ‘This is something only white men can do. No African, especially no Masai, can fly this balloon.'”

Undeterred, Njapit saved up for five years.

In June 2010, the tribesman who had never left the open plains of Kenya traveled to Los Angeles, his sword and club tucked in his luggage.

“I knew if I returned to the village without my pilot’s license, I will lose all respect,” Njapit said. “I will be seen as a fool by all of my tribe.”

At Los Angeles International Airport, he held out his passport to be stamped. He had six months on his visa to realize his dream.

****

Njapit was a small boy when Kenyan police arrived at his hut, demanding that his mother send one child to school. The tribe had long resisted enrolling its young, but now, having no choice, Nailepu decided to send him, her youngest.

He was one of 40 children of the five wives of Tente Njapit, a Masai warrior who used to raid neighboring tribes to steal cattle, the Masai’s most prized commodity.

By the time Njapit started school, his father had died of malaria and droughts had killed off the family’s cows.

To pay for his education, Njapit’s mother sold her remaining animals. She fetched firewood and water. She built huts the Masai way, using hay, cow dung and urine.

But when her son reached ninth grade and tuition went up, he was forced to drop out.

It was then that a group of missionaries from Indianapolis made a deal with the young man that changed his life. If he worked in their clinic in Talek, they would pay for his education, including a nursing degree.

“He had a lot of initiative and drive,” said David Giles, a missionary with Christian Missionary Fellowship in the 1980s. “And he was profusely thankful to us because he came from a family that did not have the resources.”

A decade later, with a degree from a nursing school near Nairobi, Njapit was among the most respected members of the tribe. His tribesmen proudly called him doctor. They gave him a seat of honor during ceremonies and a colorfully beaded club traditionally used as a talking stick by chiefs.

“He is the Masai community umbrella,” said Margaret Nabaala, a childhood friend who was granted political asylum in the U.S. three years ago after her fight against the practice of female circumcision resulted in death threats.

“He is their gynecologist, their pediatrician, their pharmacy and their dentist. When there is an emergency, he’s on a bike, going through the rain or in the dark to help them.”

****

The morning Andrew Peart walked into Njapit’s clinic, the only one for miles, he was feverish and aching with malaria. The Briton from Zimbabwe was a hot-air balloon pilot, one of the few catering to the thousands of tourists who descend on the Mara each year.

Njapit invited him to recuperate in the clinic’s bed. He gave him medicine. The two became friends. One morning, Peart invited Njapit to go up in his balloon.

“It was magical,” Njapit remembers. “You could see gazelles, elephants, thousands of them, wildebeests and zebras going together like ants moving on an hill.”

Just as impressive was what tourists paid Peart for an hour-long ride: $400 each. Njapit barely earned that much in a month.

“I thought to myself, ‘I can do this,'” Njapit said. “I can fly a balloon early in the morning and work at the clinic in the day. I can have money for supplies and for an ambulance.”

He estimated he would need about $10,000 to travel to and from the U.S., enroll in a flight school and earn his pilot’s license. Selling his animals would raise about $6,000.

Njapit knew he needed more money, but his quest had made the news across Kenya. He felt swept along by his own excitement and the expectations of his fellow tribesmen.

“Everybody was asking, ‘When do you leave? When do you leave?'”

****

His first weeks in America were not easy.

At LAX, a stranger scolded him after he got lost in the terminal. When he finally found his ride — someone from the flight school holding a “Welcome Jackson” sign — he was driven straight to Adventure Flights in Lake Elsinore.

There, at the dusty dead end of a potholed trail, he was shown to his new place: a blue-and-beige motor home (rent: $30 a night). He spent his days sitting in a nook by the window, studying wind patterns, pressure systems and federal regulations.

In the evenings, he walked down the hill to the office to Skype his wife, Sintoyia, and his three young children. On YouTube, he searched for videos of his tribe — jumping, singing, chasing lions with spears.

Home felt a world away. So did his goal.

The $6,000 from selling the animals was long gone, and he still owed the school half of the $8,000 tuition and thousands more for lodging. When food, transportation and other expenses were added, he needed to come up with $11,000.

****

A lot of people go to the Mara looking to help the tribe — from the U.S., Sweden, Canada and beyond. As a leading Masai, Njapit met many of them, including Marlise Karlin, a spiritual teacher who became stranded in a rainstorm while on vacation in 2007. When she learned of his dream, Karlin raised money for him and arranged his enrollment at the flight school.

In August, two months after he arrived in the U.S., Karlin invited him to Los Angeles to meet her friends and drum up donations.

He heard the strangers’ names in a blur: Kim and Kip in Woodland Hills, Joanne and David in Brentwood, Aviva and Syd in Beverly Hills, Shawn in Pacific Palisades.

For a month and a half, the visitor was passed from friend to friend, house to house. The homes were unlike anything Njapit had ever seen — swimming pools, plush pillows, fine art, stainless steel.

“I felt small because everything was big,” he said. “Big ceilings, big kitchens, big offices, big beds, big televisions.”

When he saw a lobster at a farmer’s market, he cringed and wondered why anyone would eat a big red cockroach. He thought Disneyland was too crowded, the cars were too fast. The few cows he saw were lazy. They lived behind iron fences, and each time Njapit saw them, he wanted to set them free.

Fishing on a boat was nauseating; golfing was relaxing. Doggy day care seemed absurd. He gave surfing a try, though he was convinced “this is for people who want to kill themselves” and was never able to stay standing on the board.

During one outing, he met Mary Argimon, a yoga teacher who had spent time helping the Masai in Kenya. She offered to raise money for him.

“I knew what he was doing wasn’t easy, ” she said. “It was like trying to put a Masai on the moon.”

The days flew by in a rush of adventures. When October came around, Njapit realized he had less than three months before he had to leave.

Supporters had raised about $3,000, but Njapit had done little studying and his most difficult exams were just a few weeks away.

“I needed to go and finish what I came here to do,” he said.

****

November in the Inland Empire was rainy and windy. When the weather obliged and Njapit managed to get up in the balloon, he struggled. He crash-landed by mistake and forgot to give passengers safety instructions. Twice during set-up, he melted holes in the balloon’s fabric.

As he soared 500 feet over Sun City one morning, the retirement community stretched below in an endless grid of gray rooftops and gravel yards, punctuated by the occasional aqua of a backyard pool. Over and over, the burner roared and spit a flame into the purple-and-pink balloon to keep it aloft.

Seeing a clearing, Jim Bilbrey, the flight school’s owner, instructed Njapit to go in for a test landing.

But instead of releasing warm air to begin the descent, Njapit added heat.

Seconds later, he scrambled to correct his mistake. The basket hit the ground with a jolt, then skipped clumsily along a field, jostling the passengers.

“You’ve got to have control of the balloon at all times,” Bilbrey warned him. “If the examiner has to take over the aircraft, you will fail.”

By then, Njapit had used the 18 hours of flight time available in the pilot’s course. He was approaching 40 hours and would have to pay for the extra instruction — at $350 per hour. Bilbrey had begun to wonder whether he could settle his tab.

“He’s a really good guy, an honest guy,” Bilbrey said. “But I do a lot of charity work already, and I’ve made a huge investment to help him.”

****

Just before Thanksgiving, two dozen of Njapit’s supporters gathered in a Hollywood home to discuss how they might help. One supporter gave him $2,500.

At the end of the night, after hors d’oeuvres, desserts and wine, Njapit waved his beaded club in the air and thanked his American friends.

“I may not be able to see you for the rest of my of my life,” he said, “but you will not regret all you are doing for me.”

In the days ahead, however, efforts to raise money fell flat. People wined and dined Njapit, but hardly anyone wrote checks. Because he was a long drive away at the flight school, planning events was tricky.

On Dec. 9, the moment Njapit had dreamed of finally came. He passed his final flying exam and officially became a pilot. He posted the news on Facebook for Kenyans to see: “today is my day of victory, i have earned and received my commercial pilot licence…”

The next day, he returned to L.A., eager to focus on raising more money. Even with the donations he’d received, he still owed the school about $10,000 and had less than three weeks left in the States. But in Los Angeles, people were busy — Christmas shopping, flying out of town, spending time with families.

“Everybody had the best intentions,” Argimon said. “but things got so scattered.”

****

The morning Njapit left for Kenya, he was relieved and ecstatic.

He missed his connection in Dubai and arrived in Talek a day late, long after the sun had set and the news reporters had given up and left. Early the next morning, the feasts began in his honor. The first day, nearly 500 villagers showed up at his house. The next day brought 300 more. Njapit slaughtered seven sheep and four goats to feed everyone, even those who had once mocked his dream.

It wasn’t long before his phone rang with job offers, including one from his friend Andrew Peart.

“They are fighting over me,” Njapit said with a laugh, speaking by phone from Talek. “But I know I am going to fly with my mentor, Andrew.”

He will need an additional six months to clock the training hours that balloon companies in Kenya require for pilots. Then, he can start collecting a salary and begin paying back Bilbrey.

“No matter what, I will find a way to pay,” he said. “I have to.”

Two weeks after coming home, he awoke early to tag along with a pilot friend, David Eris, as he flew a balloon full of tourists over the Masai Mara.

The passengers were from New Zealand, Germany and Texas. They settled into the basket and eagerly waited for liftoff instructions.

Just then, Eris introduced Njapit, and the Masai smiled proudly.

“This is Captain Jackson. He just came from training in the United States.”

Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/29/local/la-me-masai-balloonist-20110129

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Inquest into fatal fall of woman

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2011

A woman may have jumped from a window after chewing a herbal stimulant, an inquest heard today.

Halima Hassan, 31, was found dead in the grounds of St Katherine’s Court, Northampton, on May 31, 2009.

She had been chewing khat, an amphetamine-like stimulant popular in east Africa, with a female friend shortly before her death.

Her husband found her on the ground outside the flat after she disappeared from the room, an inquest at Northampton General Hospital heard today.

The court heard Mrs Hassan died of multiple injuries consistent with a fall and there was no suggestion another person had been involved.

But a report from pathologist Dr Elizabeth Turk said a possible explanation for a jump from a window may have been khat.

Khat is an amphetamine-like stimulant which can cause excitement, euphoria and hyperactivity, the inquest heard.

On rare occasions it can also cause psychotic symptoms including paranoid delusions.

Dr Turk said khat toxicity had neither directly caused nor directly contributed to the cause of death but added: “Psychotic symptoms or hallucinations could be a possible explanation for a jump out of a window.”

The court heard Mrs Hassan, who was born in Kuwait, lived in Holland for several years where she suffered domestic violence at the hands of her first husband.

A statement from her brother Galy Hassan said the mother-of-three married again after moving to the UK in 2004, but suffered mental health problems and spent some time in a mental health hospital in Liverpool before later moving to Northampton.

He said she met and married her third husband Asad Mohamed and the inquest heard on Fridays she would read the Koran to children voluntarily at the local Somali community centre.

A report from GP Dr Simon Tickle said she visited the Maple Access Partnership in Northampton on January 15, 2009 in a “chaotic” way, homeless and apparently slightly manic.

She confirmed she had a mental health background in Liverpool and had also suffered khat and stimulant drug and alcohol misuse, the inquest heard.

She was assessed by a mental health nurse and was given treatment.

She last visited the surgery on May 26, 2009 – five days before her death – when she reported having not used medication for some time but was doubtful of its efficacy and asked for other medication, the court heard.

Asad Mohamed told the inquest he and Halima Hassan married in February 2009 in a Somali ceremony at a restaurant in Northampton.

He said he knew of his wife’s previous mental health problems.

”I knew that Halima was also chewing two bundles of khat two to four times a week,” he told the inquest.

”It’s quite normal for our community and it enables one to communicate better with people.”

The inquest heard the plant is imported from Kenya and its leaves are chewed.

Mr Mohamed said on May 30 he and his wife, who lived at Dover Court in Northampton, went to a friend’s flat at St Katherine’s Court.

He said he left the women in the flat while he went to buy some khat.

The inquest he when he got back at around 11pm both Halima and the woman were sitting and chewing khat and were “happy”.

He told the court he went to wash his hair ready to go to a concert, and when he returned his wife was not there.

He and the other woman looked everywhere but could not find her in the flat.

Eventually they found her body on the ground outside.

Mr Mohamed said: “I would describe my relationship with Halima as husband and wife.

”I loved her and she treated me well, we were never angry towards each other.”

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember said: “We heard that she had been chewing khat and I think that this may have affected how she came to be found on the ground outside St Katherine’s Court.

”I don’t think there was any intention on her part to end her life.”

A Home Office spokeswoman today said the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) was currently looking at recent research on khat.

The ACMD last looked at khat in 2005 when it advised it should not be made a controlled substance.

The spokeswoman said: “We have referred research from a recent study to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and asked them to consider all the evidence currently available on khat so they can make a full assessment of its harms.

”The Government will then make a decision informed by this assessment.”

Source: http://www.asianimage.co.uk/news/8842025.Inquest_into_fatal_fall_of_woman/

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On the spotlight: Bamboo (Simon Kimani)

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2011

Pulse: Before you left Kenya six years ago your music was doing well locally. Why did you make the decision to leave for the States?

Bamboo: Well I left for the States to not only further my education (in music) but also to work in the U.S. music industry with some of the best producers and artists in the world, network and learn how the industry works inside and outside. I grew up in the U.S. until I was 16 years when I first came back to Kenya. I left Kenya only so that I could help lift the standard of music and entertainment in Africa but I have not forgotten my roots and I promise my fans that God willing, I will place Kenya on the international musical map.

P: You said that you do music full time there, so that means you live off your music?

B: Yes I do. I deal in music licensing which pays well. Publishing is also a big income earner. Once your music is placed in a movie, TV, or radio, you’re paid every time it plays. The system actually works and artists are paid on time.

P: How do you manage to get shows, sell your music and get airplay there?

B: I get shows through promoters who have heard of me as well as being a member of certain associations that hold events. I also hold my own events although not that often. To be updated on what I’m up to, follow me on Twitter under the user name ‘Therealbamboo.’

 

P: You had scheduled a comeback concert here in Kenya in December, what happened?

B: Well, the concert was planned by some promoters here in the States. Sadly, there were some disagreements between them and my management team, which has pushed the concert to next year around April.

P: What major stuff is scheduled for the big show?

B: I may come back with a guest artist but that’s a surprise, which may or may not happen. I won’t speak on it until it happens. We’ll definitely be working with the best sound and promotional team in Kenya and I promise I will not let my fans down.

Bamboo

Bamboo

P: The concert was to double up as the album pre-release party, is your album ready?

B: Yes the album is ready but I’ve been so inspired lately that I got back into the studio to record some new songs that actually might make the album. Just when I thought I was done with the project another song comes in.

There will be at least 12 songs on the album with a bonus track or two for the fans. The music will be some that you can dance to and other songs that you can just relax and listen to in the office or in the house, car, or wherever you may be.

P: Are you coming to stay or is it just a quick visit?

B: When I come back this time I’ll be performing and setting up my base in Nairobi and then travelling back and forth to the U.S., Europe and other places too.

P: During an interview with Radio Maisha’s Peter Adams you mentioned that you’ve done collabos with international reggae star Buju Banton and Goldenchyld as well as with Cedric of Wu Tang. How was that?

B: Yes I was able to work with Goldenchyld in Long Island, New York at Shaggy’s studio called Big Yard. Thanks to Shaggy for giving us the chance to work. His studio is worth millions and we were in there all the time just making records and loving it so he really helped me out. Golden Chyld and Shaggy made the collabo with Buju possible. They actually had his vocals in the studio and put mine with his.

P: In Atlanta, where you stay, you talked about meeting showbiz big wigs like Young Jeezy, how did that go and which other notable artistes have you come to contact with?

B: I’ve met a lot of people from Akon to TPain to Kardinal Official (at the HardRock Cafe in NYC) to Rev Run, Talib Kwali, Jazzy Pha, Puff Daddy, Dirty Money,Red Cafe, JaRule, Cassidy, Mario, Styles P (The Lox,D-Block), Maino and Swizz Beats among others but what is important is learning what it is that makes them what they are. That’s hard work, dedication, patience and professionalism. You can be around stars all the time and still never make it. You also need a lot of talent. I usually post pictures of the different events I go to and when I meet this people on my Facebook.

P: How many songs have you done so far?

B: I can’t even count them. It’s in the hundreds. What will happen is that I’ll do maybe 30 or 40 songs for one album and then take the best 12 and compile them and that will make the album that I’ll first release.

P: Where do you normally record?

B: I work in so many different studios and producers to give different songs different sounds. I’m working with GoldenChyld, Mondo of Launchcode Ent who’s worked with Bustarhymes, Laface and others. There’s also Teddy Bear, and Jai of Nextone Ent., who works closely with P.Diddy among many others.

P: Seems like you’re doing good music, though here we only got to hear Love vs. Hate featuring Viki Secret. Are we going to hear more of the other stuff, and how soon?

B: You will definitely be hearing new music soon.

P: You talked of your style of music being Diaspora Music, how can you describe that kind of music?

B: Diaspora music is simply international music. That means that it’s performed in English so that more people can understand what you are talking about in the song, but it has an African influence, which makes it authentic.

P: And how is the reception to that music in the US?

B: People who hear it love it because it’s a bit different from what they are used to. It’s music that bridges a gap that has never been bridged before.

P: Having been an artiste both here and in Atlanta how can you describe the difference between the two entertainment industries?

B: The difference is astronomical. However we must also take into account that this country is far older than Kenya, so the music industry here has been developing for almost 80 years. The Kenyan industry is a lot younger. Of course there is far more money here in the music industry and many more lucrative ways to make it if you are actually good at what you do. The societies that are formed to act on behalf of the artists actually pay the artists. American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is one of them. They send me cheques regularly for my music played in the public. I think MCSK should be doing that for Kenyan artists but since I’m not there right now, I’m not sure if there has been any advancement in this area.

Source: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/sports/InsidePage.php?id=2000028661&cid=433

ONE OF HIS NEWEST VIDEOS MADE IN THE US:

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Irene Muchiri followed cassava from Kenya to the Danforth Center

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2011

Photo by Wiley Price / St. Louis American Newspaper

Photo by Wiley Price / St. Louis American Newspaper

Like many children, Irene Njagi Muchiri wanted to be a doctor when she grew up. But, like many children with this dream, her grades did not make the cut for medical school.

“I cried a lot,” she described her disappointment. “I worried my sister sick.”

Her older sister Winfred Njatia introduced the disappointed student to a mentor, who suggested an alternate field of study: lab technician.

“I took it and loved that work,” Muchiri said.

Her course of study at Kenya Polytechnic University College, which she compared to a community college, was her first step toward the prestigious appointment she holds today.

Muchiri is studying and working in the lab at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, a world leader in research in plant biology. She is working on the BioCassava Plus project as part of $12.1 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The project uses biogenetic technology to make cassava, a staple crop in parts of Africa and South America, more nutritious and resistant to viruses and drought.

Muchiri said, “Since we in Kenya are users of the product, they decided it was necessary for us, as owners of the crop, to learn how to genetically modify it to introduce nutrients and introduce genes that confer resistance to the crop, so we can go back and teach our fellow scientists back home.”

Interestingly, though Muchiri grew up on a farm, her family did not grow cassava. She grew up in the the village of Gakanja, in Kenya’s mountainous central region. The staple starch there is not cassava, but rather potatoes and corn. They also kept cattle for milk.

As a child, Muchiri would plant, manure and harvest crops, cut them into pieces to eat, then package the rest for sale. She would carry the cash crops on foot to the stop on the motor road where her mother caught a truck to the nearest city, Nyeri.

“We planted crops for us to eat and also to sell in the market, so we could be able to get school fees,” Muchiri said.

Though her mother, Gladys Njatia, and her father, Isaac Njatia, were peasant farmers, they highly prized education for their nine children. More specifically, they believed in the importance of science education.

“When I was a little girl back home, our parents somehow felt science was the answer,” Muchiri said.

“They were peasant farmers, but they wanted us to get jobs in the future and they seemed to think science was the most important thing.” 

‘I met cassava’ 

She credits her parents and ultimately her creator with guiding her to laboratory science, but it was her husband, Nelson Muchiri, who first introduced her to the plant that has become her research subject.

“I met cassava for the first time when I got married in the eastern part of Kenya where they eat cassava,” she said.

Her husband played another role in her development as a scientist. She was working in HIV research when she followed her husband’s career move to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. There she found an opportunity to research plants with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.

“It was not very different, though this time I was working with plants instead of people,” she said. “Now, here I am.”

She is here alone, which is very strange for someone raised in a large African family.

“The first time I came, I literally cried a number of times. I was so lonely. I had never been alone in my life before,” she said.

Her husband, who came to the U.S. separately before she did, works in Delaware as a state social worker.

“As foreigners, getting jobs is not the easiest thing, so it is not easy for him to leave his work and come live with me,” she said. “We see each other maybe once a month. It’s hard.”

Harder still, their three children – Dennis, Emma and Ian – are back home in Kenya with her sister, Leah Njatia.

“To us, that is normal. We are community-based,” she said.

“When I am needed to make noise, she calls me with the kid on the phone and I make a bit of noise. If I am needed to say congratulations, she gives me a chance to do that.”

Muchiri plans to return home to join them, and to transfer all of her new knowledge to scientists in Kenya, at the end of 2012.

As of now, both of her parents are still alive, still living on the farm. She last visited them in December 2009. Speaking in their local language of Kikuyu, she explained her biogenetic work.

“I explained what I do – in brief, of course. I told them I am improving crops, doing science, doing something I love,” Muchiri said.

“Of course, they were very proud, very excited. They seemed to think their advice for me to study science was not very bad.”

Source: http://www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/article_2fbfa6e6-34c2-11e0-939c-001cc4c002e0.html

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Peter Firstbrook’s account of Obama’s roots, “The Obamas”

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2011

A scene shot through one of the shawls for sale at the Senator Barack Obama Secondary School in K'ogelo, Kenya, where some of Obama's relatives still live. (Jahi Chikwendiu/the Washington Post)

A scene shot through one of the shawls for sale at the Senator Barack Obama Secondary School in K'ogelo, Kenya, where some of Obama's relatives still live. (Jahi Chikwendiu/the Washington Post)

Even at this halfway point in his presidential term, Barack Obama already belongs to the publishing ages. The sweeping and poignant arc of his life – and his race-defying presidency – guarantees that books upon books will be written about him. We’ve already seen a healthy number. There have been tomes, but mostly the books are Teddy White-like riffs by journalists offering behind-the-scenes accounts of campaign intrigue or life in the White House.

In “The Obamas,” Peter Firstbrook, a British documentary filmmaker turned writer, all but ignores the American side of the Obama story and plows into the Kenyan landscape, and family genealogy, of the Obama clan. The president’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was Kenyan, a member of the Luo tribe.

Firstbrook has written a strange and well-meaning hybrid of a book. There are long stretches of oral histories, given by close and distant Obama relatives and buttressed with often numbing historical detail on Kenyan wars and tribal political intrigues. You will learn not only about those intrepid explorers Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone, but also far more than you need to about the ritual of lower-tooth extraction for Luo boys.

Firstbrook himself is nothing if not intrepid. He starts this journey into Kenya and Obamaland with both a driver and a translator. He goes to remote villages where Obama’s kin – or close friends of kin – live. His hosts, a talkative and seemingly ageless and numberless bunch, set out the cups of brew and get to reminiscing. These days, entertaining visiting writers is almost a cottage trade for the Obamas of Kenya. “John Ndalo,” writes Firstbrook, “a close Obama relative from Kendu Bay, vividly recalls the stories of cattle plague and famine that his father and grandfathers had experienced: ‘Many homes lost their family. People were fighting, and if you had even a little food, people would come in a great number and invade your family and take everything away. For those whose cattle survived, we organized raids and went in big numbers with spears and arrows . . . and bring back their cattle.”

Hussein Onyango Obama – and yes, that first name sent Americans of a certain mind-set into fits of apoplexy during the presidential campaign – was President Obama’s grandfather. He was born into the Kenya of British rule and endured the decades-long pains of colonialism. One Obama relative portrays Hussein Onyango as an activist who stood up to the British.

Firstbrook also tracks down Hawa Auma Hussein Onyango Obama, Hussein’s daughter and the late Barack Obama Sr.’s sister. (President Obama’s father died in Nairobi in 1982 in a car accident.) She hawks bits of coal on a roadside in the little town of Oyugis. Hawa Auma said to Firstbrook: “I am the daughter of Hussein Onyango Obama and the sister of Barack Obama Sr. and the aunt of the president. His first child was Sarah Nyaoke, the second was Barack, and the third is me. I was born in 1942 in the Kendu Bay area. We migrated to K’ogelo when I was still young. I was still being fed on the breast.” This and other stiff, oral-history-like quotes captured by Firstbrook slow down the narrative.

But the book gains momentum when Barack Obama Sr. appears. He struts into view as a mischievous young man, quick to disappoint his father, wild for the ladies, a superb dancer and charmer. He also possessed a dream to get out of Africa and study abroad. Already married, he landed in the United States in 1959 and met Ann Dunham, a white native Kansan, in Honolulu. They married in February 1961, and she gave birth to their son, Barack, on Aug. 4, 1961.

But it is not what happened in America that is the point of this assiduous book, which will surely be helpful to future Obama scholars. It is the telling of the story of a large and extended African family that has played a significant and unforgettable role in history across two continents. In the end, Firstbook himself seems a bit dizzied by all the genealogy. There are so many Obamas, so many colliding stories. Just how embellished are some of these memories? At one point Firstbrook gathers some elder Obama members with some historians to continue the debate. He writes the scene straightforwardly when it all but screams for a little Evelyn Waugh, a little Wole Soyinka.

Wil Haygood, a Washington Post reporter, has traveled extensively in Kenya as a foreign correspondent. He is the author of “Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson.”

THE OBAMAS

The Untold Story of an African Family

By Peter Firstbrook

Crown. 333 pp. $26

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/04/AR2011020406672.html

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Kenya recalls envoys for confidential brief

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2011

 

President Kibaki has capped his sustained diplomatic offensive against the International Criminal Court by summoning envoys in strategic Western capitals to Nairobi for a secret brief on his deferral strategy.

The recall is aimed at detailing the diplomats on how to win over the countries they serve in to back Kenya’s push for a deferral of its cases at The Hague, through the UN Security Council.

It builds on the Sh31million shuttle diplomacy Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka said the President assigned him, to rally African countries behind Kenya’s push for one-year deferral of the cases ‘Ocampo Six’ may face.

The Standard established that Kenya’s Ambassadors and High Commissioners to European, Asian, Latin American States and America, as well as select African countries, would be tasked with ensuring the Government succeeds in securing the deferrals.

Some of the envoys are already in town and are scheduled to attend two meetings next week. The first meeting will be at the Foreign Affairs Ministry headquarters, while the second one will be held at Harambee House where President Kibaki’s offices are located.

We could not, however, establish whether Kibaki will attend the Harambee House meeting or other Government officials will make presentations.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Patrick Wamoto confirmed several envoys have been summoned to Nairobi for high-level meeting but added the meetings were “routine”.

Wider agenda

He also admitted that the ICC issue would be on the agenda because it was a Foreign Affairs issue that was “alive”.

“We have a wider agenda for the ambassadors…as you know ICC is a live issue and naturally we will deal with it,” explained Wamoto on phone.

The move is aimed at influencing other nations outside Africa to buy Kenya’s argument for the cases against the “Ocampo Six” pending at The Hague be delayed for a year, to allow establishment of a local tribunal competent to handle post-election violence crimes.

The summons is a build-up to the upcoming UN Security Council that is expected to vote on Kenya’s request, which is supported by the African Union

Though the date has not been decided, it is expected Cabinet will sit and discuss the AU resolution, and decide on the way forward. It is believed Cabinet will form a new team, including members from PNU and ODM, to spearhead the diplomatic efforts.

A Presidential Press Service statement on Tuesday announced President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga had agreed that more efforts should be put in establishing a local tribunal as the Government asks for a deferral of the cases.

Source: http://m.standardmedia.co.ke/headlines.php?id=2000028702

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Angry cop kills boss in Mombasa

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2011

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – A General Service Unit (GSU) officer shot and killed his boss in Mombasa on Thursday morning before turning the gun on himself.

The officer, a Constable, is said to have picked up an argument with his boss who is an Inspector before he cocked his gun and shot him 14 times, according to police.

“Those who witnessed the incident have told us that there was an argument between the two officers, and that is when the constable shot at his senior 14 times, killing him instantly,” a senior police officer in Mombasa said.

“The officer later shot himself.”

“Another officer who was standing nearby was also injured and is now admitted to the Coast General Hospital. He sustained a gun shot wound on the thigh,” a senior officer in Mombasa told Capital News.

The incident occurred at about 7am at the main GSU camp which is less than 200 meters from State House in Mombasa.

The officers involved in the shooting are part of a team assigned to guard State House in Mombasa.

Coast Provincial Police chief Aggrey Adoli declined to comment on the matter, only saying “an investigation has been launched into the circumstances of that shooting.”

He said circumstances of the shooting were still unclear and “will only be determined once all the witnesses record statements”.

Another senior officer who asked not to be named said the argument between the two officers started after the senior officer demanded to know why his junior had reported to work while drunk.

“That is when the junior officer cocked his G3 rifle and shot at his boss several times, he then turned the gun on his head before any action could be taken against him,” the officer said.

Other reports indicated that the argument occurred after the inspector refused to grant the junior officer days off to travel upcountry, sparking a major confrontation.

It is understood the Inspector was armed with a pistol at the time of the attack but could not manage to reach it in the holster.

GSU Commandant in-charge of Coast region Disehu Chemoi told Capital News an investigation into the incident was underway.

Incidents of police officers killing their colleagues are common in Kenya. 

On November 7, 2010, an Administration Police officer attached to the Mbeere North District Commissioner’s residence went berserk, killing ten people—including two of his colleagues.

The officer shot and killed two colleagues in a bar, before running amok in another bar nearby, killing eight civilians, Administration Police Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua said at the time.

The officer was guarding the District Commissioner’s residence at about 1am when he erupted into a jealous rage after being told his girlfriend was drinking with his colleagues in a nearby bar.

“That is when he excused himself and lied to his colleagues that he was going for a short call, only to go to the bar where he had been told his girlfriend was,” Mbeere North DC John Chelimo said.

“He then proceeded to a neighbouring bar and shot indiscriminately at people who had rushed out to see what was happening but his girlfriend was able to escape,” Mr Chelimo added.

Soon after the incident, Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti announced that all police officers exposed to handling firearms would be subjected to a rigorous mental check up to ensure they are suitable to avoid such scenarios.

Little has been heard of this exercise since then.

Read more: http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/Kenyanews/Angry-cop-kills-boss-in-Mombasa-11621.html#ixzz1DYDfikmn

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