Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Male Circumcision in Nyanza, an illusion to curb HIV/AIDS?

More than 1,500 have been circumcised in Migori district in free government initiative started four months ago. The number is expected to increase when schools close for the first term holidays.
Male circumcision gained prominence after the call by Prime Minister Raila Odinga call for males from the Luo community to undergo the cut. Culturally the Luo don’t circumcise their males as a right of passage.

The fever was too created by the University of Nairobi and Illinois indicating that circumcised males are at 60% reduced risk of STI and HIV infection.

According to the study special cells that easily attract HIV on the foreskin are removed making the glans be thicker and tougher. This reduces bruises during sexual intercourses minimizing HIV infection.

Mr. Joshua Were, the counselor at Migori district hospital told KNA the hospital performs mobile field events in the three sub-district hospitals to cater for the surge of clients and the number expected during the holiday.

The men are appalled by the voluntary medical circumcision because it roughly takes 2 hours to administer. Firstly initiates and their family are counseled and educated on sexual and reproductive health for an hour where they go for a 30 minutes surgery and another equal minute rest afterwards.

An initiate must be at least 10 years old. Dan Onyango, 15, a primary school student in Migori township said he asked for permission from the school authority to attend the circumcision.

Accompanied by his mother, master Onyango said his class mates informed him that the practice was free at the district hospital.

Mr. Were said the initiates should bath three days after initiation and wash the wound with warm salty water to avoid complication on the wound.

(27/02/09. The article was written while a volunteer intern in Migori Kenya News Agency.)

23 Hectares Afforestation in Migori district.

The pine forest was salvaged from dying up since it was past the 25 years maturity and to reduce to fire outbreaks
 About 100 residents of Migori district are benefitting from an ongoing 23 hectares afforestation of hills started about a year ago.

The residents work as casual laborers and forest guards in planting the Cyprus and eucalyptus seedlings in three phases. The seedlings are to replace the pine forest harvested by the government in 2007.

“The pine forest was salvaged from dying up since it was past the 25 years maturity and to reduce to fire outbreaks.” Said Mr. Mathews Ogutu the district forest officer.

Mr. Ogutu added that Cyprus and eucalyptus species are in high demand due to their fast maturity and planting in phases will avoid the hills being bear during harvesting as in current case.

Due to the proximity of forest to Migori town seven guards will be employed to curb deforestation due to high pressure of land.

Alliance On, a tobacco firm partners with the government by providing seedlings and laborers since forest cover increase carbon variety in tobacco.

(27/02/10. The article was written for Kenyan News Agency while I was a volunteer intern.)

How moonlight VCT helps Curb HIV/AIDS infection in South Nyanza, Kenya

Counselors waiting clients at a moonlight VCT in North Eastern parts of Kenya. The same has been carried out in Migori County.

By Manuel Odeny/KNA
24th February 2009 (March 2009 issue of The Eye)

About 2,000 residents of Migori district have benefited from moonlight VCT services carried out in three centers; Migori Town, Lwanda Konyango and Muhuru-Bay.

The Moonlight services mainly targets prostitutes and truck drivers on Kenya-Tanzania highway because of their high risk behaviors. Additionally, fishermen also benefited by knowing their HIV/AIDS status.

A total of 1960 clients were tested and counseled with only 245 of them testing positive placing the prevalence rate at 14%.

The moonlight VCT which started on May this year operated from early evening to 10pm with aid from the Community Habitant Funding (CFH) under the USAID and Maanisha initiative of AMREF.

Speaking to KNA Dickens Owuor a counselor said they targeted the clients since they were busy during the day and rested at night while commercial sex workers were readily available at night.

“Government administrators like police and chiefs offering security to counselors were also tested and counseled” Said Mr. Owuor

On the other hand couples busy during the day also preferred the night counseling to avoid stigmatization.

“This high number of couples attending the night time VCT will help reduce the high prevalence rate among married couples as experienced today” said Valoriance Odhiambo a counselor.

 “For the fight against HIV/AIDS to be managed working formulas like this have to be continued and replicated countrywide” said Owuor.

Last year of 23,173 clients tested in the three centers the number of males was higher than females with 867. The prevalence rate was higher in females at 24% which was 10% more than males.

The general district prevalence rate was 18%.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kibaki and Raila Tussle: When two Elephants Fight…….


Koffi Annan claps as Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga shake hands after the disputed 2007 elections
It was a fabulous valentine for me. 2010 lovers’ day was a fantastic day. My investing of time and money to a cause to aid an orphanage with destitute children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS was paying of.

As the Maseno University organizing secretary of the Red Cross society I was putting the final touches of preparation. That is when the SMS alert from VOA alerted me.

The first was about Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki telling 8 key government officials to stand aside for investigation of missing funds of free primary education and the lost maize.
The second proclaimed that agriculture minister William Ruto and education minister (no Prof.) Sam Ongeri. This was to pave way for what Raila termed as ‘free and transparent investigation’. Whatever that means

When I broke the news to my fellow volunteers there was jubilation. The country was pissed off by corrupt government and failed persecution of kingpins.

We hugged happily and lauded the move. That was until three hours later when the state house revoked the move.

Within a short period the country was caught in a frenzy of speculation. The two principals locked horns and the effect was crazy on Kenyans.

Journalists, bloggers, tweeters and facebook were a buzz with what was happening. That is except yours truly The Burning Splint.

I was trying to grapple with reality and seize the story through the media. I lost track. It was the time again as it has been for he last 27 years for a piece of article called constitution to be interpreted,

With politicians most willing to hear themselve talk, the constitution will be interpreted in anyway that suit their interests at the expense of Kenyans.

An African adage goes that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.

When some idiots in a name of Electoral Commission of Kenya (now disbanded) could not count the votes the countries went in fire. In the name of two elephants, Raila and Kibaki is, over 1,500 Kenyans lost their lives. A score of others are still in IDP camps.

Raila silently advised Caroli Omondi and Mohammed Isahakia key officers in Prime Minister Office involved in the maize scandal to step aside. Feeling invisible Raila quoted the national accord and the constitution as giving him power to supervise ministe

And then before you can say PriceWaterHouseCoopers report he flew to Japan.
It took the intervention of outsiders to bring semblance of peace in the country. By making the country go back to where it was: sitting tight and look for calmness as the thieves fleece the country.

They take food from the poor mans mouth. Two academicians not worth to be called professor in charge of ministry of education can’t account for lost money. As donors are pulling out the government promise to look for taxpayers’ money to repay them without accounting for the lost money.

These are some episodes which give me the heart not to go for the voter’s card.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Movie Review: Gifted Hands The Ben Carson Story

Movie: Gifted Hands
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Kimberly Elise, Anjanue Ellis
Director and Producer: Thomas Carter
The enriching life of Dr. Benjamin Carson has been immortalized in a movie.
The movie is based on the book Gifted Hands: The story of Ben Carson written by Carson and Cecil Murphey about the pediatric neuro-surgeon at John Hopkins, Baltimore.
The movie starts with the 1987 birth of siamese twins in Ulm City, West Germany. The parents were told the twins were joined on their heads after a scan. The Rauchs (played by) refused an abortion and killing on child since they loved them both.
The twenty two hours operation became the first separation of twins worldwide done by Dr, Ben Carson (Cuba Gooding Jr.)
Dr. Ben Carson grew up in the ghettos of Detroit from wielding knives to a renowned worldwide surgeon by wielding a scalpel.
From a dummy at the bottom of his fifth grade class Carson raised himself by dedication to God, extensive reading books and thinking positive amongst other tributes.
Thomas Carter, The producer and director has done a great job in summarizing the original book. The ground breaking surgery work by Carson is captured by the separation of the Rausch twins.
On the other hand Gooding Jr make up makes him resemble Dr. Carson in real life.

Movie Review: My Best Friend’s Wife

Movie: My best friend’s wife
Starring: John Stamos, Daniel London, Meredith Salenger and Tara Westwood.
Director: Doug Finelli
Reviewer: Manuel Odeny

My best friend’s wife tries to look at unfaithfulness in the life of couples after a long stay and the first spark dies.
Steve Meyers (John Stamos) convinces his wife Claire (Tara Westwood) of a swap with his childhood buddy Eric Meyer (Daniel London) to avoid infidelity in their relationship.
Meyers argues that after birth and free sexual experiences couples are tied up together in steady relationships. Boring albeit. The boredom may be eased by controlled infidelity!
On the other hand Eric Meyer finds it an uphill task to convince his sweetheart Ami (Meredith Salenger) of the swap plan.
When at last the swap happens the effect is felt in tension in their relationship and family.
Tension builds when Ami and Steve sleep together while Eric and Claire opt to be faithful.
The director Doug Finelli skillfully makes the story line to grip and the characters play their parts superbly to hold the viewer to the end.
The only thumbs down is that in African culture where sex in held in privately and least casual the movie only makes for an emotional fantasy.

Music Review: Bermuda Affair by UjoC

Album: Bermuda Affair

Singer: UjoC

Tracks: 10

Reviewer: Manuel Odeny

UjoC, real name Eugene Charles Otieno, has released his ten track album; Bermuda Affair.

UjoC, a Maseno University third year student released his first album featuring dancehall music with his personal label Gate Crashers Records.

The third year varsity student opted for personal production to cut cost of hiring a producer and hopes to brand his label nationally.

In the album UjoC has featured other musicians in six songs. Notable is Kisumu City K-Lo in “no apologies” among other singers like Rider, Chiness and Lafam Dawg.

The singer is talented and uses the Jamaican slangs and beats laced with Kenyan touch in easy rap flow. “She Luv Dat” UjoC keeps with the high pace dancehall beat with quick rap to soothe and drag the listener to the dance floor.

Book Review: The Art of Publishing a Newspaper by Kodi Barth

The complete introduction in art of newspaper publication for both students and journalists

Title: The Art of Publishing a Newspaper
Author: Kodi Barth (French copy by Daniel Fra and Eyoum Ngague)
Publisher: Pauline’s publications Africa (2001)
Pages: 159
Genre: Academics

The African media is faced with many challenges prime being political censorship and poor infrastructure. In addition there are no adequate educational materials for journalism study. The Art of Publishing a Newspaper is beneficial to principle players in print media like students, journalists and even the public.

Kodi Barth, a seasoned Kenyan journalist and media scholar (he sits on the board of East African media review rag Expression Today). he translated the book from French title “ Creer, gerer vet anime rune publication.” By Daniel Fra and Eyoum Ngague (1998)

The book is easily divided into eight chapters. Firstly there is need to build an editorial content by having appropriate title published at a specific period for targeted audience. The book advises that the editorial content should be permanent and agreed upon by all key players to secure readers loyalty.

Recruitment of a team by either advertising, recommendation or co-opting of journalists is in the heart of publishing a newspaper. In addition writers, freelancers and correspondents working away from editorial board should be paid in time and nurtured since they reduce the cost of publishing. The managing editor, though role differs in each media house, is in charge of the editorial content helped by section editors and subs.

The team would have the legal and administrations requirement as stipulated in the country to skirt around law as a safety barrier against libel, censorship and legalization of content.

The Art of Publishing a Newspaper entails too the acquisition of technicals like secure premises with adequate means of communication and first and efficient computers in editorial, sales and accounting department of the paper.

The book points that financing of papers is a risky since profit ploughed back take years to grow. This is due to readers taking time to get used to the paper. Advice is given on getting initial finance and how to manage them.

Guidelines are given on strategy and techniques of attracting advertising revenue and how rates apply. The advertising team should attract advertisers and not let them control the editorial content least they scare away readers.

Lastly the difficulty of distributing of paper amid poor transport network and low readership outside major towns is outlined. The book advises on reginalisation in areas where the newspaper is strong like Taifa Leo in Coast province and other circulating in major cities. Groupings of newspaper houses with radio and Tv stations in covering news he;ps too in seling the paper.

Bartholomew A. Kodi translations is outlined with local Kenyan highlighted issues which which gives stories a home touch. Especially The Seed a catholic magazine in their use of digital colour photos.

The book involves a quick read for journalists and stakeholders to highlight the print industry with little scholarly touch since it deals with more practical than academic journalism.

Book Review: Homestretch by Velma Pollard

A masterpiece in Kenya: The beautiful literary work, beauty of Caribbean lifestyle captured.
Title: Homestretch
Author: Velma Pollard
Publisher: Longman Caribbean Writers (1994)
Pages: 188
Genre: Fiction (literature)

Velma Pollard book Homestretch is currently a literature set book in Kenyan secondary schools as passed by the ministry of education.

It seams that bringing a Caribbean book for African high school students didn’t click as the the fever of negritude, slavery and colonization may be dead in this younger generation which made most students view the book as ‘plain boring’. Most students didn't do the set  book in the national examinations while other schools completely refused to teach it.

Sometimes the Jamaican patwa and Caribbean character setting did not resonate well with Kenyan problems of ethnicity, corruption and poverty in society. The characters are also well off compared to general Kenyan standards. Personally I guess Caribbean writer George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin set in pre-colonial Jamaican could have been better.

Firstly this phenomenon is brought by "not denying the influence of songs like ‘Ba ba black sheep have you any wool?’…the fact that we learnt all about Shakespeare and so on has done something in our minds to make us, somehow ashamed,” prolific writer Okot p’Bitek observed as interviewed by Robert Serumanga in London on February 1967.
The 60s Africa was held together with a quest for independence from colonialists. The negritude fever was fueled further by Rastafarian, Kwame Nkurumah, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and Marcus Garvey not only in the continent but globally.

This has left, according to some scholars, the current generation rootless in negritude fever making Caribbean seem so far explaining the Homestretch ordeal.Scholars like Simwogerere Kyazee of Rhode University Journalism and media school argue the allure of absurdity of Big Brother Africa, Jay Z marrying Beyonce or Brad Pritt and Angelina Jolie breaking up the Jolie-Pritt union as more entertaining.

I had this ‘plain boring’ mindset till I read the book in 12  hours, it was very interesting and written in an easy plot formation capturing the reader to the end.

Velma Pollard, a senior languages lecturer at university of West Indies unravels the life of Jamaicans coming home after being in Diaspora. Pollard interweaves the western world and Jamaica as seen through four character's facets: Anthony, Brenda, Laura, Edith and David.
In excitement for a new life David and Edith left Jamaica as young couples for thirty years like most countrymen. They represent Africans in pursuit for greener pastures in the west. After shifting through work with David being a factory foreman and Edith as a nurrse the two come back to find a different country.

The two elderly couples represent the calmness home brings after the wondering turmoil.
Through Brenda the author brings the ‘lost’ Africans torn between the West and African cultures, Homestretch calls them the dry land tourists. Pollard humorously writes that “it was the twang that gave these tourists away. Halfway between Jamaica and America. The attempt to yank English when your version leaves aitches off and includes green verbs always result in something a little comical.”
Raised by her single mother MamaJoy, Brenda feels that Jamaica rejected her as she joined her father in New York. The cultural readjustments in a racially inclined education system favoring whites, and the distant makes her life difficult. Before fitting completely they move to London. Interestingly, the  Jamaican community edges her away because of her American dialect thinking she is a snob.
Lost and with low self esteem Brenda joins a radical African group opting for poetry to express her bottled up feelings and grows dreadlocks. She strikes out at  Jamaica wondering why this ‘dirty, poor and third world country' rejected her.
As a journalist back home back home covering a Jamaican story for a Black monthly tabloid the author uses Brenda on a journey to re-discover Jamaica. She shows an ordeal for educated but unemployed expatriates finding work abroad.

This is also reflected by Anthony a Stanford educated industrial engineer representing blacks in diaspora tied to the west for good pay and easy life but emotionally attached to their motherland. He lives in a black neighborhood in LA as he closely study Edith and David on their re-settlement before settling and staring a company.
When chance permits Anthony constantly visits home. He easily play the role of an anthropologist giving Brenda and readers a tour of Jamaica and the culture of other Caribbean islands.

Velma Pollard
Lastly, the ideal facet by black in diaspora is seen through Laura a surrogate daughter of David and Edith who lived in UK but easily settles in Jamaica. She fits easily with both characters bridging the gap between her parents nostalgic Jamaica, Brenda’s ‘dirty’ Jamaica and her Cousin, Anthony’s interests in Jamaica.
She joins the village life and local meeting like cultural Mento Yard while parties with fellow Diasporas back in the country. She aids in plot formation by bringing out the character traits of others.
Laura is an epitome of  change since culture is not static, the author uses her to show that the African and Western world can exist peacefully when both sides are easily understood. Laura symbolizes this ideal.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is Africa Depicted Negatively In The Foreign Press?

To the West an African Pornography: Starving girl trying to get to feeding center,in Sudan famine, 1993. Photo by Kevin Carter who committed suicide not long after receiving a Pulitzer for the photo. No one knows if the girl lived. 

Though depicted negatively by foreign media, Africa is not the first continent in the world to suffer. China is awakening giant even after the military aggressiveness of Japan on its population.

Japan itself picked up after the devastating effect of atomic bomb in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Aborigines of Australia were executed and discriminated upon. The Nazi German’s treatment of Non-Aryans (not only Jews) is amongst the most horrific historical event and culminated to WWII.

The mighty USA has its own bag of mysteries. The northern states fought relentlessly with southern conservatives to abolish slave trade. The African-Americans suffered discrimination akin to apartheid with the FBI campaigning to drive The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jnr to suicide. Biological weapons were used to exterminate Red Indians from the Colorado gold rash.

The bottom line is that blood has to be split for nation building. It is a catharsis. The land is turned red mud with blood. The mud then binds the nation together in a common cause like independence, peace (formation of Southern Sudan) and industrial revolution.

War is an opiate to a solution or a break up like former Yugoslavia.

Always the foreign journalists may depict Africa negatively. Their audience and editorial policy may dictate. But at times it borders in sheer ignorance. A bleak nth Africa for the Western world.

Two cases exemplify, firstly Ori Brafman the New York Times intelligence columnist wrote of Al Qaeda job opportunities in African slums. Brafman gave example of Kenyan Mathare and Kibera slums (biggest in Africa after Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa).

“The poverty in those slums-no running water, no electricity, sewerage flowing- is difficult to describe. As a small group of us walked down the street, our guide pointed to some men in an alley ‘See, over there?’ he said almost nonchalantly, ‘that’s is al Qaeda’’ Roots of Extremism (Sunday Nation, March 22nd 2009)

This is far sited; there are organised crimes in Kibera, like in all ghettos similar to Harlem, but the idea of an Al-Qaeda cell nauseate!

I’m a Kenyan, there is Al-Qaeda encroachment in Northern coast at Lamu and around Somali border, but a cell in the capital city in farfetched.

The second case standing out like a sore thumb is Washington Post former Nairobi bureau chief Blaine Harden’s Africa: Dispatches from a fragile continent, (Harper Collins Publishers, 1990)

The book raises the thorny issue on how Africa and Africans are portrayed in the western media. The title dispatches from a fragile continent espouses the idea. The author ‘weeps’ for Africa not out of pity but due to lack of understanding.

Blaine Hardens quips in introduction that people in his home town, Moses Lake in Washington DC die properly. When old or in a car wreck but not by famine, leprosy and cholera like Africa.

While meeting together with other journalists in Addis Ababa at the ‘first world famine watcher’ harden writes: “(we) dined together over discussions of the advisability of repeated shampoos to get germs out of our hair….we warned each other to be careful: keep your fingers away from your mouth while in the camps. The children who want to touch you do not use toilet paper. Their little cute hands carry all kind of disease.”

I wasn’t smiling while reading the lines.

The negative coverage is echoed too by Dr. Kofi Annan, Ms Graca Michel and Mr., Michel Camdessus, members of Africa Progress Panel.

“The remarkable progress that Africa has made in the past decade is not widely recognized. Across the continent, there are numerous success stories. We have seen the spread of free and fair elections, a rise in school enrolment rates, and determined effort to combat malaria…..recently, the Africa Progress Panel, on which we sit, launched its 2009 state of Africa report in Cape Town. We recognize that the root of development crises always begin outside Africa” (http://www.africaprogresspanel.org/)

The forth estate illusions

Intellectually how western media cover African news boils down to the fourth estate issue. For the state’s affairs to run smoothly both estates must work with one goal.

The four estates including the media are executive, judiciary and legislature.

In reporting the fourth estate always places the states interest first.

UK Times Martin Meredith in The State of Africa: A history of fifty years of Independence. (Free Press, London. 2006) writes of the ism-schism of capitalism and communism. The elephants- USA and USSR- descended on the African grass for the struggle of world supremacy.

The cold war, Otiose to Africa, was triggered by emergence of sovereign states which could topple the scales at world scene.

At its peak in ‘60s US supported Mobutu Sese Seko to plunder Zaire and aided in usurping Liberia’s resources. American firestone controlling rubber plantations helped prop semi-illiterate Samwel Doe. Liberia and Zaire become the largest information centers for CIA spy information. VOA turned the other way since it was broadcasting from Liberia to Africa without paying a dime!

On the other hand Russia, in association with Cuba, propped Major Mengistu Haile Mariam red terror in Ethiopia and thwarted west influence in Angola against rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in a blood bath.

In his book Blaine Harden gets abrasive at the United States involvement in Zairian crises. The blame is placed on Mobutu Sese Seko. President Eisenhower regarded Patrice Lumumba; Mobutu’s rival a mad dog and personally ordered his assassination. Mobutu answered directly to CIA Kinshasa chief Lawrence Devlin while being on the CIA payroll even when he was the president!

On 20th August 1965 President Eisenhower gave orders to CIA to use

$100,000 to eliminate Lumumba so as to avoid ‘another Cuba.’ Mobutu was thus propped even though Zaire was collapsing. Within 23 years Mobutu’s regime received $860 million aid for the CIA to operate base in Zaire and supply UNITA guerrillas under a one Jonas Savimbi in fighting Marxist forces in Angola.

To digress, the US at this age still hold on the Cuban embargo when they could finance Mobutu, don’t you feel the irony?

The two authors, Meredith and Harden, give insight on the state affair stance when they tackle Sudan civil war.

Meredith treats Sudan with velvet gloves; he argues the war started after the introduction of sharia laws.

This is far from Blaine Harden, placing the problem on British rule. Harden, an American, writes that by the failure to effectively colonize the Muslim North the Britons segregated the Christian South.

The segregation brought two distinct cultures. At independence the ‘suit’ wearing Christian South considered the northern Muslims with suspicion. The Arabs had sold them as slaves.

The passing of sharia laws just exploded a simmering volcano and turned the fissures into a mountain of a problem.

With otiose cultural misgivings Anglo-phone and Franco-phone flex their muscles to neo-colonize their former colonies with devastating effects. French propped and turned against Jean Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic because he was a French soldier during the WWII.

In a bid to suppress the spread of Anglo-phone influence in central Africa, French propped and maintained a genocide regime in Rwanda against the Tutsi and moderate Hutus. The effect was the 1994 Rwandan genocide which spread towards DRC and Northern Uganda causing the fall of two ‘Anglo-phone’ leaders, viz. Mobutu Sese Seko and Milton Obote.

BBC and UK press inclusive of Meredith’s book relished in the coverage of above stories! My gripe with The State of Africa: A history of fifty years of Independence is casting of French as villains in expense of the Britons.

The BBC hardliner stance on Zimbabwe is a state gimmick against the retaking of white farms by the government.

May I not be misunderstood. The foreign press should not be wholesomely criticized for writing negatively on Africa. Impact of a story is what makes news. The foreign media in Africa is always free from influence and threat in news reporting.

This has helped Africans to get news above partisan reporting.

When the Kenyan government during the 2007-08 election crises banned live broadcast, Kenyans got the news from CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera and Sky News.

The tribal tension forced people at home, including me, to shun all radio stations and newspapers and gather for the evening Swahili BBC broadcast!

That is why foreign journalists are always banned from some countries. BBC’s John Simpson rubbed Zimbabwe’s government the wrong way by his reports. He was forced during the tension between Robert Mugabe and Morgan to report from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Blain Haden was almost thrown out of Kenya for accurate reporting when the government’s crackdown on the media was rife. Kenyan media houses were forced to self regulate to skirt around the government’s shears.