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Archive for January 16th, 2012

The downside of male involvement in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

An HIV diagnosis can lead to domestic violence

An HIV diagnosis can lead to domestic violence

KISUMU, 16 January 2012 (PlusNews) – Involving men is increasingly being promoted as a key element in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and while its benefits are well-documented – in one Kenyan study it reduced the risks of vertical transmission and infant mortality by more than 40 percent compared with no involvement – it can occasionally lead to domestic discord and even violence.

Silvia*, a 33-year-old mother of six, now living at her mother’s home in western Kenya, says her 14-year marriage was doomed the minute she followed her healthcare worker’s advice to bring her husband for an antenatal visit after she tested HIV-positive. “I was tested and I was told I was positive; I asked if I could go ahead and just carry the pregnancy and the nurse assured me it was fine,” she said. “She, however, asked me to bring my husband when coming for the next visit and I agreed.”

She convinced her husband to accompany her on her next visit, but when he tested HIV-negative, he accused her of cheating on him. “He left me at the hospital… When I got home, he beat me up and said the child I was carrying wasn’t his and he chased me away,” she added. “The nurse thought she was helping us but it turned out to be a curse for me.”

There is limited research into the area of gender-based violence following HIV-testing, but a presentation by the NGO, the Sonke Gender Justice Network, at the 2010 International AIDS Society conference in Vienna, Austria, reported that women’s experiences upon disclosing their status to their male partners were often “complex and positive”: some studies reported violence levels of up to 14 percent, while others stated that about half of HIV-positive women said their partners reacted supportively to the disclosure.

According to Beatrice Misoga, PMTCT programme officer with the AIDS Population Health Integrated Assistance (APHIA Plus), gender-based violence is more common in discordant relationships where the man is HIV-negative. “Male involvement has helped realize success with PMTCT programmes where it has been applied because prevention of mother to child transmission is a family issue, but yes, there have been challenges in certain aspects like the possibility of gender-based violence targeting women and more so in a situation where the male partner is not willing to be part of it.”

Tensions

''A woman comes to the facility but the moment you mention hr man, she disappears and might resurface to give birth – some go to traditional birth attendants''

In 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) cautioned the Kenyan government to ensure that human rights were protected during a large-scale home-based counselling and testing programme; HRW noted that HIV-positive mothers – among them girls under the age of 18 – sometimes suffered violence, mistreatment, disinheritance, and discrimination from their husbands, in-laws, or their own families.

Some women, too fearful of the repercussions of revealing their HIV status to their husbands, opt out of PMTCT programmes altogether. “A woman comes to the facility but the moment you mention her man, she disappears and might resurface to give birth – some go to traditional birth attendants,” said Julie Miseda, a nurse at Nyanza Province’s Siaya District Hospital. “Some will tell you they are not married but the day they give birth, a man appears and claims he is the father.

“At times, involving both of them creates tension between them and they tend to keep very crucial information, for example, a history of a sexually transmitted infection, to themselves,” she added.

Supporting men

According to APHIA Plus’s Misoga, to preserve the benefits of male involvement in PMTCT, health clinics had to become more aware of the counselling needs of men. “Despite the disadvantages, the benefits of male involvement are immense and what needs to be done is to make these antenatal clinics male friendly. It is also important to give constant information and messages targeting men on the need to be part of prevention of mother to child transmission programmes,” she said.

Christopher Mukabi, a local peer educator, says male support groups have proved useful in improving the way couples deal with an HIV diagnosis. “Bringing men together in male support groups and then using these groups to convince them to get into PMTCT programmes can help deal with some of the challenges, but stigma and alcoholism are still problems in getting men involved.”

ko/kr/mw

*Not her real name

Source: http://www.plusnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=94652

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Political parties forging M-Pesa data

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

THE registrar of political parties Lucy Ndung’u is investigating reports that political parties in the country are stealing and forging customer data from mobile phone money transfer services for use in the ongoing membership recruitment. The Political Parties Liason Committee has written to Ndung’u complaining that some of the political parties are flouting the law on recruitment of members in a bid to comply with the Political Parties Act.

The Liason Committee chairman Nderitu Gachagua said they have received complains that some of the officials of parties in the country were allegedly using dubious means to register members in order to comply with the new laws.

Gachagua said some party officials have invaded money transfer agents’ shops to corruptly retrieve the registered data of customers which include Identity Cards and use it to register people as members without their knowledge. “This is fraud and the Registrar of Political Parties should investigate and discipline those behind the syndicate,” Gachagua said.

Gachagua who  was with the Liason Committee’s secretary general Alfayo Agufana was speaking in Eldoret at a meeting with representatives of political parties. “We have already raised the  matter with Ndungu and other relevant authorities for investigations,” Gachagua said.

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/national/national/58164-political-parties-forging-m-pesa-data-for-use-in-membership-recruitment

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URP to name candidate in April

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

The United Republican Party associated with Eldoret North MP William Ruto will nominate its presidential candidate in April. Ruto will square it out for the party’s ticket with Trade Minister Chirau Mwakwere and Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo when URP delegates converge at the Bomas of Kenya. The three are the only ones who have expressed interest in running for the presidency using the party ticket but URP says other candidates are welcome to join the party and seek its ticket.

Acting chairman Francis Ole Kaparo yesterday announced that the party will also simultaneously hold its national election and the presidential nomination exercises on April 30. Ruto joined URP after ditching UDM due to wrangles. Before nominating the candidate, URP will conduct grassroots branch elections from March 28 to 31, following a nation-wide recruitment exercise that began yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of URP yesterday, Ruto, Mwakere and Jirongo reaffirmed that they will support whoever will secure the support of the delegates to be the party flag bearer. Indications are that Ruto will be nominated as the sole presidential candidate, while Mwakwere becomes his running mate as Jirongo will be nominated for leader of majority in Parliament.

Mwakere hinted that the URP may go for a compromise where the party luminaries will settle for the presidency, running mate and leader of majority. “For us what is important is not the president, but the presidency that will have a presidential candidate, running mate and leader of majority designate,” the Transport minister said.

He said, the current constitution neutralises the president’s powers and thus gives equal power to the ruining mate and the leader of majority in appointing cabinet secretaries. “The president alone will not appoint cabinet secretaries as this will be done with the recommendation of the majority leader who will nominate the names for the president to appoint,” he said.

Addressing more than 5,000 party supporters who turned up the the Bomas of Kenya for the launch, Ruto expressed optimism that his party would win the next elections. He used the platform to articulate the policies his party will seek to implement, including job creation, education, healthcare, food security and infrastructural development.

Ruto and his allies too took the opportunity to expound on the party’s main platform of family values as a key campaign ideology. He said that the country is under threat from immoral perversions that greatly threaten the fabric of the society. “Our societal fabric is under threat; our family is under attack. Every Kenyan must stand to protect the family from perverse and immoral activities that include drug abuse,” he said. By advocating for strong family ties, the URP says that national development, unity and security will be ensured since the family is the basic unity of the society.

The Eldoret North MP said that URP will give Kenyans a comprehensive medical insurance programme that will ensure that all citizen have access to healthcare. “It is a shame that hundreds of Kenyans continue to die from curable diseases for lack of a healthcare programme,” “The URP will come up with a universal National Health Insurance Fund, that will be funded by both the government and individuals to ensure all Kenyans have accesses to treatment,” he added.

Among the policies that URP will be pushing include double digit economic growth and a youth programme that seeks to generate millions of jobs. “My government will come up with a Youth Marshal Plan that will mainstream participation of the young people in transforming the nation. This country has 70 per cent of its population as youth,” Ruto added.

Another promise is the construction of a standard gauge railway in the first two years of a URP government. Jirongo, who is also the Lugari MP, said corruption has caused the country to stagnate for three decades. He said should URP come to power, corruption would be a thing of the past and the country would experience an economic boom.

Ironically, a Sh500 note was nicknamed ‘Jirongo’ in the 1990s, when the Kanu government minted billions of shillings to fund its re-election campaign, with the Youth for Kanu (YK92) associated with him and other politicians accused of plundering the economy.

Mwakwere explained why he had decided to quit Shirikisho party to join forces with Ruto. “A saying in my native Digo says that if you want to go far, go alone but if you want to go further, go with others,” he said.

Information minister Samuel Poghisio who is also Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper party chairman said Ruto was welcome to join forces with Kalonzo and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta to form a winning team. Assistant minister Linah Jebii said she was waiting for Parliament’s term to expire before decamping to join the URP.

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/national/national/58157-urp-to-nominate-candidate-in-april

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Fear and faith: As Kenya battles terrorists, church looks to take the Gospel to its increasingly Muslim neighborhood

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

NAIROBI, KENYA – A Sunday morning drive in this East African capital is a journey through a sea of burqas.

Young Muslim women tiptoe through the muddy streets of the neighborhood known as Eastleigh, dressed in long, flowing Islamic garments in shades of yellow and baby blue. In sandaled feet, children at their heels, they navigate the massive craters that dominate the streets. Recent rains turned the potholes into lakes, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Many of the Muslims come here from neighboring Somalia, a lawless land where Kenya recently deployed troops in pursuit of an Islamic terrorist group.

In Eastleigh, hand-painted signs denote what buildings are — and aren’t — for sale. Somalis have bought much of the neighborhood’s real estate, presumably with money plundered by pirates.

Among the signs is one that reads “Nairobi Church of Christ, Eastleigh … Meets Here. Everyone Is Welcome.”

A security guard opens the gate and waves as church members arrive for worship. Inside its high walls, the church’s paved parking lot and manicured lawn are a stark contrast to the world outside. A massive auditorium dominates the courtyard, surrounded by multi-level classroom buildings. During the week, the compound is the home of a church-run technical college.

Sounds of a cappella singing echo from the auditorium. Inside, nearly 400 Kenyans raise their voices as song leader Samuel Muthike leads hymns in Swahili, “Leta Mavuno” (“Bringing in the Sheaves”) and “Kumtegemea Yesu” (“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”).
After the songs, Stephen Mwambisi stands at the pulpit and prepares worshipers for the Lord’s Supper. Donning spectacles, he reads from John 6:51: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Kenyans — regardless of creed — see daily the connection between bread and life. All around Nairobi, a terrible drought has gripped the region, causing widespread hunger and death. Especially hard-hit is Somalia, where the famine has driven many Muslims from their homes to the Eastleigh church’s doorstep.

As they pray, Mwambisi and his fellow believers focus on the spiritual sustenance that comes from God, and his promise never to leave them hungry.

“We eat this bread so that we can live forever,” Mwambisi says. “Father, we thank you for the opportunity to eat food given from above.”

TERRORIST ATTACKS AND FORGIVENESS

Nairobi is a hub for traders, travelers and Western tourists who stop here on their way to view East Africa’s elephants, lions and even pink flamingos. A tapestry of races, religions and nationalities comprise the city’s 3.3 million inhabitants.

Most coexist peacefully, but ethnic and religious tension has scarred the city. A monument in downtown Nairobi honors the more than 200 Kenyans and Americans killed when a truck packed with explosives detonated outside the U.S. embassy on Aug. 7, 1998. An Egyptian terrorist group carried out the attacks, coordinated by Muslim fundamentalists including Osama bin Laden.

More recently, in the midst of the famine, Somali militants kidnapped foreign workers bringing aid to eastern Kenya. The Kenyan military invaded Somalia to hunt down the militants.

A Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, promised retaliation. Weeks later, a grenade attack at a Nairobi bus station was blamed on the terrorists.
Evidence of the heightened tension is easily seen in Nairobi. At an upscale grocery store, security guards search purses and pat down shoppers. Hotel clerks pass minesweepers under cars before opening the gates.

“Besides prayers, we are just careful of any suspicious person,” says Isadora Auma, a 24-year-old Kenyan who has attended the Eastleigh church since she was a teenager. “Of course, you don’t know who is al-Shabaab.”
Despite the tension, the children she teaches in Bible class, ages 2 to 13, run, jump and laugh as they play on the green soccer field behind the church building.

“I want to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather,” says 14-year-old Eugene Masitsa, a third-generation church member at Eastleigh.
Natalie Sumbi and Chelsea Kwayesa, ages 10 and 12, say they love learning Bible stories, especially the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15.
The parable “shows how people can forgive and forget,” Kwayesa says.

Most of the children’s parents come here from outside Eastleigh, Auma says. Her class attendance has dropped slightly as church members move farther away from the neighborhood.

The church is multinational and has four Sunday services — one for Kenyans and English speakers, a second for immigrants from Ethiopia, a third for French-speaking Congolese Christians and a fourth for the hearing-impaired.

A few Somalis are Christians, says Lydia Wanjiku, a longtime member of the Eastleigh church. For security, they meet in a private home. Recently, a Somali was assaulted for carrying a Bible.

“I am praying for calmness, especially in this area,” she says, adding that the church has, thus far, coexisted peacefully with its Muslim neighbors.

Wanjiku, who grew up in the slums of Nairobi, was the first student to enroll at the school that meets here — the Kenya Christian Industrial Training Institute.

Now an accredited, two-year Christian technical college, the institute trains more than 500 students per year in information technology, business, auto engineering, electronics and Christian ministry.

Wanjiku is the school’s top administrator, a job she took over from longtime missionary Berkeley Hackett, who resigned after 14 years to concentrate on preacher training.

The institute, known as KCITI, has Muslim students, Wanjiku says.

“They can come here with their attire,” she says, “but they must attend Bible classes and chapel.”

CONVERSION ‘TAKES A MIRACLE FROM GOD’

After Sunday worship, nine Kenyan men and one woman don caps and gowns and form a line outside the auditorium. Each participated in a yearlong intensive ministry course sponsored by the institute. Most of the men preach for Churches of Christ across Kenya.

“This was quite a sacrifice for their congregations,” says Hackett’s wife, Charlotte. Some of the students received financial support from the U.S., but the congregations for which they preach supplied them with food and additional support as they studied. The Saturn Road Church of Christ in Garland, Texas, sponsors the Hacketts and the preacher training program.

Before handing them diplomas and posing with them for photos, Wanjiku challenges the students to put into practice the knowledge they gained through the program.

“People are tired of false doctrine and are searching for something spiritual and powerful,” she tells the graduates. “Remember, we are never alone. God has his people everywhere. … It’s time to harvest and gather the people God has called to his kingdom.”

After the ceremony, Harrison Omari smiles as he receives congratulatory hugs from his fellow students. Omari’s path to the Gospel was an unlikely one. He once was an instructor of Islam and had memorized the Quran.

But a group of Christians refused to give up on him, and after four years of study, he was baptized in 1994.

“Some of his relatives said he should be killed,” Charlotte Hackett says as she interprets for Omari. But the convert remains steadfast in his faith.
He uses his knowledge of the Quran to reach other Muslims and preaches for the Kidomaya Church of Christ, an 80-member congregation in the seaside city of Mombasa, Kenya. Many of the church’s members formerly practiced Islam.

During his year in Nairobi, he walked outside the protective gates of the church compound and preached on the streets of Eastleigh to anyone who would listen.

“This area has become the mecca for Somali Muslims,” he says. “I am going to pray to God so I may come back and preach the Gospel here.”
He also dreams of the day when his countrymen, hand-in-hand with Somali converts, plant new congregations in Somalia itself.
“It’s not so easy,” he says of reaching Muslims with the Gospel. “They have hard hearts. It takes a miracle from God.”
After all, he points out, “it took a miracle for me to be changed.”

Source: http://www.christianchronicle.org/article2159564~Fear_and_faith%3A_As_Kenya_battles_terrorists%2C_church_looks_to_take_the_Gospel_to_its_increasingly_Muslim_neighborhood

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The $50 Billion US-African Market and the Great Wind of Change

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

Bronx, New York City. On a beautiful summer day in June 2009, an African pastor named Dr. Mensah Otabil delivered a prophetic sermon that would define the destiny of US-based African immigrants forever. “African immigrants in the U.S should not see themselves as immigrants.

Instead, you should see yourselves as pioneers (first settlers) paving the way for the next generations. Whether you like it or not, your children will never go back to Africa. This is the great migration. You have come here not out of your own desire. You have come here because of difficult circumstances in your home countries.

What you see today as a painful legacy will turn out to be a blessing in the future. 100 years from now, your children will be Presidents, Lawyers, Chief Justices, Ambassadors, Teachers, Doctors, Nurses, Judges, Soldiers, CIA Directors and Senators of the United States. Already, one product of this African migration is President Barack Obama”.

Coming from a well respected, international pastor and a great motivational speaker who started his church in a small classroom and built it into a “conglomerate” of churches in over 20 countries around the world, University, Philanthropic projects, businesses and real estate assets, Dr. Otabil’s prophecy must be taken more seriously like a divine instruction.

THE REALITY Fact is, every African wants to go back home, at least in theory. We all thought we would be here in the U.S for a short time, make some good money, turn around quickly and go back to Africa and establish something big. Done. No way. In reality, it’s a different game. Many of us have been here for a long, long time but have gone back to Africa only once or twice. Even when we do go, we are in a hurry to come back to the United States.

Most of us have become U.S citizens, whether by birth or naturalization. Practically, we are Americans! As Dr. Otabil said, “we must see ourselves as pioneers and American citizens, not immigrants”.

I remember watching a U.S TV series in which the lead star suddenly discovers that he is Jewish, after all. He burst into tears of joy and declared, “Oh God, I’m Jewish” and he cried like a baby.

The first time this realization hit me, I felt very emotional. “Oh God, we are Americans!” Guess what, our destiny is now inextricably intertwined with that of the United States. If the U.S economy goes down or God forbid something terrible happens to America, we all go down. On the other hand, if America becomes paradise, all Africans living here will benefit…..our lives depend on America. Period.

The argument is even more compelling when it comes to children of African immigrants. These African-born U.S citizens, who may be referred to as the third generation, hardly know Africa . Many have never set foot there, many speak little or no African language. I have been blessed with three of such kids.

The sad truth is that the next generation of African-born U.S citizens may never go back to Africa. The Irish, the Italian, German, Jewish, Russian, Scandinavian and more recently Korean immigrants never packed bag and baggage and left the U.S for good. So why would Africans, especially when economic and political conditions at home are not relatively good?

That does not mean we would abandon Africa. No way. Of course we are Americans but we will always be African in spirit. As the Irish-Americans still love Ireland and the Jews also love Israel, so would we love Africa. Make no mistake about that.

THE GREAT MIGRATION Today, an estimated 3.5 million strong African and African-born population live in the US. Other

estimates put that number at well over 5 million, including undocumented Africa immigrants.

Several geopolitical and demographic factors are creating an entirely different landscape. In the next few decades, baby boomers will retire. The graying of US population and the hollowing out of the workforce will quicken. There will be a huge aging population expected to live on the average up to nearly 100 years. They must be fed and cared for. Pressure on the work force will mount. To be able to balance its labor force and maintain its strategic competitiveness, the U.S policy makers would need to act, as they have always done. They may well turn to African immigrants, among others, to fill the gap in the labor force.

And for good reason. African population is the most youthful according to the United Nations. Two-thirds of the population are youthful and are under age 35. About 600 million youth are projected to be in the labor force by 2035.

No other continent or region even comes close, not even India or China. To smoothly absorb these army of youth, African economies must at least triple the 5 or 6 percent current growth rates, qualitatively and quantitatively. In the absence of such growth, even regardless of growth, African youth may be compelled to migrate and flood the U.S and EU labor markets to seek greener pastures whether they exist or not.

Also, African immigration quota is still paltry, possibly under 3 percent compared to India or other countries. There will be the need to increase this quota. The outlook is favorable to Africans. In the U.S, Africans and African-born U.S citizens are largely perceived to be peaceful and hardworking and relatively trustworthy. Such Africans are preferred Managers in stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and even some banks, not to mention hospitals and nursing homes. Even though some explicit and implicit forms of glass ceiling and cultural uneasiness still persist, they will disappear with time, naturally.

It may be hard to tell, but in the coming years, U.S immigration policy may generally favor diversification away from Latin countries and increasing of quotas for non-Latin countries including Africa through such vehicles as the Visa Lottery and other policy instruments.

The result of the above is that the African and African-born population in the U.S will continue to swell exponentially, and along with it the U.S African consumer market.

Another angle is that, US-based African immigrants will significantly benefit from the current significant economic growth in Africa. While some may set up joint venture operations with foreign investors from the U.S, EU, China and also Brazil, many of them will directly benefit from increased Foreign Direct Investment inflows to Africa. As investors flood Africa, more and more African immigrants and African-born U.S citizens may be hired back to work in Africa as “expats” . This

is because they may provide better guidance on a familiar territory; they may be perceived as possess

ing the experience, education and training Westerners especially prefer; also they may culturally connect better with Westerners in particular. This will further increase the clout of U.S based Africans.

OUT OF THE PERIPHERY AND INTO THE MAINSTREAM CONSUMER MARKET.

According to the recent New American Dimension study, the U.S African consumer market is worth over $50 billion and booming. This is bigger than the GDP of dozens African countries. Some experts believe that within 5-10 years, the U.S African market may move from the periphery and well into the heart of the $10 trillion U.S consumer market.

If current estimates hold, the U.S African market may well double in scale to over $100 billion by the year 2020. Already, some Fortune 500 companies including Procter and Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, BMW, and others are showing increasing significant interest in the U.S African Market and are stepping up direct consumer advertising in what they call multicultural marketing. Already, it is believed that about 50% of some remittance companies’ revenue comes from US-based Africans. Remittances from the U.S to Africa are going through the roof. According to the World Bank, in 2010, remittances from the U.S to Nigeria alone was $10 billion.

The result is that the U.S African market will transition into the mainstream consumer market similar to the nearly

$1 trillion African-African market and the nearly $800 billion Asian market, all of which were largely smaller only a few decades ago.

THE GREAT WIND OF CHANGE I have been told by my Indian friends that about 60% of 7 Elevens, Dunkin Donuts, Motels, Pharmacies and so forth are owned by Indians. Impressive. For Africans in the U.S, a great wind of change is blowing. Never before have Africans been so optimistic and ambitious. Across major U.S cities, Africans are getting more “established”. From convenience stores to restaurants, financial services to beauty supply, car workshops to clinics, legal offices to mega churches, real estate to transport services, Africans are opening new businesses in significant numbers. In New York City, African owned businesses are popping up in many locations. Young men from Senegal who hardly speak English are setting up shops. Today, Africans can be proud that they are contributing to the strength and prosperity of the United States, the most exceptional country in the world (please see article on page 27)

THE NEXT LEVEL The truth is, the U.S has always been a land of opportunity and a nation of immigrants. Today, with the election of President Obama, all barriers have come down and everyone can achieve their dreams. For African immigrants, a great door of opportunity has opened. It’s time for mainstream African immigrants to move from the periphery and into mainstream American social, economic and political lives just as the Indian, Chinese and Korean immigrants have done.

To do this, we will all need some tough love. I believe African immigrants must de-emphasize cultural activities. There is too much drumming and dancing. Instead, we must focus on how to get in the big game. Firstly, we must figure out how the U.S capitalist system works. Secondly, at least for the purpose of marketing or administration, there is the need for U.S based Africans to define and differentiate themselves from other groups. This need has become more urgent than ever, now that marketers are beginning to significantly chase the African immigrant’s hard-earned dollar. What do we call ourselves? African Americans? American-Africans? US-African citizens? African immigrants? African-born US citizens? I personally do not like the term “African immigrants” because we are not. We are U.S citizens like everyone else. Thirdly, African community leaders must come together and set achievable, ambitious goals. Lastly, African-born U.S citizens (I like this one better) must begin to make waves. Instead of African leaders coming all the way from Africa to meet the President and Congressional leaders, why shouldn’t African community leaders in the U.S do the same and lobby Washington and Wall Street? Better yet, we must begin to gather courage and set our sights on building great businesses, running for Presidents, Governors, Senators, Mayors, District Councils, Borough Presidents and more. Our market is booming. Our clout is growing. And after all, “we are Americans!”

Source: http://www.modernghana.com/news/371865/1/the-50-billion-us-african-market-and-the-great-win.html

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Plano man facing immigration, health care fraud charges

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

PLANO — A Plano man is in hot legal water after authorities accused him of entering into a fraudulent marriage in order to gain U.S. citizenship.

Okey Festus Nwagbara, a 46-year-old native of Nigeria, was indicted by a federal grand jury last month on six counts related to the incident. This was the second round of federal charges Nwagbara has faced in the last three months, after having been indicted on health care fraud charges in October.

According to court affidavits, Nwagbara entered the country legally in July 2001 and two months later was granted a divorce from his wife, Gloria Nwagbara, also a native of Nigeria. Nwagbara then married Stephanie McDowell, a U.S. citizen, in March 2002 and applied for lawful permanent resident status, which was granted in 2004 based on his marriage to McDowell.

In July 2007 Nwagbara filled out an N-400 document, which is required to become a naturalized citizen. The application was approved and he became a citizen in January 2008.

Federal officials insist the marriage was a sham, saying that Gloria gave birth to two children after the divorce, with Nwagbara listed as the father on both birth certificates. They also said Nwagbara lied on his N-400 when he said he had no children and lived with McDowell in Texas, as well as lying on other documents including an application for a loan for his Plano home in 2006. On the loan application, he answered yes to the question asking if he was a U.S. citizen.

Two days after Nwagbara was indicted on the heath care fraud charges, McDowell spoke with agents from Homeland Security and provided the details of the alleged false marriage.

“McDowell told [the] affiant that she married Nwagbara solely to help him obtain his immigration status,” the affidavit reads. “She said they never lived together and that they never had sexual relations. McDowell indicated that she never lived in Texas, as indicated on Nwagbara’s N-400. She said the signature on the application for alien relative was not hers, although she did sign other papers used in support of the application.”

The health care fraud charges stem from a business operated by Nwagbara in Richardson, Advanced MedEquip and Supplies Limited. The federal indictment alleges that Nwagbara, as well as his co-defendant Jerry Bullard, improperly billed Medicare out of more than $500,000 for medical equipment that “was not medically necessary, and in many cases not provided.”

Nwagbara and Bullard are facing six counts of committing health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Nwagbara is being held at the federal prison in Seagoville and is not being offered bail because he is considered a serious flight risk due to his ties to Nigeria and because the government intends to begin the denaturalization process if it is proven he obtained his citizenship by means of fraud.

Source-http://www.planostar.com/articles/2012/01/03/plano_star-courier/news/8416.txt

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ICC witnesses decide they won’t testify

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

Louis Ocampo- File

Louis Ocampo- File

Two key witnesses of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo who were under protection abroad have decided they no longer want to testify. One of the witnesses has left the European country where he had been placed under protection while the other is seeking asylum in a different country.

The witness seeking asylum is said to have been under pressure from his family to return home but he feared for his life and decided to settle elsewhere. He is now surviving in a European country with support from good Samaritans who pay for his upkeep as he waits for the asylum application to be processed. “I have credible evidence but I cannot testify in a hostile environment. I have been under pressure from my family to return home but I think it is unsafe and that is why I want asylum so that I can organize to go back home later,” the witness told the Star on phone.

Reports indicate that the other witness has already arrived in Kenya. Last week, it was revealed that another prosecution witness had been arrested after he allegedly assaulted a protection officer following an argument. The two differed over whether the ICC should pay for the education of the witness’s children while he was under the court’s protection awaiting the start of the cases.

The witness claimed the protection officer was disrespectful to him. The protection officer had accused the witness of nagging. The director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Ken Wafula confirmed that he had received a report on the detained witness.

Yesterday Wafula said they had asked the ICC to carefully handle its witnesses and restructure the witness protection unit. “It is an issue which the ICC has to tackle because it affects the lives of the witnesses and the ICC process itself,” he said. Several witnesses were flown from Kenya to Europe ahead of the confirmation of charges hearings. Some of their families in Kenya have received threats after the identities of some the witnesses was established.

The witnesses who either testified or presented witness statements used by the defence fear their families may be targeted and intimidated in the event that the cases go to full trial. People looking for United Nations Ambassador Yvonne Khamati tried to gain entry into her Nairobi family home last year. Khamati gave a witness statement in support of Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura who is facing charges of crimes against humanity at The Hague.

A group of men raided her Nairobi home on October 23 and threatened to attack the family with a grenade. Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta and Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, former police chief Hussein Ali, journalist Joshua Sang and Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey are the suspects before the ICC. Khamati was mentioned as one of Muthaura’s witnesses during the pre-trial hearing at The Hague. However, she did not give her testimony before the pre-trial judges.

The incident came a month after the home of a witness in Nandi was invaded by villagers who attempted evict them. The family then escaped from Nandi and sought refuge at a relative’s home in Eldoret town. A group of youths stoned the house belonging to the witness at his father’s home in Nandi North. The windows were broken but no one was injured. The ICC judges could confirm the charges against the Ocampo Six, ask for more evidence or drop the charges altogether.

The judges could also confirm charges for some of the suspects and drop charges against others or ask the prosecutor to carry out further investigations. The problems affecting the witness have emerged just days before the ICC judges make their ruling on the fate of the six accused of perpetrating the post-election violence of 2007-08.

The ruling is to be delivered on January 23 and has caused anxiety among the suspects and their supporters. Uhuru and Ruto are presidential candidates and their political ambition could be derailed should the judges decide to confirm the charges. The two have declared their innocence and hope that they will be cleared so that they have smooth run for the top seat in elections later this year.

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/national/national/58156-icc-witness-seeks-asylum-for-monday

Posted in Kenya | 1 Comment »

Mutombo’s role in $10 million 
gold scam only now coming to light

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

Dikembe Mutombo played the final five seasons of his career with the Rockets. (Nick de la Torre/Chronicle)

Dikembe Mutombo played the final five seasons of his career with the Rockets. (Nick de la Torre/Chronicle)

One-time NBA star Dikembe Mutombo has made a worldwide name for himself sponsoring humanitarian projects and noble causes in his native Africa, so it was only natural that two State Department officials would meet with him in November 2010 as part of his effort to bring more attention to the bloody trade in conflict minerals that has bedeviled his homeland, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Less than two weeks later, according to a U.N. report, Mutombo was in New York on a more personal cause — trying to interest a Houston oil executive in a $10 million deal to buy 1,045 pounds of gold from the mines of eastern Congo, the heart of the conflict mineral trade.

If Mutombo had reservations about the apparent contradiction between word and deed, he did not show it. He eagerly explained how he and his family had 4 tons of Congolese gold just waiting for a buyer.

Because of an internal ban on mining and exports, imposed to try to stop the main revenue source for the mafia-like militias that controlled them, the gold could not be taken to market in usual ways. What Mutombo needed was somebody with money, connections and the ability to put a deal together.

Enter Kase Lawal. As chairman of CAMAC, a Houston energy company, Lawal knew Mutombo from the latter’s final days with the Houston Rockets — and he knew how to do business in Africa. Lawal moved to Houston from Nigeria as a young man and built a company that prospered in large measure because of his operations there and in neighboring countries.

Better yet, he had millions of dollars at his disposal, a corporate jet big enough to move extra cargo and an old family friend, Carlos St. Mary, with experience trading Third World minerals.

St. Mary said the deal was described as lawful in Kenya, where it would take place. He started work immediately, hoping the transaction would be done before Christmas. The gold was “dirty,” still in nugget and dust form, but that hardly mattered. St. Mary had expectations of his biggest payday ever with his share of the profits.

There were, however, no profits to be had. In truth, the deal was an elaborate scam that ended at an airport in Goma with the seizure of the Gulfstream V jet and the arrest of St. Mary and several CAMAC employees, all suddenly facing accusations of money laundering and attempted smuggling.

More than 1,000 pounds of gold pulled from the cargo hold was taken away by Congolese officials. Two bags containing $6.6 million in cash were gone as well, into the pockets of a local general whose loyal troops oversee much of the nearby mining operations.

To make matters worse, Lawal had to pay millions more to recover his plane and his people. St. Mary said Lawal later told him the entire ordeal cost him around $30 million.

The failed smuggling plot drew global attention. But conspicuously absent from publicity surrounding the incident was any mention of the part played by Mutombo, the finger-wagging basso profondo whose 7-foot stature and defensive prowess made him a force on the hardwoods.

Not only had Mutombo initiated the deal, St. Mary said, but he and his family played a key role from the onset, one not revealed until recently with the release of a United Nations report on Congo’s militia activity that recounts the incident.

Mutombo would not talk about his involvement. “I have nothing to say,” he replied when reached by phone in Atlanta. But the extent of it became clear through lengthy interviews with St. Mary, who kept records and copies of text messages throughout the ordeal, and the report by U.N. investigators. Through a spokesman, Lawal declined to comment.

Two big surprises

It all started on Dec. 3, 2010, when St. Mary walked into a New York hotel. He thought he had been summoned to help with an oil deal that Lawal had been pursuing in Liberia. To his surprise, he saw Mutombo, an old acquaintance, and three of Mutombo’s nephews, David and Stephan Kapuadi and Reagan Mutombo.

More surprising was the Mutombo contingent’s proposal: the purchase of 1,045 pounds of gold that would generate $10 million in profits to be divided three ways — 40 percent to Lawal, 30 percent to St. Mary and 30 percent to the Mutombo family. And there was the promise of more gold to come.

The U.N. report said Reagan Mutombo and the Kapuadis ran through a PowerPoint presentation, complete with slides of gold bullion and the admonition, underlined, that “highest discretion and confidentiality is a priority.” Initially, the Kapuadis said, the group would act as the buyer, and a valid license to import gold or minerals was mandatory.

There was no discussion of conflict minerals, the broad term that refers to gold and three other minerals used in electronics and other industries, and the production of which often involves forced labor and helps fund armed conflict.

Dikembe Mutombo represented that the gold belonged to him and “his people,” said St. Mary, whose work as a trader in rough diamonds has taken him to dangerous places with sketchy characters. Asked why the transaction would take place in Kenya, Mutombo said there was “too much shady stuff in Kinshasa” — Congo’s capital — and that Nairobi was closer to his village, St. Mary said. Mutombo was to supply both product and paperwork, and Lawal was to provide funds for the purchase and to cover expenses.

St. Mary was to evaluate the gold and find buyers.

“He had an answer for everything,” St. Mary said of Mutombo as they went through the details of the proposed deal. Whose gold was it?

At various points over the next two months, St. Mary thought the whole thing smelled fishy.

He said he encouraged Lawal to think twice about going through with it. But Lawal wanted to give the deal every chance, according to St. Mary, largely because Mutombo constantly reassured them it would all work out fine.

Though Mutombo and his family early on claimed the gold belonged to them, St. Mary actually found himself dealing with someone named Eddy Michel Malonga who claimed to be the real owner of the gold.

He also began to demand 40 percent up front. In late December, Lawal reluctantly turned over almost $4 million in cash, but only after getting a certificate of ownership and having the gold placed in a secure customs warehouse in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. A week later, Malonga — and the gold — disappeared. The purported customs facility was a sham.

St. Mary said he reported the missing gold and apparent swindle to Kenyan authorities, and Lawal sent his security team to trace Malonga’s movements, vowing to do what was necessary to “smoke him out.”

Malonga, feeling the heat, called and said the gold had to be moved and was now in Congo. The deal could still go through, but St. Mary would have to come to Goma with the rest of the cash to get it. A Nairobi lawyer hired by St. Mary and one of Lawal’s security officers flew to the city of 500,000 on Congo’s eastern border and confirmed the gold was there, apparently secure on a military base.

But was it worth the risk? Kenya offered relative safety and neutral authorities. Goma was the home turf of Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, a militia warlord under indictment from the International Criminal Court.

Mutombo was still pushing the transaction on Jan. 28, just a few days before the airport arrests, when he and St. Mary attended a celebration of CAMAC’s 25th anniversary at a huge private party at the Hobby Center. While Lawal was mingling with more than 500 local luminaries, Mutombo sought to allay St. Mary’s ongoing concern.

“He’s trying to assure me the whole night,” said St. Mary. “Just get this deal done, he says, and there will be much more. Kase finally tells me to be at his office at 11 the next day. When I get there, he asked me what I thought. I said it was a judgment call. I could see why you would want to salvage the deal if it is salvageable.”

One person got away

Lawal gave the go-ahead for his brother Mickey, a CAMAC executive in Nigeria, and St. Mary to fly to Goma. But because of the trouble and expenses, he was lowering Mutombo’s share to only 10 percent. When St. Mary relayed this news, Mutombo did not take it well.

“No, no, no,” he said, according to St. Mary. “This is the third time he has done this to me.”

Several days later, the deal went haywire on the tarmac in Goma. Armed soldiers were everywhere, as were bickering officers and government officials who apparently were arguing over where the bags of money would go. St. Mary lost contact with Mutombo and Malonga.

Curiously, the one man on the plane in Goma who was not arrested by government authorities along with St. Mary and the others was Reagan Mutombo. He drove away from the Gulfstream at the airport with Ntaganda’s soldiers.

“He’s Congolese and we’ll take care of him,” the warlord’s men said.

Almost a year later, St. Mary remains unclear precisely why the deal went south at the end. He has no more contact with Mutombo and does not know whether he ended up with any money. He is also estranged from Lawal, who has yet to publicly acknowledge any role in the debacle.

St. Mary said Mutombo, a Congolese hero so praised for his work on behalf of humanitarian causes in his homeland, was meeting with President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, ostensibly to discuss politics, at the moment the deal blew up. Because of the timing, St. Mary cannot help but wonder whether top government officials had been informed of the gold deal — or perhaps knew about it  all along — or whether CAMAC’s jet and Lawal’s representatives were lured to Congo by design.

This St. Mary knows for sure: The last time he saw the gold, it was in a vault at the Central Bank of Congo. Ntaganda ended up with a considerable amount of Lawal’s money. The Congolese government presumably got the rest and at least $3 million in fines. And St. Mary ended up with nothing.

“I’m not sure what (happened),” he said, “but this was a calculated devious plan.”

Source: http://blog.chron.com/ultimaterockets/2012/01/mutombos-role-in-10-million-%E2%80%A8gold-scam-only-now-coming-to-light/

Posted in Africa | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

A Kenyan woman passes away in Boston MA

Posted by Administrator on January 16, 2012

The Late Grace Gathoni Gicheru

The Late Grace Gathoni Gicheru

It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of our dear mom, Mrs. Grace Gathoni Gicheru also known as “Mama Gishe”. Our loving mom went to be with the Lord on the night of January 10 2012 at Brigham’s and Women Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Mrs. Grace Gicheru (Mama Gicheru) earlier resided in Atlanta,Georgia where she attended Beulah Heights Bible College and was also a member of Christ Harvesters Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. She later relocated to Boston MA where she was staying with her children as she underwent treatment.

Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, and was in remission until 2008 when she started getting treatment at the North Shore Cancer Center, and later in 2008, at Dana Farber in Boston. Her prognosis was hopeful but in the fall of 2010, mom started developing complications that compromised her hopeful prognosis, this led to her being admitted at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston MA on Thursday January 5 2012. Mom’s condition quickly got worse and on Tuesday January 10 2012 she passed away peacefully. Mom is survived by her 5 children; Anthony, Anne, Sarah, Maggie and Sammy. Their spouses Hiram, Laurie and Saron. Grand Children; Lynnette, Emma-Grace, Ethan and Ella.

Mom was spiritual, loving, caring, considerate, genuine, and honest. We will keep her memory close to our hearts forever. May she rest in peace.

-Prayers are being held at 45 Michigan Ave in Lynn MA 01902  (Gishe’s and Laurie’s) every day starting from 7 pm on wards. -The wake/service will be held on Friday Jan 20 4pm-8pm at Morse Bayliss Funeral Home at 122 Princeton Boulevard Lowell MA 01851 -A tribute service/fundraiser will be held on Saturday Jan 21 5pm-8pm at Rapture Harvest Mission International at 33 West Water St Wakefield MA 01880

For well wishers and contributions, deposits can be sent to:

Anthony Njigua Bank of America Account number: 004621766790

Routing number: 011000138

Address: 45 Michigan Ave

Lynn MA 01902

For further information please contact: Ben Ndirangu 781-504-6005

Moses Mbuguji 617-417-4013

Mercy Kioko 781-420-6591

Posted in Diaspora News, Obituaries | 4 Comments »

 
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