Tanzania: 42 Immigrants Suffocate in a Truck

Original Story Nation online 27th June 2012 here and  here

Forty-two immigrants were found dead in a truck in central Tanzania after suffocating, Deputy Interior Minister Pereira Silima said on Tuesday.

“They died of suffocation and had no food,” Silima said.

“There were more than 100 people in the truck,” a local administration official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“After he had learnt of the dead bodies, the driver abandoned the truck and ran away.”

The bodies were discovered in the truck in Dodoma province, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of Dar es Salaam.

In December, 20 Somali immigrants were found dead in Tanzania.

Foreign ministry spokesman Isaac Nantanga said at the time that an increasing number of Ethiopians and Somalis were crossing the country to make their way to South Africa, the continent’s top economy.

Tanzanian police Wednesday were questioning 74 migrants who survived suffocation in a truck where 42 fellow travellers perished, Deputy Interior Minister Pereira Silima said.

“Police and immigration officials are questioning the survivors to establish their identity including names and nationality,” Silima told AFP.

It was initially reported the migrants were from Malawi, but officials said that they were suspected of coming from the Horn of Africa region to the north, and were on their way southwards to Malawi.

“Preliminary reports have it that the immigrants were destined to Malawi,” Silima said. Police said the truck driver fled the vehicle after finding the dead bodies.

The bodies were discovered on Tuesday in the truck in Dodoma province, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam.

In December, 20 Somali migrants were found dead in Tanzania.

Foreign ministry spokesman Isaac Nantanga said at the time that an increasing number of Ethiopians and Somalis were crossing the country to make their way to South Africa, the continent’s richest country.


The Beauty of the Bar Maid

Original article found at East African Standard June 27 2012 

Every man has a ‘favourite’ barmaid. David Odongo explores the world of the woman that wives love to hate

We have two types of women: Those who sulk and nag, and those who are forever cheerful and caring.

The curvaceous beauties that are ‘man’s best friend’ are sympathetic specialists of the male gender. They know men inside out — how to deal with them.

From the generous man to the hen-pecked, the stressed, broke, honest, simple, rich, poor and criminal man, their skilled eyes read them all in one second. And she treats them all differently such that at the end of the day, every man goes home feeling like the king he will never be.

Oh no! We are not talking about mistresses but barmaids — the skilled professionals that wives love to hate. But without them, husbands would require lengthy therapy in the hands of famed psychiatrist Dr Frank Njenga.


“Barmaids are a rare breed. If all women were like them, men would ever cheat on their wives. A barmaid is a mother, a loving Agony Aunt and a sex siren all rolled into one,” says David Otieno, a regular at Nairobi West Mall where several pubs coalesce into a series of watering holes.

His wife never cares to notice whether he has had a hectic day, but if he passes by the bar, the first thing the barmaid says is “Leo umechoka sana (you look so tired)” and proceeds to ‘baby’ him.

“Only the barmaid and my daughter notice if anything is wrong. My wife is either too busy or just doesn’t just care,” complains Otieno.

Men in pubs talk about everything from politics to sports, but the conversation eventually gets back to the barmaid. Men can argue for hours about a subject, but when she is called to mediate on why Greece is broke, even university professors calmly nod when she says Greece isn’t broke. End of topic. Never mind that in most cases, she was no idea about what the drunken intellectuals are talking about.

The barmaid is an institution within an institution and the only reason men talk about fashion. Everything she wears is under scrutiny and is more discussed than Angelina Jolie’s dress at the Oscars. They may not notice when their girlfriends or wives change hairstyles, but when a barmaid paints her nails pink, they glowingly compliment her.

“That colour suits you kabisa, kwanza tomorrow wear that green top, utakuwa mrembo sana (that colour suits you perfectly. In fact, wear that green top tomorrow. You will look smashing)!” they say.

Even if it’s alcohol talking, the profuse compliment is good for her morale. She goes home feeling beautiful even when she would never make it to the quarterfinals of a village beauty contest.

But men being men still fight the barmaid: “I asked for a Tusker and you brought me Guinness. I am not paying for this!” a drunken man angrily declares.

With a smile, she takes away the opened Guinness bottle and brings his Tusker. A smile lights up is face and he heavily tips her — a tip so generous it could buy three more Tuskers.

Barmaids hear all the problems that bedevil men, problems that their beloved wives will never hear. Chances are wives are told fiction each time their husbands come home with their cars smashed. But barmaids know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth because they are sympathetic listeners, non judgmental and providers of the world’s greatest balm — alcohol.

Contrary to what most women think, men never discus their wives with the barmaids. Men go to pubs to make merry and forget. Forget that Mama Baby hasn’t been talking for the past two weeks and that her ‘headache’ has been going on for months.

And unlike madam, whose lips are set in a permanent sneer from morning to sunset, how barmaids love to flirt! Is it any surprise then, that men who are married to very accomplished women have probably slept with a hot barmaid?

But Meshach Wanyonyi who drinks at Roasters along Thika Road disagrees with the intrigues surrounding the barmaids.

“They physiologically jail you. When you are broke, they give you beer on credit, you are so grateful that when she says she has a funeral, men at the pub will contribute outrageous amounts,” he says, adding that he has seen sober men Mpesa money to barmaids with whom they have no sexual relationship.

“The only reason men love barmaids is because they are easy. Men, especially married ones, find chasing girls tiresome and expensive and they want instant solutions to their lust, that’s where barmaids come in,” reveals Wanyonyi.

Wanyonyi, however, warns men that a barmaid’s job is to attract as many men as possible so they can order as many drinks as possible and tip (her) the highest possible amount of money.  So they’re basically attracted to everyone — not just you because she seems to know your moods and what you drink, he says.

Mzee Kariuki, a 72-year-old retired police officer who admits he was a rogue in his day, echoes his views.

Stroking egos

“Barmaids use body language, beauty and sexual appeal to lure men into parting with money. They loosen wallets by stroking men’s egos. Whoever said ‘women are the weaker sex’ has never drunk beer in a pub!

Theirs is a profession that prides itself on service — service that is friendly and offered with a smile. But that smile is a fake as a wedding cake!” reveals the old man.

According to Mzee Kariuki, these girls are trained actresses and their skills in acting are not from some drama class but from constant real life practice working on men for several hours each day.

“When you see her flirting and giving you positive body language, she’s actually working and is not interested in you! So you buy her three beers, which she never drinks but smartly sells and pockets the money to buy milk for her children.

But in the morning when your wife asks for money for milk for your own children, you rudely remind her that money does not grow on trees!” mocks Mzee Kariuki.

“Most barmaids act in the same flirtatious manner with all their clients — especially the well-paying ones. So if you’re getting the VIP treatment, chances are you’re paying for it,” says the sage.

Anthony Wanjohi equally has no time for barmaids: “I go to the pub to drink money that I earn. I need no favours and the only time I talk to them is when I want another drink,” says the accountant, arguing that the cost of good service is already factored in the price of alcohol anyway.

But what Wanjohi may not know is that tipping barmaids cements friendship, and when barmaids are your friends, you suffer no harm in their pubs. They will beat up women who want to lace your drinks, protect you from pickpockets and when you are too drunk, they chase you out of the bar and ensure you board a trusted taxi back home.

Small bill

Jack, a university lecturer, recalls a night when a barmaid who was his friend led him to his car, locked him in and walked off with the keys.

To begin with, he now recalls, he was too drunk to drive anyway. Worse, he was carrying Sh100,000 in cash. When he pompously removed the thick wad of notes from his breast pocket to pay a small bill, she  knew the women around him would rob him and whisked him to his car.

“I was so drunk I fell asleep instantly. She woke me up at 4.30am and told me to confirm that my money was intact. I tipped her Sh2,000 on the spot!” says Jack.

So much as wives and the good old pastor may not think much of them, the truth is that most men have, at some point in their lives, seduced or attempted to seduce a barmaid.

And it wasn’t about alcohol — they were dead serious!

Since we are Born Equal, we Can End Slavery

Mike Mungai

It is estimated that approximately 27 million people today, world over, are being held in some form of slavery or another. These are very grim statistics considering that during the slave trade era, it was approximated that the population of people that were held in slavery was 14 million.

After the Second World War, it was realized that there was a need to encourage basic freedoms for all. The United Nations was established and in December of 1948 it adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It called upon it’s member countries to disseminate the text of the Declaration. Sadly, many in the world still do not know of the basic rights as outlined by the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 1 states that: “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This simply means that all are entitled to fair universal treatment. However, world over today, this is sadly the case. Individuals, men, women and children are being held in slavery. They are made to work in houses, farms, mines, being sexually exploited: all these against their will. If all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights; why are some people using threats and coercion to gain control of others so as to benefit from these un-symbiotic relationships?

Article 2 states that the Universal Declaration applies to everyone, despite the difference in their backgrounds. Article 3 states that everyone has the right to life.
Article 4 categorically states that no one should be held in slavery or servitude. However, statistics show that the number of people being held in slavery continues to increase rather than decrease, the main challenge being the covert nature of modern slavery which makes it (modern slavery) hard to identify, address and combat. Threats, torture and coercion are used to hold people in slavery which is contrary to the provision of Article 4 which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

This being the reality world over, we are all challenged to do something, to act and ensure that more and more people get to know their basic rights, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other Regional Declarations, National Constitutions and subsequent laws. A world without human trafficking, a world without modern day trafficking is achievable, but we all have to play our part no matter how little. If we want to see a change in the trend of human trafficking, if we want to see it end, then we have to put the words of Mahatma Gandhi into action: “we have to be the change that we want to see in the world.”

Let us act, let us combat and put an end to human trafficking, let us do it for the future: time is now!

The degree law for Kenyan leaders is segregative: The president should not sign it

Muko Ochanda

The dream of this little angel matters alot. Thanks to the President and the PM the law was not signed at last. Find the story here and here. This move will ensure further deliberations that will lead to reasonable results for a majority of Kenyans.

The protection of the constitution can be done by all who can read it, understand and interprete it well. This can be done even with a keen form IV leaver. The law on representation based on degree requirements will make Kenyan leadership an oligarchy of the elites.

Here is an important question: Is there any scientific evidence that correlates university degree with better leadership acumen? If not then this  laws is just populist at best and adds no value to our national well being. Chapter 4 section 38 of the Kenyan constitution specifically sub section 3 provides that every adult citizen has the right, without unreasonable restrictions — (a) to be registered as a voter; (b) to vote by secret ballot in any election or referendum. Freedom of association on the other hand provides the right to assembly, demonstration, picketing and petition to all Kenyans. On political rights all Kenyans can be candidates for a public office, or office within a political party of which  the citizen is  a member and, if elected, to hold office. Chapter seven on the representation of the people only sets general guidelines for leadership and representation respecting the wider political playing field in Kenya. Please download the Kenyan constitution here.

The  constitution only mentions “unreasonable restrictions”. In this case an unreasonable restriction occurs when the legislature enacts laws that are segregative. For example introducing degrees in leadership is tantamounts to legislating infavour a minority and is ureasonable and unconstitutional. Have the politicians asked themselves what of if the political majority (the non degreed people) decide to reciprocate by refusing to vote because they have been segregated against? In trying to make this clause rosy these  controversial amendments on the elections Act 2012   give sitting MPs and Councillors a grace period of five years within which they must acquire the mandatory university degree. Their rivals however are not exempted from this requirement. The educational requirement (mandatory university degree) for political leaders aspirants in this case is segregative. People should not be forced to get degrees; in five years time or in any number of years. The electorate should always be given the power to decide who they want.

Too much education does not at all imply leadership abilities. We know for sure that it is much more easier for the children of wealthier people to get better education than their poor counterparts. In any case if this law will be passed then the Kenyan leadership will be going the bourgeous way. The real voice of Wanjiku the illiterate mama mboga,  and Mama Rhoda the local Busaa brewer and baba makaa and Mzee Mjengo  who are struggling so hard to make ends meet and all their descendants will not ever make it inside the Kenyan Parliament. Do these paople help in building the economy of Kenya? Are they in any way also contributing to paying the current MPs? If the answer is yes, then their aspirations should not be watered. In any case, we are bidding farewell to a parliament that has a wider representation from people of all classes, colours and sizes now. Whichever language is used to justify this law, cannot stand the test of  human rights fit as it makes some people more precious than others. Kenyans must rise up to reject this law, it is oppresive, segregative at best and it is against the poor people. All people are equal before the law and therefore they should have equal opportunities to participate in all political activities including those related to leadership and representation. The Kenyan citizenry should be allowed the chance to chose the  most preferred leader from competitive politics. If this law goes through the Kenyan people will be denied the opportunity of choosing some possibly good leaders because of the seggregative law.

Some of the best enterpreneurs in Kenya do not have degrees and many other people holding important responsibilities in our country. On the other hand if a “non-degreed” person outcompetes a “degreed person”, it is because he is smatter and understands the needs of the electorate better. If this person or any other for that matter does not do his or her job well, the electorate will punish him or her in the subsequent elections. There is evidence that the potential leaders in this class of  people, now blocked for good from the Kenyan Parliament are capable of doing better just as the “good leaders within the degree class” because they have the ability and are not taking anything for granted. They know that life is not a cup of tea for them and they take their responsibilities seriously. It is important to let the electorate have a bigger choice set in which to decide other than making impositions on them.  We also know that the intellectual class has always shuned politics looking for opportunities elsewhere.Now we are making a law that makes it easier for them, forgetting that all other people who have contributed to make Kenya the country it is today. This is a mistake. If the law favouring women representation had to be adjusted, there should be no special treatment to the academics. So this law should be returned to the parliament for the removal of this particular segregative clause that gives a few “political” advantages  at the expense of the rest of the society. Let Kenya be known as a land of opportunities for all its children.

I hope that the president will think of the majority and not legislate for a minority! The President should not sign this law! It’s against many people! Its against the poor and against the bill of rights enshrined in our constitution. The civil society should move with urgency to the constitutional courts to block this law. Please share this note if you agree with me.

Kenya Government Halts Domestic Workers Recruitment to Middle East over Mis-Treatments

Published by East African Standard on 22nd June 2012 by Joylene Sing’oei

The Government has suspended recruitment and export of domestic workers to Middle East following several complaints of harassment by employers.

In a press statement released Friday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political and Diplomatic Secretary Patrick Wamoto said many Kenyans seeking employment in the Middle East as domestic workers especially housekeepers and maids have ended up in distress.

Wamoto added that the complains the ministry receive range from mistreatment, lack of payment of salaries, overwork, denial of food and lack of communication with their relatives in Kenya.

“The Government wishes to reiterate its commitment to the protection and welfare of all citizens, including those outside the country. We are working on a mechanism, including but not limited to, vetting of all recruitment agents afresh and signing of Labour frameworks Agreement with various countries to address some of the concerns raised by the distressed Kenyans in the Middle East”, read part of the Statement.

Most of the Kenyan migrants to Middle East earn their livelihoods as drivers, technicians, salesmen, security guards, engineers, accountants, bankers and domestic workers.

Cases of Kenyans being abused and even killed in Saudi Arabia have been on the increase.

As the quest for working abroad heightens for many skilled and semi-skilled Kenyans, only a handful know the implications of working in countries where labour laws are hardly emphasised.

Some have even ignored media reports of gross brutality toward foreign labourers in some countries and gone ahead to embark on trips abroad, expecting greener pastures only to undergo modern-day slavery.

Child Brides of Butula

Source Radio Netherlands Worldwide Africa posted 2 March 2012

In Butula, a rural community in western Kenya, a local NGO deals with 12 child marriage cases a week. Some of these cases involve young girls who are inherited and forced to marry by a tribal practice called siebo.

By Joan Barsulai, Batula

Millicent Atieno is six months pregnant with her seventh child. Ordinarily, these should be exciting times for the average rural Kenyan mother, but Millicent is no ordinary mother. When her older sister died in 2005, this 15-year-old orphan was inherited by her 38-year-old brother-in-law, through a Kenyan Luhya tribe cultural practice known as siebo. She dropped out of school and took on the care of the three children that her sister had left behind.

Millicent is now 21-years-old, and she has since given birth to three additional children of her own, one being physically disabled. She has to be up by 5am daily to get her children to school, and then be at the neighbours’ farm by 6am. She tills land for seven hours in exchange for the equivalent of one euro, which she uses to feed and clothe her children.

Her husband, a construction worker, is presently unemployed and lives far from home. He absolves himself of all responsibility, claiming “I did not ask Millicent to marry me. It is the elders who gave Millicent to me to take care of her sister’s children. For women, there is no right age to get married. Millicent now has three children. If she was a child she could not have given birth.”

HIV and superstition
In this community of Butula in western Kenya, Mary Makokha is a local activist who is the director of a non-governmental organization, REEP (Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Programme) which handles child marriage cases. She says that the organisation handles an average of 12 such cases per week.

Besides cultural practices, Makokha also attributes HIV as one of the leading causes of child marriages in Butula. “Due to ignorance and cultural beliefs, there is a common belief that HIV infection is a curse and a bad omen. When people become ill, they sell off their property to pay oracles and witchdoctors, who they believe can cure them. Eventually they die, leaving behind a poverty-stricken homestead and vulnerable orphans, who will resort to either prostitution in exchange for food, or will get married just to survive.”

Abused orphan
Celestine Naiti is a 15-year-old orphan. After her parents died from AIDS, Celestine ended up being abused by her guardians. “My uncle would come home drunk everyday and beat me up. One day I went to get my hair shaved at the village centre, and my best friend introduced me to her 24-year-old brother-in-law. I went home with him that day and became his wife.”

Her husband, Geoffrey Wesonga, claims that he did not think that what he did was against the law because she came on her own accord. “I have seen other girls even younger than Celestine get married, so I thought it was fine. Celestine told me she was ready to stop school and marry me, because she was tired of the cruelty she was facing at her uncle’s home.” Celestine was rescued a week later and placed in an orphanage.

Children marrying children
There are also cases of children marrying children. These children attend school, and in the evenings they go back to the boy’s traditional hut. Miriam Mwachesa, a 16-year-old mother of two, recalls: “I had my firstborn child when my uncle raped me. Two years later I started a relationship with my classmate and I got a second baby with him.” Miriam has since dropped out of school to take up her mothering responsibilities.

With at least 12 child brides being rescued weekly in this community, Millicent Atieno’s children’s only fighting chance is perhaps the stable homestead that their mother currently provides, and staying in school. It may be too late for Millicent now she has resigned her life to motherhood and doing manual labour as a means of survival for her family. Perhaps she can live to see her dreams fulfilled by her children.

The Curse of Twin Children

Nation online June 18th 2012 by Daniel Otieno

For having six sets of twins, she must be purified with sheep’s urine, and that is just one of the rituals that she is required to undergo

Gladys Bulinya is a victim of her own fertility, a blessing that some of her people take a dim view of.

Traditionalists in the Baengele clan of the Bukusu community, to which her family belongs, believe that twins attract tragedy; that unless one of the twins dies, one or both of their parents will certainly die.

To avoid this and other nasty eventualities, they say that Gladys must go through a series of rituals.

Anything short of this and she will not be allowed to lead a normal life, which is why the 37-year-old mother of 12 is living in an orphanage.

And there is the small matter of faith. A Christian, Gladys will not hear of the rituals, a stand that has made friends and relatives turn their backs on her.

“I cannot cook for myself and my children. For meals, we line up at an orphanage. It hurts me that as a mother, my children cannot eat from my hands,” she laments.

Bukusu elder Issac Misuku says that the fact that Gladys has shunned the prescribed cleansing rituals means that the family to which the twins were born could be struck by incurable diseases and a series of misfortunes.

“My mother has shunned me because of this. I did not undergo the cleansing rituals, which include being washed with sheep’s urine. As a Christian, I know that it is not proper to undergo the rituals,” she says.

The mother of seven girls and five boys had her first set of twins with a secondary school student in Baringo when she was in Form Three.

She claims that she had to abandon the babies in hospital because her parents told her that she could not return home to Kona Mbaya village in Trans Nzoia District with them if she refused to be cleansed. The parents of the boy responsible took them in. They are now 19 and studying at a local university.

After three years, she again fell in love with a primary school teacher and gave birth to her second set of twins.

However, on being informed about the new bundles of joy, the man went underground. Predictably, her parents did not bother to visit her in hospital.

“I was sick and weak and there was nobody to a help me around. The bills were accumulating.”

But her guardian angel was by her side. A team of senior Health Ministry officials happened to visit the Kitale district hospital, where she was admitted, and discharged all patients who were being detained for failing to clear their bills.

“A good Samaritan paid a taxi driver to take me to the teacher’s home. But I found all the doors locked. Neighbours informed me that the whole family had left a week before for a cleansing ceremony.”

The taxi driver then offered to drive her to her parents’ home.

“My parents kicked me out of the compound. They said I was not welcome until I was cleansed. Once again I refused,” she recalls.

To be rid of her, her parents had a “bright” idea. “They arranged for me to get married to a man 20 years older than me. I was so desperate; all I needed was a place to call home, so I gave in to their demand,” she told DN2.

“I was the sole bread winner for the family. I was employed as a cook. My husband was always home with the children.”

Gladys later landed a farmhand’s job that paid slightly better. Neighbours told her new employer about the twins and how hiring her was a recipe for crop failure. But once more, luck was on her side.

“He told them that he was a professor of agriculture who had worked locally and internationally and would not be dragged into such parochial thinking,” she recalls.

Five years into the marriage, she conceived again and gave birth to twins.

Gladys had another set of twins before deciding to embrace contraception because she considered that her family was growing. But something went wrong and in 2007, there was another set of twins.

It was not the last.

In 2009, Gladys noticed signs of pregnancy despite assurances that the family planning method she had adopted would work.

“The test confirmed my worst fears. I was expectant. After a discussion with my husband and a doctor, we agreed to terminate the pregnancy.”

To finance this, Gladys decided to sell part of her land. In the meantime, she was admitted to hospital with high blood pressure. Since she was the owner of the land, her husband could not dispose of it without her consent.

A lawyer was sent to her bedside and papers were drawn up to empower her husband to complete the transaction.

The deal was completed, and that was the last she heard of her husband.

“A nurse friend helped me to sneak out of the hospital but shock awaited me at home,” she recalls.

The whole piece of land had been sold and the children were living in squalid conditions.

Gladys was told that the man disappeared the day he received the payment for the land.

The new land owner gave her notice to vacate. However, on learning of her plight, he rented a room for her at Nzoia, but this was just for three months.

“It was painful, but there was nothing I could do. I was a reject. I had to wash houses and weed shambasto survive.”

One day, there was a feast in the neighbouring village. She walked there to see if she could get work. Some people recognised her and chased her away as others took off.

“The owner of the home noticed the commotion and told them to leave me alone. He gave me some work to do, to the irritation of the superstitious lot,” she recalls.

After the day’s work, the owner of the home inquired where she lived and made a follow up.

He was touched when he saw the conditions in which Gladys and her children were living.

“He took our pictures and posted them on the Internet. That is how help started flowing in.”

A Catholic priest later took her to a convent. Another Catholic priest in the US who heard of her plight sent her money to start a small business. He also paid for the children to go to school.

Gladys’ shop was picking up when a group of volunteers donated food to her family. During the night, a gang pounced and she had to hand over all her money.

Early this year, a van pulled up at her shop. A white woman, whom she says was American, offered to buy her land on which to settle her family.

“I told them I could not leave immediately. It was not proper to leave without informing the leadership of the Catholic church that was hosting me.”

Gladys recalls the white woman telling her, amid sobs, that the people opposed to the offer were jealous of the new life she would lead. After three days of persuasion, she gave in. “I agreed and got into the vehicle.”

Gladys was to stay at an orphanage for three days after which she would be taken to her new home. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. She is still stuck at the orphanage with her seven children. Three others are in boarding school.

“Whenever I ask what happened to the promise of land, I am told that the American went back home and cut all links. I feel desperate and cheated. I wish I had remained in Trans Nzoia.”

The director of Gospel Fellowship Believers, Bishop Francis Bushebi, who hosts her in Bungoma, denies her allegations but says they were doing everything possible to help her and her children.

“We do not have a donor; all we get are small donations from well-wishers, which we use to support her.”

For Gladys, this is just another chapter in her struggle

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