Kenya hopeful for slice of the tourism of the skies

By David Njagi

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Kenya may have missed an opportunity to pitch the country’s might in the emerging astral tourism niche during President Barrack Obama’s visit.
Expectations were high that leaders at the frontline of the Nairobi Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) would showcase Kenya as a destination for astral tourism, as traditional spots continue to lose their lure due to among others, insecurity.
The Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies at the University of Nairobi (UON) defines astral tourism as a concept that seeks to understand the relationship between man and the universe through sky observation.
“Kenya is one of the countries that is geographically located and has certain observations that can assist humanity to understand other parts of the universe and where we came from,” argues Dr. Kibe Kiragu of UON.
According to Dr. Kiragu such information is disseminated by observing how celestial bodies like the stars, the moon and the sun behave in terms of Kenya’s position in the universe. It is a niche that can bring the country millions of dollars through astral tourism flow, he argues.
In 2013, the world converged in Turkana County to observe the first full solar eclipse to be witnessed only in Kenya, a spectacle that Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) acknowledges fetched the country bountiful in revenue.
In November last year, a Kenyan delegation was in Paris for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) event, which made the first pitch about the country’s potential in archeo astronomical sites and observatories.
But it was the hope that the government would take advantage of President Obama’s visit to make a case about partnering with the United States of America (USA), to develop Kenya’s space exploration programme that kept astral tourism proponents on edge.
Proponents were hoping that State House would revisit the 1973 affair where US President Richard Nixon gifted Kenya with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goodwill Rock, a sample that was collected from the moon.
A letter dated March 21, 1973, signed by President Nixon, and which accompanied the moon rock, confirms that the samples were transferred to foreign Heads of State, including Kenya.
“If people of many nations can act together to achieve the dreams of humanity in space, then surely we can act together to accomplish humanity’s dream of peace here on earth. It was in this spirit that the United States of America went to the moon, and it is in this spirit that we look forward to sharing what we have done and what we have learned with all mankind,” reads the letter.
It further reads: “Once gifted, each of the goodwill moon rock samples became the property of the recipient entity and therefore was no longer subject to being tracked by NASA. As property of the nation or state, the goodwill rocks are now subject to the laws of public gifts as set by that country.”
However, Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro, argues that Kenya has a long way to go before finding a niche in astral tourism, but that should not stop the country from bouncing ideas.
“The relationship between Kenya and the US can only be strong because America represents the spirit of liberty, freedom and democracy,” says Sen. Ethuro. “We look forward to having great opportunities with America.”
In South America, archeo astronomical sites in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua earn the countries an enviable revenue stream through astral tourism.
Meanwhile, the Kenya National Space Secretariat, based at the Department of Defense (DOD) headquarters, declined to comment about the county’s position in space exploration, arguing that details shared with the public have to go through thorough scrutiny.

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African grannies demand their rights at AU summit

By David Njagi

African grannies are counting on the ongoing African Union (AU) summit to have their demands met through a new human rights protocol.
The Heads of States meeting that takes place until January 31st in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is expected to consider the adoption of a new human rights protocol on the rights of older people in Africa.
What makes this protocol important is that it contains a specific article guaranteeing older women rights to freedom from violence, as well as rights to land, property and inheritance, according to HelpAge International.
“Progress on gender equality in Africa can only be made if human rights are protected at every stage of every woman’s life,” argues Dr. Prafula Mishra, Regional Director at HelpAge International. “The discrimination that older women are subjected to, based on their older age and their gender, must be recognized and addressed.”
Older women continue to be discriminated against, subjected to different types of violence and abuse, denied access to health care and an adequate standard of living, and treated with disrespect.
“At times I feel affected and lonely, especially when I am told that what is being done and discussed is not for me as I am old,” said an older woman from Uganda, while another added: “We feel isolated and alienated as if we are animals.”
The level of violence and abuse remains hidden. Data on violence against women is rarely available beyond the age of 49, while older women are reluctant to talk about or report the violence they experience.
“The time has come to end this discrimination and denial of older women’s human rights,” said Jamillah Mwanjisi, regional head of policy and advocacy at HelpAge International.
According to UN data, there are currently 71 million women over the age of 50 across Africa. This is predicted to rise to 111 million by 2030.

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HIV/AIDS: Turning the tide at Mbuya Parish

By David Njagi

The guns of Northern Uganda may have gone silent, but for Faiza Mogeni, the trail of destruction they left continues to stir mixed fits of emotion.

Like many of her neighbours who were destined to flee the volatile North, Faiza found herself without a home, a social life and of course, promise of a future.

But Faiza’s story is one of courage, determination and the belief that what destiny had taken away, faith would bring back.

A suitor appeared and she found herself swimming in the waters of marital bliss. “I loved my husband,” says the 42-year-old mother of three. “It was my hope that God would bless our marriage and protect it from the evils of today’s society.”

For a woman who always believes in going against known odds, what followed was a heart breaking experience that for a moment made her belief she was destined to live under the shadow of a curse.

“My husband would go and commit adultery with a woman who had lost about four lovers,” recalls Faiza. “It was not long before friends started pointing out to me that the woman who was snatching away my husband was infected with HIV/AIDS. After a while she died.”

It was not long too, before the many friends she had made started ebbing away after she tested positive for HIV/AIDS. But her most bitter experience, recalls Faiza, was when she confronted her husband with the news that she was infected.

“I voluntarily went to test at the clinic but instead of appreciating my effort, my husband reprimanded me,” says Faiza. “He accused me of being immoral but I challenged him to go for a test too. Instead he was hostile to me and he eventually deserted me.”

Just as Faiza’s tale evokes compassion, so does it inspire her colleagues here at the Reach Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS initiative in the heart of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. And for those who have aced the test of the pandemic with her, like Dr. Stella Allamo, hope beckons.

Dr. Allamo has been the executive director of the programme at the Parish since 2005, and according to her, the initiative was incepted following the realization that communities were swelling with people who had fled the war but were already infected with the virus.

According to her, Northern Uganda was the beginning of a dark age, for people sneaked past enemy lines clutching whatever earthly possessions they had sifted from their previous homes.

But for most of them, she says, it was tragedy that they carried south because in their bloodstreams lurked the HIV virus that was soon sucked up into t

A woman living with HIV works at a quarry to earn a living.

A woman living with HIV works at a quarry to earn a living.

he labyrinth of finding a place in new settlements. And so the epidemic spread.

“Small Christian organisations were moving out to work in the communities and they realized that many people were dying of HIV/AIDS due to lack of social services,” says Dr. Allamo. “The parish priests came out and called on people to come out and help. The programme is built on the basis of faith, to help people who were displaced from their communities.”

Dr. Allamo has a team of trained nurses here at Mbuya Parish, and according to her, the Reach Out campaign follows a different type of approach to HIV/AIDS because it encourages interaction and creativity, among PLWHA.

And just like she and a few of her colleagues here at Mbuya Parish had anticipated, the programme is giving hope to people who a few years ago were seen as the black sheep of the societies they lived in.

Just a few kilometers outside Kampala, one group makes beads, another weaves an assortment of handicrafts, while yet another, has synergized to farm pigs and excavate ballast at a nearby mine.

“We encourage them to undertake initiatives that they can own and manage with little effort,” says Dr. Allamo. “We then chip in to help where we can in for instance, sourcing markets for their products to ensure the projects are sustainable.”

During last year’s HIV/AIDS implementers’ conference held in Kampla, President Yoweri Museveni appealed for an open approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The disease, he said, can only be fought by demystifying its virulent nature.

For now however, memories of Northern Uganda still linger, but Faiza Mogeni is not about to let the esteem of the friends she has made fall under any shadow of doubt.

“This is because Mbuya Parish has made me new,” she says. “We are just beginning to turn the tide.”

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Land boss calls for truce between investors and Counties

By David Njagi

County governments may have stirred tensions with investors by passing their own land laws without consultation, the National Lands Commission (NLC) said during a Land and Natural Resources conference.

According to NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri, some of these laws passed within Counties could stall progress made in engaging the public in land reforms, as leaders and investors struggle to control community resources.

“While we want investors to invest everywhere we do not also want them to be affected by draconian, or laws which are impeding,” said Mr. Swazuri.” On the other hand, investors should not subjugate the powers of the County governments and even the local communities.”

Sporadic conflicts have flared in Counties that have discovered mineral finds, while those on the fringes of Nairobi city have clashed with property developers over land.

Lobby groups have linked such flare ups to hasty passing of County laws without the participation by the public. In most instances, the public is not even aware of activities that are going on within their communities, they said.

“These investment projects risk being rejected by the public if they were not involved in the formation of community land law,” said Felicia Odada of ACT, formerly PACT Kenya.

Over exploitation and degradation of land can be avoided if the community involved in land reforms, she said.

“We have encouraged Counties to discuss with us and other stakeholders before they pass their laws to ensure they are aligned with the Constitution of Kenya,” said Mr. Swazuri.

Alternative dispute resolution systems on land may prove useful within Counties because they are leaner, optimists say.

But such systems have to be anchored on a legal jurisdiction process.

“Paralegals can help in the drafting of pleadings on land cases,” said Justice Boaz Olao, of the High Court of Kenya.

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Tutu joins artistes to rally SDGs’ dance with the sunset generation

By David Njagi

It will take the wisdom of the sunset generation to win the UN’s promise for a growth leap in a post 2015 scenario, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said.

But the process must blend the views of the youth too, when governments meet at the UN summit later this year to agree on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Tutu in an Action of All Ages Statement.

“As we get older our rights do not change,” said the 84-year-old Archbishop, in a video released today. “We are no less human and should not become invisible.” http://bit.ly/1HfzM1x

In September 2015, the UN General Assembly will host its 193 member states to agree on the new set of 17 goals and 164 targets, also recognized as the SDGs. According to Tutu, the older generation must be included in tackling the important issues of poverty, inequality, environment and climate change.

“I want to tell the world that I count, that older people everywhere count and that people of all ages should be included in the SDGs,” he said as part of HelpAge International global Action All Ages campaign.

Presently, there are more than 895 million women and men aged 60 and over, representing 12 per cent of the global population.

By 2030, this figure is projected to rise to 1.3 billion, or 16 per cent, while the proportion of people aged 15 to 24 years will be 15 per cent.

“Today’s young people will therefore form part of the largest group of older people in history,” said Tutu. “No future development goals can be considered legitimate or sustainable unless

Global action days

Global action days

people of all ages are included.”

May is the month when the global campaign, action/2015 peaks, to highlight the importance of all ages in the SDGs, which will inform the global growth pathway for the next 15 years.

It features 14 Global Action Days, organized on themes of ageing, child health, faith, climate change, gender equality, hunger and nutrition.

It will be graced by activities such as marches, concerts, flash mobs, workshops and debates, and will take place in 10 countries around the world.

Singer-songwriter, actress and entertainer, Avril and fellow older musicians from Kenya have developed a campaign song, Hoja Zetu which will be shown at one of the event in Kenya. http://bit.ly/1JtHZ2m

“I want to grow old knowing that I will be listened to just as much as anyone else at any age,” said Avril, best known for the singles, Mama, Kitu Kimoja and Hakuna Yule.

Age Demands Action campaigner in Kenya, Mama Rhoda Ngima, will also be taking part in the activities.

“Just because I am old does not mean I am not passionate about my rights,” said the 70-year-old. “I want this year to be the year I am heard, the year I am recognised and the year I am counted.”

In South America, the Mongolian Women’s Fund, MONES, is planning a WALTZ DAY for older women and young people, with the aim of inspiring and mobilising communities and the public to act together for all ages.

In Zimbabwe, an intergenerational panel will be organised to review the success and failures of the Millennium Development Goals and come up with recommendations for the post 2015 agenda focusing on ageing.

In Malawi, older and younger people are organising an intergenerational public debate, to share about what they hope to see in the SDGs.

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CEHURD fellowship reveals flaws in East Africa’s reproductive health rights

By David Njagi

March 2015 was especially a slow month for me. But it ended on an informed bend.
The one week Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) media training in Entebbe shed lots of light on why East Africa is still poles apart in terms of achieving reproductive health rights.
The experts who shared with us their professional position on the topic had a good grasp of the subject, but my observation was that they are not happy on how governments are handling reproductive health rights within the region.
When they are not working hard to crunch ambiguous laws, they will be fidgeting with snappy policies which have only succeeded in fueling confusion on topical issues such as abortion, I observed.
While this charade plays out, journalists are left agonizing on how to report a reproductive health story in a way that sheds new insights, in an informative, educative and entertaining style.
However, I am sure some of the skills passed along during the event have sharpened my vigil – and others’ – on such bottlenecks.
Be that as it may, the flipside of the meeting was not such a boring interaction.
The Ugandan Team was warm and welcoming. Kigali was cheerful, as Burundi kept us focused with their insightful shots on how East African journalists can wheedle their way around while reporting science.
Tanzania brought along their ‘birds and bees’ understanding of science reporting, as Kenya kept the panelists on edge with their endless take about reproductive health rights in the region.
Despite the diverse debate that the event attracted, it was the ever smiling Joy Asasira that kept the objectives of the workshop rolling.
Cheers and thank you all.

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Kenya’s bone surgery not yet on the mend

Femur

Femur

By David Njagi

Human body tissue harvesting may be the next source of limbs to fix the rising number of Kenyans being maimed by accidents.

The Kenya Orthopedic Association (KOA) is calling for a review of policy to allow tissue harvesting from people who have passed on, to make up for the rising shortage of limbs and joints in the country.

According to KOA chairman Dr. Vincent Muoki Mutiso, bone surgeons are facing increasing pressure from the growing number patients who are being injured in road accidents, sports, collapsed buildings and aging.

The surgeons say some of this pressure could be eased by developing tissue harvesting laws which regulate operations on people who have passed on, but have healthy body parts, just as is the case in developed countries.

“The issue of death and harvesting of tissues is very sensitive especially in the African culture,” argues Dr. Mutiso. “But I think for the good and health of the country this issue should be addressed as soon as possible so that organs can be harvested from individuals to assist others.”

But it is not only the shortage of joints that continues to trouble the resource constrained sector. Shortage of equipment and orthopedicians is an age old challenge.

For instance, explains Dr. Mutiso, in orthopedics every surgery needs specific highly specialized instruments, but each of these sets of instruments is extremely expensive, fetching millions of shillings per set.

“If I am operating on a hand, the instruments I need for that hand are different from when I am operating on an arm or leg or foot or spine,” he says. “This means that if one item among those instruments goes wrong, then almost all the instrument set becomes obsolete.”

Staff shortage is another problem that was the subject of discussion during a scientific conference in Nairobi, which they linked to lengthy training and few learning institutions offering orthopedics.

For instance, there are only two institutions in the country that provide training for orthopedic surgeons, where one is in Eldoret while the other is at the Medical School, University of Nairobi (UON).

Prof. Josphat Mulimba, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery, UON, says students must bear six years of training to obtain a first degree in medicine, another four in internship, then endure more time in specialized athroplasty training.

“The training can take almost twelve years,” says Prof. Mulimba. “But even after that one has to work for a couple of years before being registered as a specialist orthopedic surgeon.”

According to KOA, about 3,000 to 4,000 Kenyans die from road accidents every year, but the injured ones are four times more.

“Many of these accident victims are bread winners so in the broader picture the entire family is affected when one of their kin is crippled,” says Dr. Mutiso.

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