Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Why Bush won’t be prosecuted over CIA torture

Protestors outside the White House in Washington DC denounced CIA torture of terror suspects recently.

New York- The release of the report on CIA torture of suspected terrorists after the 9/11 attacks has been followed by calls for the torturers - and top members of former president George W Bush’s national security team - to be prosecuted. The chances of that happening, however, are slim.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said perpetrators “cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency”. His words were echoed by other UN experts and watchdogs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Despite the Senate Intelligence Committee’s revelations about waterboarding and week-long bouts of water-soaked sleep deprivation in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation programme, the reality of seeing Bush-era leaders in the dock seems distant.

The body most directly responsible for prosecuting US officials is in Washington is the Department of Justice, but its officials say they have pursued two probes into mistreatment of detainees since 2000 and found the evidence was not sufficient to obtain a conviction. Reviewing this week’s Senate report did not offer new information to reopen cases, officials said.
US President Barack Obama has spoken of the need to “leave these techniques where they belong - in the past”, indicating he will not push for accountability.

Political pressure
Rights campaigners say US courts are the ideal venues for trials, because they can demand evidence from American officials and because potential defendants - such as Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - live in the United States.

“There’s lots of new evidence in this Senate report, the justice department should take another look,” Kathy Roberts, a lawyer with the Centre for Justice and Accountability, told Al Jazeera. “They shouldn’t be swayed by the political pressure they no doubt feel.”

When national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute cases, the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court can step in. The US, however, is not a state party to the court, denying the ICC jurisdiction.
Some options remain. The ICC prosecutor had previously opened a preliminary investigation into US treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, which is an ICC member.

A potential case would have to meet stringent criteria, though. While torture is a war crime, the 119 detainees described in the Senate report may not warrant prosecution by a court designed to handle the world’s worst crimes.
“It would be a low number to trigger an ICC investigation,” Richard Dicker, an HRW lawyer, told Al Jazeera.

When the ICC was founded, Washington struck deals with allies to ensure that US citizens would not face extradition to the court. In 2002, Bush signed the American Service-Members’ Protection Act, dubbed the “Hague invasion clause”, authorising the use of military force to liberate Americans in ICC detention.
“The US has immunised itself from scrutiny by the ICC,” HRW researcher Reed Brody told Al Jazeera.

Universal jurisdiction
Some courts in Belgium, Spain, France and other European countries can prosecute severe rights abuses committed overseas. Famously, a Spanish court’s indictment led to the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998.

Lawyers have sought prosecutions against Bush-era officials for war crimes in multiple European courts. In February 2011, Bush cancelled a trip to Switzerland, where alleged torture victims were planning to file a criminal complaint against him.
But Washington fights back. In 2003, Rumsfeld threatened to pull NATO’s headquarters out of Brussels because of a Belgian prosecution case against General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in Iraq, over cluster bombs killing civilians.

European states have repealed laws after cases become politically damaging. “From WikiLeaks, we know the US leaned on Spain to ensure that a case over Guantanamo Bay detention centre didn’t go anywhere,” said Brody, referring to the web publication of classified US documents.

Melina Milazzo, a policy counsel for the Centre for Victims of Torture, said the Senate’s 500-page report summary, and the unredacted details in the 6,700-page full version, which remains secret, may be valuable to European lawyers.
If I were a senior Bush administration official who was well-known to have engaged in this programme and advocated the use of torture, I would limit my vacations to the territory of the United States,” Milazzo told Al Jazeera.
Pardon me?
Similar cases could follow the Senate report on interrogation practises from 2001-07. “CIA rendition relied on the cooperation of foreign governments,” said Milazzo. “You’ll see many more cases coming up around the notion of complicity of European countries.”

This happened in Geneva last month. The UN’s anti-torture panel criticised US interrogation techniques under Bush and said Washington was not fully complying with the international anti-torture treaty. However, UN committees are often toothless and ignored.

Anthony Romero, director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called on Obama to pardon Bush and his top brass for permitting the use of torture. Granting a pardon “to torturers still makes my stomach turn”, Romero wrote in The New York Times, but it would set a precedent of criminality.

Other rights campaigners disagree. “It’s a clever idea, but we should be able to establish that torture is a crime without having to pardon one of its most important alleged perpetrators,” Roberts said.

The likelihood of seeing Bush-era torture planners in court remains small, but rights campaigners
are upbeat.
At the very least, publishing secret CIA torture techniques marks a breakthrough in government transparency - even if it doesn’t lead directly to justice for victims, they say.

“If you had told me 20 years ago that cases would be brought against sitting heads of state for war crimes and genocide, I would have thought you were reading from a science fiction novel,” said Dicker.
“I wouldn’t suggest these prosecutions are likely now, but you can never say never.”


CIA Director John Brennan has defended the agency’s post-9/11 interrogation methods but admitted some techniques were “harsh” and “abhorrent”.
Speaking at CIA headquarters, he said some officers acted beyond their authority but most did their duty.

A scathing Senate report two days earlier said “brutal” methods like waterboarding were ineffective.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose committee produced the report, said torture should now be banned by law.

In his comments Mr Brennan asserted the CIA “did a lot of things right” at a time when there were “no easy answers”.

“Our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation programme produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives,” Brennan told a rare CIA news conference in Virginia.

But we have not concluded that it was the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) within that programme that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees who were subjected to them, he added.
“The cause-and-effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.”
While he was speaking, Senator Feinstein was rejecting his arguments on Twitter.

One tweet said: “Brennan: ‘unknowable’ if we could have gotten the intel other ways. Study shows it IS knowable: CIA had info before torture. #ReadTheReport”.

Mr Brennan was a senior CIA official in 2002 when the detention and interrogation programme was put in place.
George W Bush, who was US president at that time, has not commented on the report, but his Vice-President Dick Cheney strongly rejected criticism of the CIA’s techniques.

“The men and women of the CIA did exactly what we wanted,” he told Fox News.
“We said we’ve got to go use enhanced techniques … and we’re going to find out. We’ve got Khaled Sheikh Mohammed who’s the mastermind of 9/11 and he is in our possession, we know he’s the architect. And what are we supposed to do? Kiss him on both cheeks and say please tell us what you know? Of course not,” Cheney said.

South Africans celebrate Miss World win

                                                        Rolene Strauss the crowned Miss World 2014

Johannesburg. South Africans are celebrating after Rolene Strauss was crowned as Miss World 2014, becoming the third South African to win the title.
President Jacob Zuma said Ms Strauss had “demonstrated the capability of South Africans to shine on the world stage”.
The 22-year-old medical student was named in London, with an estimated global audience of one billion. Her victory is trending on Twitter in the country, with many users posting #proudlySouthAfrican.
Miss Strauss said she wants to use the platform to raise awareness about the importance of education in South Africa.
“We are very proud that our very own has earned this prestigious title after months of hard work and dedication,” Mr Zuma said in a statement.

Who is Strauss?

born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Rolene Strauss was crowned Miss South Africa 2014 on March 30, 2014. Strauss is a medical student from the University of the Free State. She’s postponing her studies to fulfill her duties as the reigning Miss South Africa.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

EAC leaders sign agreement on air space

L-R: Uganda’s President Museveni, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame pose for a group photo after the opening of the Northern Corridor Integration project at Safari Hotel Nairobi on Thursday


Regional leaders of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan have signed a pact on the management of the Northern Corridor Air Space bloc, which they said will contribute significantly to the development of infrastructure for transmission, power trade, and reduce the cost of air travel in the region.

In a joint communiqué, the heads of State issued after the Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit in Nairobi on Thursday, appreciated the conclusion of the Power Purchase and Wheeling Agreements and the signed Memorandum of Understanding on the management of the Northern Corridor Air Space bloc.

State Minister for Transport Stephen Chebrot signed on behalf of Uganda, while Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure Micheal Kamau signed on behalf of Kenya, Mr James Musoni for Rwanda and Mr Kwong Danhier Gatluak on behalf of South Sudan.

The regional leaders also directed the minister of Infrastructure of Rwanda to convene a meeting of airline industry stakeholders to conclude the negotiations on the 5th Freedom Traffic Rights on the Entebbe-Nairobi-Juba route by December 31, and address the outstanding issues to reduce the cost of air travel in the region. The minister was asked to give a report at the next summit.

The representatives

Ethiopia was represented at the summit by Mr Habtamu Baye Chekole, Special Envoy to the Ethiopian President, Tanzania by its East African Co-operation minister, Mr Samuel Sita, while Burundi was represented by Ms Leontine Nzeyima.

The East African Community Secretary General, Mr Richard Sezibera attended. The heads of State condemned the heinous acts of terror by the Al Shabaab in Mandera.

Earlier in his opening remarks, President Uhuru Kenyatta said if Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan continue their commitment, East Africa will be prosperous and secure for all in the region.

The summit recognised the gains realised from the operationalisation of the Single Customs Territory and on Information Communication and Technology.

They reiterated the importance of comprehensive and speedy operationalisation of One Network Area in Uganda. The summit further directed the ministers to operationalise the One Network Area for SMS, Data and Mobile Financial.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Kampala shops littered with fake products, says Interpol

A vendor displays some of her products in Old Taxi Park. An investigation by Interpol and government agencies has revealed that most goods in Kampala are counterfeit

An investigation by Interpol and Directorate of International Relations has confirmed that most products on Kampala markets are counterfeit.

The revelation came after a week of operations by Interpol officials, several brand owners and Uganda National Bureau of Standards in Kampala metropolitan area.

Interpol deputy director Elly Womanya said their spot checks showed that genuine products in the city hardly exist.

“The operation sought to identify the magnitude of the problem. We realised that it was too big and we couldn’t cover all brands. Our investigations discovered most cosmetics, electronics, seeds and alcohol products to be either to have been counterfeited or fake,” Mr Womanya said.

Interpol arrested 14 people on Gayaza Road, Container Village, Luwum and Ben Kiwanuka streets on a range of offences, including being in possession of counterfeits.

The suspects claimed they bought the products from distributors authorised by brand owners, thinking they were genuine. Interpol is also investigating the suspects’ allegations.

Mr Womanya said they recovered 70 bottles of Black Label, a whisky brand, that were being pirated in a home factory in Kasangati, Wakiso District.

Fifty boxes of fake pesticides, 50 bags of fake seeds, 55 rolls of electric cables and 50 kgs of cosmetics worth Shs150m were impounded.

The long term impact
Counterfeits affect the economy since they aren’t durable and sometimes have health hazards. Interpol is now proposing a creation of a taskforce to deal with counterfeiting of products. Farmers have been complaining of seeds that don’t germinate when planted, and pesticides that don’t eliminate vermin.

Monday, 8 December 2014

No room for luxury in the Maasai Mara

The Maasai lifestyle is very colourful. Both men and women adorn themselves with various ornaments. Bottom, inside Meikuaya’s hut in the Maasai Mara.

A baby lies on the ground, with flies hovering over his face. Just next to her is her grandmother split between preparing an evening meal and milking the cow. As she does all this, her attention is taken by entrance of strangers.
A group of Maasai youth welcome us with a dance and songs in which the ladies clap as the men rhythmically tap their feet and take turns at jumping high up in a unique show of fitness and pride.
Almost everyone in the homestead has abandoned whatever they were doing to find out the cause for celebration. Many join in the clapping, making an impression on us that the Masai are a welcoming people.

Expectant hostess
With a wide smile, granny hurries through the milking, carries her metallic can of milk into the hut and returns with a collection of jewellery- earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces, all traditionally woven. Already, a group of other women are also making their way to where we are standing, near the entrance area, with goods to sell.
Mama, like I hear the younger folks referring to the old lady, would like to make some shillings or dollars off the visiting group. As she prepares to leave, her daughter, and mother of the baby returns, carrying firewood. They speak for a minute and granny leaves, walking towards us, with her hands reaching out with her merchandise.
Happy Mama is one of the residents in the Maasai camp that we visit. Notable about her, as she approaches, are the uniquely big holes in her ears on which hang multi-coloured earrings. Her head is well shaven. Her feet seem comfortable in sandals crafted from car tyres.

Inside the Maasai Homestead
From the outside, Happy Mama’s manyatta looks small, but a family of four fits in, somehow. Her home is part of many huts or manyattas, about 20 of them, that constitute the homestead.
These are lined on all sides, uniting around a quadrangle. In it are cattle which, as I learn from our host Ann Kanini, Kenya Tourism Board’s (KTB) publicist, are an important possession among the Maasai for it is part of the sources of wealth and thus power, and one of the requirements in settling dowry.
There is an effort to keep the general compound clean though cows litter the place with their dung and flies fly off the dung and onto babies’ faces.
Minutes before we make our way into the homestead I have to part with $10 (Shs2,500) for taking photos of cattle being grazed by a youth, David Meikuaya. He tells me that this is a tourist attraction too, and as we break ice, he asks for a token.
There is plenty of open grassland where Meikuaya grazes his family’s cattle, alongside fellow youth. This is just outside their communal homes. The homes are in an enclosure, locally known as Enkang. It is made of fastened thorny sticks. There are various entry points to the community that is made up of many grass-thatched huts, numbering about 20.
When he is done leading the cattle into their kraal, he invites me into his hut, which is small but with so much packed inside. To enter, we have to bend. The hut is dark and cool with two small rooms, one a master bedroom and another for the children, then the common area which is slightly more than a metre wide.
The master bedroom also doubles as a store where cutlery, utensils and goats share space with the main occupants. In a corner is firewood. There is only space for the bed left. There are no luxuries here. The bed is made of wood and looks so uncomfortable that anyone used to cushioned beddings, will find this utter torture.
Then instead of blankets, Meikuaya and his family cover themselves with goat or cow hides. Just above the bed is a small window, which is a few inches wide and long.
From the window, you can see much of the goings-on in the compound; men and women in the evening of their years seated on wooden stools watching the youth put their energy to use through dance or chasing cattle into their kraals.

Doing brisk business
From his house, Meikuaya leads me to the homestead market, which is as busy as a bee hive. Maasai business ladies and gents engage tourists, enticing them to buy their produce, ornaments and other merchandise.
The younger girls who do business with their mothers or elder sisters seek advice in Maa, one of the official languages, before they can sell.
What is unique about the Maasai women is that they pierce their ears to accommodate a lot more than just simple, small earrings. They can carry bigger decorative ornaments because the ear holes are bigger, which is part of their unique physical features.
Experience the Masai adventures
Visitors come and go but the Maasai remain those warriors who have been rated as so fierce that they would fight with lions the way butchers do with goats, cows at slaughter time.
Only for them, it is a fight to win love. It is one of the ways a man can prove to the clan that he can take care of his bride-to-be.
Your visit to the Maasai Mara is a page less if you have not interacted intimately with the traditional community.
One good adventure is having dinner in the middle of the Mara reserve where you get to enjoy the sunset in a beautiful display of orange with a shade of yellow and mystic blue, over the horizon.
We tried that too, by the bonfire, to keep our bodies warm as the chefs prepared tables to warm our stomachs with some sumptuous coastal, local or continental treats.
In a pleasant twist, one of the chefs, John Maina, was a good host and cared to go the extra mile to make a Ugandan dish for us, of mugoyo- a mixture of sweet potatoes and beans.
And as we dug in, and sipped on wine and other frothy stuff, we almost forgot that we were in the middle of the jungle. The Maasai had a surprise that would bring us back to reality.
One of them kept telling us a story as we enjoyed the night in the jungle, by the fireplace and when all our attention was captured, out of the bushes came a noisy group of Maasai who threw us into a panic because we were caught off-guard.
A prank had been pulled on us. We realised this as the chefs and waiters laughed themselves silly as they saw us scampering for life. What followed the short-lived ‘moment of shock’, was some entertainment, with Maasai warriors, dressed in shuka, dancing and singing for us.
The ‘shock game’ is their playful way of breaking ice with guests at dinner time. Their dance around the bonfire provides a good Nikon moment, which captures how the Maasai people have preserved their culture, making them unique, stylish, and a cultural attraction that continues to mesmerise many.

Find your way to the Maasai Mara

If your schedule will not allow you to visit the community then wait on at your hotel. There are some entertaining troupes that come visiting to give you a piece of what Maasailand is made of.
Evenings at the Sarova Mara Game Lodge, where we spent a night thanks to KTB, come alive with African rhythms, lullabies and songs as performed by the Maasai. This earns them some money not just at the Sarova Lodges but also at other facilities where different groups perform.
During your tour of the Mara, ask your guide to include a visit to the Maasai’s communities so that you get to interact with them and get a sense of their lifestyle and the aspects of life that they hold dear.
The Maasai have discovered the beauty of documenting their artistry and cultural customs. They have an association that has written out these norms, online ( you will want to learn about their way of life and some cherished customs, such as Enkipaata (senior boy ceremony), Emuratta (circumcision), Enkiama (marriage), Eunoto (warrior-shaving ceremony), among others.

Kasiwukira's wife, in-law charged with murder, sent to Luzira

                                                  Kasiwukira's wife, Ms Sarah Nabikolo Ssebunya ( in blue dress).

Three people, including a police officer, a wife and a sister in-law of the late city businessman Eria Sebunnya Bugembe, have been charged with his murder.

The trio were on Monday afternoon sent on remand to Luzira prison until December 22 by Makindye grade I magistrate Mr George Watyekere.

Ms Jaden Ashraf, 38, a police officer attached to Muyenga Community Police Station, Ms Nankungu Sandra, 34, also an in-law to the deceased and Ms Sarah Nabikolo Ssebunya, a house wife and widow to Kasiwukira appeared before court where the charges were read to them, before being sent to Luzira.

Prosecution alleges that on 17th day of October at Muyenga diplomatic zone the trio murdered Kasiwukira. Mr George Watyekere advised the trio to apply to the high court for bail.

Bugembe, popularly known as Kasiwukira, was knocked dead in Muyenga, a city suburb mid-October. Police chief Kale Kayihura was quick to rule out a hit-and-run traffic accident and launched investigations into a possible murder

Friday, 5 December 2014

Kadaga: Karamoja leaders should fight against genital mutilation

Ms Rebecca Kadaga (C) signs her commitment to end female genital mutilation in Moroto on Monday

The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, has distanced herself from comments attributed to her calling on Karimajong men not to marry circumcised women.

In an interview at her office on Wednesday, Ms Kadaga said contrary to what was published in the media, she appealed to male cultural leaders to increase the fight against female genital mutilation by not pressurising their sons to marry circumcised women.

“I made an appeal to the elder men that if they make a decision to stop putting their sons under pressure to marry circumcised girls, the practise will end. I made the same appeal to the women that if they stop the community pressure on uncircumcised girls, then FGM will end,” she said.

Ms Kadaga made the appeal early this week while attending the third Tebeth cultural day in Karamoja.
In Tebeth, she said, girls who are not circumcised are ridiculed and are not allowed to draw water at the well unless all circumcised women are done.

“I have been fighting female genital mutilation for the last 15 years. How can I be insensitive to the victims?” she asked. “I had gone there to appeal to the community on their behalf and to the elders that the practice should stop.” Ms Kadaga further said the community assured her that they were ready to quit the practice because it is not an indigenous.

“They said they copied it from the Turkana in neighbouring Kenya and they are willing to stop it,” she said, adding that she is going to join forces to campaign against surgeons crossing from Kenya to come and circumcise girls in Uganda because it is a lucrative business.
FGM is criminal in uganda
FGM is prohibited in Uganda. The Act provides for; Criminalisation of FGM and other related activities; prosecution of persons who practice FMG and protection of victims of FGM. Early last week, Reproductive Education and Community Health (REACH), a local NGO revealed that married women were leading in promoting female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sebei sub-region.

The report said married women who are still stuck in traditional beliefs account for the highest percentage of the cases of FGM.

According to Reach, more than 200 women who underwent operation in 2012 in Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo districts were married.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Kadaga to men: Do not marry circumcised women

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga being decorated by a Karimojong woman during celebrations to mark the Tepeth Cultural Day in Moroto District on Monday. Ms Kadaga advised men to shun women who have gone through Female Genital Mutilation, describing them as burdening women who will not help transform the society

 The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, has advised men to shun marrying women who went through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), describing them as ‘burdening women’ who will not help transform the society.
The Speaker made the call on Monday during celebrations to mark the Tepeth Cultural Day, which is against FGM. The ceremony was organised by United Nations Population Fund and other development partners.
“A woman who is circumcised is no longer a valuable woman. Leave those who went through FGM and get normal women who can create a good society,” she said.
The World Health Organisation defines Female Genital Mutilation as “the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for cultural and other non-therapeutic reasons.”
This practice, also known as “female circumcision, or “female genital cutting,” is deeply rooted in many traditional cultures, and in Africa, it often serves as a rite of passage or as preparation for marriage.
In Uganda, the cultural ritual is mainly practiced in eastern Uganda among three tribes, including the Pokot, Sabiny and Tepeth, mainly in the districts of Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo.
Ms Kadaga, who was accompanied by State minister of Gender Rukia Nakadama, both signed a commitment to end FGM in Uganda.
She also warned parents in the region to stop forcing their young girls into marriage and appealed to them to send their children to school.
However, Ms Grace Nachap, one of the former FGM surgeons appealed to government to support the group of surgeons who have denounced the practice.
“Cutting women and girls had been our main source of income, so we need government to help us,” she said.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Uganda beats Spain in UK tourism opinion poll

Tourists tour Murchison Falls National Park recently. Ugandans are encouraged to promote the country’s tourism sites

Kampala- A poll conducted online by the Guardian, a UK news website, has revealed that Uganda is a better holiday destination than Spain.
Seventy-nine per cent of the people that participated in the poll said they would rather visit Uganda than go to Spain.

According to the website, President Museveni said tourism in Uganda goes beyond chimpanzees and criticised tourism officials in the country for not doing enough to promote the many attractions in the country.

“The biggest problem with tourism is poor promotion. In Europe, people go to the Mediterranean coast. I visited Spain; it is very hot and humid in summer. I think Uganda would be a better destination than some of those destinations,” the President said.

Mr Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of the Great Lakes Safaris, said the poll is a good thing for the country and will help boost the tourism sector.
He urged all Ugandans to rally behind the President to help in promoting and popularising the tourism sector.

Mr Wekesa said Ugandans should not leave this to the tourism board only but be proud about their country and promote it.

Uganda’s tourism sector employs more than half a million people in the country and contributes to 8 per cent of the country’s GDP, a number which he said can go much higher if everyone put effort in the advertising the country.

According to the Guardian, the country drew international displeasure after the passing of anti-homosexuality legislation in February. However, court has since declared it null and void.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has also turned off international visitors from visiting the continent.

However, some contributors defended their preference, saying they would visit the country because of the people and for adventure.

Guyeverton: “Of course, I don’t support the Ugandan discrimination of homosexuals, but is it a reason not to visit? I’ve thought for a while about visiting Israel - does the fact I despise its State affect whether I could visit it, speak with people there, go and find some different stories to the ones you read constantly in the news?”
WhetherbyPond: “I have lived there[Uganda], it is a wonderful country, with warm, welcoming people, it is an amazingly culturally rich and diverse place and the landscapes are breathtaking. I would recommend it to anybody.”