Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: When the Sun goes Down, introducing international short stories

Title: When the Sun Goes Down

Author: Emilia Ilieva and Waveney Olembo (Editors)

Publisher: Sasa Sema, 2011

Genre: Fiction (Anthology)

Pages: 199

Reviewer: Manuel Odeny

This title When the Sun Goes Down and other stories from Africa and Beyond is an anthology of sixteen short stories by Emilia Ilieva and Waveney Olembo, both dons in Egerton and Kenyatta university respectively.

Since literature is taught as a mirror which reflects the society this collection as a high school set book in English subject reflects not only to the Kenyan society but also at the international scene with increased titles from foreign writers.

Firstly with 16 stories with international writers, the book has surpass last year’s set book Half a Day and other stories which had 12 from Eastern and North Africa, this new set book has writers from Colombia, India, USA and Japan for the first time in Kenyan set books.

With the high rate of globalization brought by the speed of internet connectivity and media problem in far corner of the world like economic recession, terrorism attack and global warming affects us making this new set up a welcome.

Even though descriptions of the settings and characters may be alien to Kenyan students and readers, their themes are highly linked to us. The international story Tuesday Siesta by Colombian Gabriel Marquez and Sandra Street by Trinidadian Michael Anthony tackle issue of global warming and environmental degradation in an easy writing prose.

Equally, the issue of poverty is brought fore by USA writer Tillie Olsen’s I stand Here Ironing which contrasts the image of the rich western image.

On the other hand, the collection by the two writers Ilieva and Olrmbo has also managed to pass across readers the themes of HIV/AIDS, gender relations, corruption, war and human relations and peculiarities.

The main story When the Sun Goes Down written by Kenyan Goro wa Kamau and gave the book its title, talks succinctly on how society treats and stigmatise HICV/AIDS victims by following the lives of positive couples struggling for acceptance from their neighbors.

The story too like Kenyan Grace Ogot’s Bamboo Hut and Moroccan Leila Abouzeid Two Stories of a House also tackle the issue of gender relation not only in the family but also among members of the society.

Ugandan Moses Isegawa’s The War of the Ears which tackles the use of child soldiers in an African setting resonates well with the readers with the sentencing of DRC warlord Thomas Lubanga by ICC last week. Isegawa who was a refugee in Gulu Town of Northern Uganda writes from experience to invoke the image of a society living in terror of warped children militias. Interestingly, Isegawa is the author of Snakepit which had favorite reviews in Kenyan media few years back.

Other stories like Arrested Development by Zimbabwean Sindisile Tshuma talks of corruption and poort road infrastructure akin the chaotic matatus in Kenya while Sefi Atta from Nigeria talks about the issue of emigrants from West Africa going to Spain through North Africa by following the hazardous journey of a would be emigrant in Twilight Trek.

As an anthology the editors of When the Sun Goes Down have managed to open up high school students to literature of the world by increasing their appreciation with foreign writers. Equally, by mixing seasoned writers like Kenyan Grace Ogot and Nigerian Cyprian Ekwensi with new hands in literature like Sindisile Tshuma, Sefi Atta and Moses Isegawa, readers will appreciate the value of a story regardless of the timeline used.

With the government approval of the short story title with foreign writers for the first time shows that the high school students who are highly connected with Facebook, twitter and contemporary media will have the urge to not only read and appreciate African literature but open up to the world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gold: Mining made easier as miners cash in on simple stone crusher

Mined ore next to the simple ore crusher at Macalder mines, Migori County

Gold mining is not a simple job, especially when it involves using rudimentary methods to get the precious mineral.

For the miners at the Macalder Mines in Migori, it has taken days on end, at times weeks to crush an ore. However, those who have seen the miners suffering have thought out ways of helping them and developed a simple ore crusher that has now made their work easy.

The crusher comes as a big reprieve to the miners who have been extracting the gem stone manually, incurring huge losses and wasting too much time.

“It used to take up to two days for miners to crush their ore manually in the energy sucking process, but after the ore crusher was introduced there is ease in gold extraction,” says

George Odhiambo, an official with the Migori County Association of Miners.

Odhiambo notes that the crusher has been replicated in other areas of Nyanza such as Rongo, Kuria and Rachuonyo districts.

Equally, with the ore crusher, the number of miners has gone up with more women opting for the occupation which was previously male dominated.

At the mines Jacinta Auma, a 30 year widow with four children, spreads her five basins of ore next to the crusher. Auma wakes up at 5am to transport the ore which takes her two days to collect.

Initially she would carry the ore on her head as she could not afford to pay the KSh100 charged for transportation using a donkey but says with the ore crusher has made her work easier as she is sure to get her gold and sell it by evening.

“Work has been simplified since we started using the crusher. With these five basins I expect about 0.3g of fine gold which will earn me about KSh750,” explains Auma.

Auma opted to invest in a stone crusher after her husband who was miner and the sole bread winner was diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 2007 and bed ridden for three years.


“We started mining in the hope that he would recover, but he eventually became paralysed and we decided to dispose of some of the family assets to buy a crusher which now has been our major source of income,” says Auma said, adding their children are also now going to school.

The first ore crusher was introduced shortly after eight members of the Migori County Association of Miners attended workshops in Zambia and South Africa, which are renowned mining economies in Africa, to learn about best practices in mining.

“After the training, we received funding to educate miners in the area on how to assemble the simple ore crusher after which we gave out a few for trial in the mines,” explains Odhiambo.

The ore crusher has helped to fill the void in the market, as locals take a lead in making them. At the moment, the crusher has been a successful venture that allows for greater prospecting in the area.

“The ore crusher is also a source of revenue for locals who want to make money by offering crushing services,” observes Odhiambo.

The ore crusher shows how other brands like Wrangler Jeans and Boots which came with the gold rush in United States are tough even though they didn’t look for gold directly.

To get a crusher one needs around KSh350,000. What one needs is a China made diesel engine which rotates a locally assembled motor with specially placed 350-500 steel balls each weighing about 205kg to crush the ore like a posho mill.

“The steel balls are contained in a locally fabricated steel container with an opening to allow for the ore to be placed and crushed into fine powder within 30-45 minutes,” explains Odhiambo.

He notes that a water tank constructed near the crushers help in cooling the machine so it does not over heating as the water circulates within the steel balls.

Since the money needed to assemble a crusher is not little, those who own it charge a fee so the miners can crush their rocks.

Clinton Oballa who owns a crusher charges about KSh70 for a basin of ore with a single session taking up to 7 basins which in a good week gives him something close to KSh5,000 before deducting the cost of running the machine
All rights reserved © 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Poem: Metamorphosis by Marieta Maglas, Romania

The idea staying on
its edge of dream
like the winter
melting on its
edge of spring,
so serendipitously
to give birth to
the reality.

©Marieta Maglas, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Africa: New DNA forensic tools to nab elephant poachers

Seized tusks by Kenya Wildlife Services, KWS.
A group of US scientists have developed a forensic tool that can help to catch elephant poachers by mapping out the animals’ mitochondria DNA.

The researchers collected mtDNA samples from 653 African elephants from 22 locations in 13 African countries including Kenya where elephant poaching is rampant to help determine where poached ivory comes from.

“The method developed in this research will be used by conservationists to determine the provenance of confiscated ivory since it is often hard to trace ivory back to where it came from,” lead researcher Alfred Roca, from University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences said.

“A ship may have left from a certain port in Africa, but that’s not necessarily the country where the elephants were poached,” he said adding that Sequencing the mtDNA can give a good indication of where the ivory is being poached, “then steps can be taken by that particular country to prevent the poaching from taking place.”

The research "Triangulating the provenance of African elephants using mitochondrial DNA" is published by Evolutionary Applications last week.

Following the research the Kenya Wildlife Services can use the finding to safeguard the country’s 37,000 jumbos which has been growing at 4% annually from 16,000 in 1989 when poaching for ivory was banned internationally.

Before being banned population of the jumbos in the country stood at 167,000 before poaching and reduced range are at current 107,113 Sq km, 33% of which is protected affected their growth.

“Our records indicate that Kenya lost 278 elephants to illegal killings last year. KWS will continue offering accurate and timely information on wildlife population dynamics to the public,” KWS states on its website.

It adds that the frequent seizures of ivory on transit at Kenya’s main airports “does not necessarily originate from local illegal killing of elephants” which the research is set to unravel.

From the research mitochondria DNA which is only transmitted by female jumbo who don’t migrate between herds and can be traced in seized ivory which when mapped from stored data can locate their origin.

“108 unique mtDNA sequences were identified which provided fine-scale information about the origin of the ivory. Among the sequences, 72 percent were found in only one locality and 84 percent of them were country-specific” the research states.

By combining the results with five earlier trans-national surveys it has helped to spot “81 elephant locations in 22 African countries with among the 101 unique short sequences detected, 62 percent were present in only one country,” which will aid in curbing poaching.

Other researchers involved in the work are Yasuko Ishida and Nicholas Georgiadis.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kuria man jailed for 7 years for stealing five cows

By Burning Splint Writer
A Trans Mara man has been jailed for seven years after a court found him guilty of stealing five cows worthSh150,000.

The accused, Stephen Chacha is said to have stolen the cows belonging to Samuel Murget at Ngoperai area of Trans Mara on August 18 last year.

Appearing before the Kilgoris Principal Magistrate Bernard Ochieng’ the complainant told the court that on the fateful day he discovered his cows were missing while driving his heard home in the evening after grazing them.

He added that he immediately informed his neighbours who searched the animals to no avail before reporting the matter to the area chief who reported the matter in the neighbouring Kuria East district where the animals were spotted.

“We were informed by the area chief that the cows have been spotted at the accused home after which we went there and confirmed it,” Murget told the court.

But in mitigation the accused said he found the cows wondering in the grazing field without a herder and took them home for safety saying he “only took the cows to my home because they did not appear to have an owner.”

But in his ruling the magistrate found the accused guilty as charged saying since cattle rustling was rampant in the area causing conflict the sentence will “serve as a lesson to others with similar motives.

©An Anonymous Friend

Monday, August 13, 2012

Capital flight: Africa losing out stashed illicit funds

Dr Dereje Alemayehu the Christian Aid Country Representative for East Africa and chair for Tax Justice Network-Africa
More resources are being flown out of Africa than Aid coming in which translates for every $1(Sh81) for development Aid, $10(Sh810) is illegally taken from the continent in capital flight, a Tax Justice Network official has said.

Capital flight which also accounts for tax loss to countries origin as stashed loot is permanently put beyond the reach of domestic authorities also makes resources and capital being flown out of these countries to be untaxed an un-accounted for.

“Poor countries (like African ones) are deprived of the badly needed tax revenues on income earned from multinationals and assets which are illegally held offshore which is often fueled by low tax collection capacity, corruption, weak (law) enforcement mechanism” Dr Dereje Alemayehu the Christian Aid Country Representative for East Africa and chair for Tax Justice Network-Africa said.

Alemayehu says that capital flight is usually driven corrupt citizens stashing away their loot and by multi-nationals with several country branches by falsifying invoices by inflating or undervaluing prices to increase cost and diminish tax liability, and parent company selling to each other in countries goods and services at inflated prices to inflate cost for tax evasion.

He adds that ‘round-tripping’ where local businesses send money offshore and bring it back disguised as foreign investment to get preferential tax treatment is also a main cause of capital flight.

“Round tripping is done from tax havens like Miami, Switzerland, London, Cayman Islands with a case in question being Mauritania with has only 76,000 citizens but boosts of 82,000 registered companies mostly done on over the internet” Alemayehu says.

According to the recent Global Financial Integrity (GFI) 2009 report on capital flight the vice in Africa is growing faster than any other region in the world at 22.3% which accounts for $333,778.51m with the world figure standing at US$1.55tn.

Alemayehu adds that in the same year GFI released the report his organization Christian Aid did a research of capital flight in ‘mis-pricing’ within multinationals between 2005-2007 where Kenya lost £32m of taxes with Nigeria losing £502m while globally the loss was £190.8bn.

His statement comes after the country’s Swiss ambassador Jacques Pitteloud is reported to have said that Kenya won’t recover US$857 million (Sh72bn) stashed in Switzerland until it shows the money was looted and obtained illegally by those who obtained it.

Pitteloud who was responding to The Swiss National Bank (SNB), Switzerland Central Bank, report on the country’s banking sector that revealed Kenyans have stashed away the money in the country, and added that it will be upon the country judicial to ascertain if the individuals named are corrupt first.

According to the report EAC countries have at least US$1.3bn(Sh105.3bn) in Switzerland with Kenya leading the pack followed by Tanzania $178m( ), Uganda ($159m), Rwanda ($29.7m) and Burundi ($16.7m).

This report comes amid fear that money from the country’s mega scandals like Goldenberg, Anglo-leasing, Triton saga amongst others are stashed in the country.

Alemayehu says African countries worst affected by capital flight like Kenya should fight corruption and have a political commitment to end the vice by redesigning tax policies to enable maximization revenue collection by stamping out loopholes like tax incentives.

“(By having) regional and continental tax cooperation and policy harmonization to avoid race to the bottom tax competition, and safeguard African interest in international taxation dialogue” he says.

To root out the vice internationally he also recommends a multilateral agreement to expand and deepen tax information exchange by disclosure of ownership information and coordinated counter-measures against culprits.

On capital flight within multi-nationals operating in different countries he says there should be transparency between their internal trading and “there should be an obligation for each multinationals company to report financial details for every country in which it operates”.

Alemayehu was speaking at the African Center for Media Excellence Center (ACME) in Kampala Uganda during a Thomas Reuters Financial and Economic training.

© Manuel Odeny, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Poem: Pygmalion and Galatea by Marieta Maglas, Romania

Your sight was poignantly penetrating
me within. Your blue eyes were even more
bittersweet in that opaque singleness, our
touch was like a sadness piano song. I did
not know when you really wanted to exist
for yourself while pretending to be existent. I
kissed you and you thought that it was only a
kiss, but I wanted to swallow your silence and
to blow into the air your defense. You were
dying inside of you. You loved me in this
secret room of ours. We could understand our
existence. That room kept us hidden from
the whole world for a second. In our
dream, we became free. We tried to free
our mind and our souls, but our dream couldn't
generate any idea. We made love for no
other reason but to love each other. I
became a milky white ivory Galatea of
yours .You made me your woman for
that sense of belonging. I needed that , I
wanted my own metamorphosis. I became
that Galatea not being able to leave the
love cell. In your absence, I became that
Galatea wallowing in hopelessness,
understanding that the sadness was the
only thing really existent inside. I became
that Galatea wanting to see again your green-blue
loving eyes. You became that Pygmalion of mine,
for without me ....

© Marieta Maglas, Romania
(I got this poem re-living the greek play of sculptor Pygmalion and his life like statue Galatea on my FB timeline this morning from my poet pal and wished to share it with the world. To get more of Marieta Maglas poems click here)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Politics: Why Kuria will be a launch pad to enter ODM Luo Nyanza turf

Ndaragwa MP Jeremaih Kioni, the introduces UDF presidential aspirant Musalia Mudavadi at Mabera when the party opened it's county offices.
Since their inclusion into Migori County the Kuria community, a minority tribe according to numbers has enjoyed a lot of national political activity with the run up of the coming elections.
The palpable fear within the community of being locked out by majority luo tribe within the county has seen some leaders, including the current MP and Assistant Roads Minister Wilfred Machage, to unanimously vote for NO during the past referendum and some to request Kuria to be joined in Rift Valley.
This fear coupled with the versatility of the tribe in voting for their leaders in line with their respective clans of; Bakira, Abagumbe, Nyabasi and Burege have seen chosing candidates from their clans irrespective of the party.
“The Kuria area in both East and West districts have 33 councilors with ODM being strong in the county having 11 with the rest divided between the score of PNU affiliate parties, Kanu and even Kenya Social Congress, a party associated with Mukaru Ng’ang’a having a civic seat” Tobias Range the Kehancha mayor explains.
Range says this dynamic politics makes it hard to predict the voting outcome of the Kuria area which within Nyanza bloc in the 2007 general elections gave President Mwai Kibaki 23,000 votes against PM Raila Odinga’s 19,000 votes.
Now with this versatility national parties with a keen interest to try to log out ODM’s grip from South Nyanza are using Kuria and Kisii area as a launching pad to infiltrate within Luo Nyanza which are hard to convince to get another party.
“The areas of Homa Bay and Migori counties are seen as hardcore ODM zones which has made politicians seeking to open their county offices in Migori to meet the IEBC guidelines to do so in Kuria which together with Kisii area may be instrumental in campaigning in Southern Nyanza” Patrice Musabi the Siabai councilor in Kuria East says.
To show the potential of the area, within the past two months the area have been a flurry of activities with New Ford Kenya presidential aspirants Eugene Wamalwa and United Democratic Front’s Musalia Mudavadi; and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi having a extensive road campaign in Kuria while giving a wide berth Luo section of Migori county.
Within this period UDF opened their county offices at Mabera town where Mudavadi was made a Kuria elder and christened ‘Mwita Chacha’, New Ford Kenya opened county offices at Isebania town while Kanu which has its National Vice Chairman and Kuria East legislative aspirants Shadrack Manga, who is also a former MP, opening two offices in Kehancha and Ntimaru towns.
This follows prior opening at Kehancha of Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya county offices and ODM Kuria branch offices with the activities expected to hot up with the run up to next general elections.
“With the demand by constitution to get at least 5% of votes in each counties there is a possibility of Kuria being an alternative in Migori County as a launching pad for parties hungry for votes in ODM turf to use it as a major base to campaign within the area” Thomas Mwita Maeta ward Kanu councilor and ward respective aspirant in next election explains.
Additionally internecine rivalry within the clans brought by cattle rustling and frequent war for land and posts can also be used by politicians to get their party officials to be elected irrespective of the party as long as they get the right member of the clan to stand.
But ODM sensing this loophole has resorted to ‘soft-politics’ of embracing the Kuria community within the county as neighbours brought together by the new county offices.
“We have an office in Kehancha specifically for Kuria region and also our county chairman John Meng’anyi Magaiwa is from Kuria, a post he took in the grass roots elections even when some politicians wanted to field a luo for the post” Joseph Olala the ODM county secretary says.
There have been options within local ODM party members to give an ‘acclamation ticket’ between the majority Luo and minority Kuria which fear being with elections being just a rubber stamp for their choice