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Uganda’s military on Tuesday confirmed that at least two civilians have died in the latest attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, while 15 militants were killed as they attempted to cross River Semliki near the border with Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ADF rebels were attempting to launch attacks and raid villages in Ntoroko District in the western part of the country.

Col Deo Akiiki, the deputy army spokesperson, told The EastAfrican that the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) intercepted an attempted raid by the ADF fighters on December 12, resulting in some of the rebels drowning while others were killed.

“Yesterday (Monday), we picked up intelligence and monitored a group of 20-30 ADF rebels trying to cross River Semliki. We repulsed them, and as we speak, many have been put out of action,” he said, adding that the militants were stopped before they could mount a serious raid on civilians.

“Some drowned in the river and others were killed. So far there are 15 bodies of rebels,” he explained.

In the ensuing combat, one UPDF soldier and two civilians, whose details could not be immediately established, were also killed, Col Akiiki added.

He refuted reports that many civilians, including children, were killed during the attack, while hundreds of others fled their villages.

Late on Tuesday, Operation Shujaa’s joint commander, Maj Gen Dick Olum, revealed that UPDF killed 17 rebels while 13 were captured and 15 guns recovered. 

But local leaders and reports continue to dispute the UPDF account, saying that at least 19 civilians were killed in the Monday morning attack by ADF, after footage emerged showing several dead bodies of non-combatants strewn in the swampy banks of River Semliki.

Gunfire

“It is true that ADF rebels have attacked my sub-county and up to now, there is gunfire exchange between ADF and UPDF. The injured have been taken to Rwamabale [Health Centre]. Other locals are running to Rwebisengo seeking refuge,” Mr Bagonza told Monitor. 

The ADF is a Ugandan but Islamist militant rebel group that uses eastern Congo as its base. It was established in 1996 and has carried out several bomb attacks inside Uganda’s capital, Kampala, the most recent being in October and November last year where at least five people were killed.

The ADF operates in eastern Congo’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces, where Uganda deployed the Mountain Brigade in Operation Shujaa, jointly with the DRC government to hunt down, fight and uproot the rebel group from its bases. - JULIUS BARIGABA, The EastAfrican

National Assembly during one of the sessions. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Globally, it is estimated that there are more than a billion (persons with disabilities) PWDs. According to the 2019 census, 900,000 Kenyans have some form of disability, majority of them women. The rights of PWDs are recognised in the Constitution. It grants them equal rights, opportunities and participation in the society.

However, in reality these people continue to experience systemic exclusion from mainstream governance and development processes. This exclusion has been acute in the areas of political representation in both elective and appointed positions. Political parties have failed to provide a conductive environment for PWDs to engage in active politics. This was witnessed in the recent Bungoma senatorial by-election and in the  the August 9 General Election. 

Kenya should reflect on progress made in electoral reforms and to address the persistent gaps. Although no official post-election audit has been published yet, the wheels are already rolling. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was tabled before the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee by Kenya Kwanza party.

This came after the president declared the positions of the commission’s chairman and two commissioners, who will retire in January 2023, vacant. The amendment seeks to alter the composition of the recruitment team by reducing political parties’ slots to two from the present four.

One issue that has not captured much attention is the cry of PWDs over their sidelining in nominative and elective positions. Equality and inclusion are key priority areas in Kenya’s national agenda. Yet, support to ensure all voices are heard during the political processes remains weak.

As the country celebrates a record seven women being elected governors, the same cannot be said about PWDs. This is seen in the proportion of PWDs representation in the Parliament (National Assembly and Senate) and the county assemblies that stood at 1.9 per cent in the 2017 elections and about 2.0 per cent in the 2022 elections. This is below the legal requirement.

The slight increase is mainly due to increase in the number of elected PWDs from three in 2017 to seven in 2022. Initiatives towards disability inclusion ahead of the elections also saw the number of registered PWD voters increase by 5.4 per cent from 0.14 million in 2017 to 0.16 million in 2022. 

According to Article 54(2) of the Constitution, at least 5 per cent of members of the public in elective and appointive bodies should be PWDs.

The Constitution provides for nominative seats to address any imbalances in elective seats. The Senate and the National Assembly have upheld the legal requirement by nominating two PWDs in both houses in the last two elections. The largest gaps still exist at the county level where the number of county assembly that did not nominate PWDs increased from 17 in 2017 to 21 in 2022. Protests by PWDs across the counties were ignored and their threats to block swearing-in ceremonies until their nomination grievances were heard did not materialise.

IEBC rejected a list of nominated persons submitted by political parties in June due to failure to meet the two-thirds gender rule and inclusion of Special Interest Groups (SIGs). It further directed the political parties that, for nomination of the SIGs, the county assemblies must have eight names of the SIGs with the same qualification as the elected candidates.

IEBC has limited powers to order investigations and prosecution over such offences. As such, political parties often ignore directives from the commission. Even for those that abide by the directives, instances of PWDs being short-changed have been reported. This is evident in the Kenya Gazette notices that show amendments to the names previously submitted for consideration.

There is also over-representation of one category of special interest groups (women) in the county assemblies, leaving out PWDs. As various actors commend Kenya for the progress made, it is timely to address the critical knowledge gaps within political parties to create and promote more inclusive political discourse, political commitments and public policymaking. 

In order to understand the constraints to PWDs representation in political processes, several post-election audits have been conducted. The conclusions are that their political representation is minimal because of various cultural and structural barriers. An audit on the 2017 elections revealed that approximately 150 aspirants with disabilities competed in the party primaries in April 2017. Out of this, only 29 (0.2 per cent) out of 14,523 candidates ran for political seats. This shows that the demand for the seats among PWDs is high but barriers limit their progression. A second audit indicated that physical and communication barriers and societal attitudes posed greater challenges to their political participation.

Establishment of accountability mechanisms can lead to increased political participation of PWDs and, consequently, result in progress towards a more disability inclusive public policy. Exclusion of PWDs is not an issue that is peculiar to Kenya but Kenya can learn from countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ecuador, and Peru where PWDs have held the highest office. In Uganda, PWDs are elected through an electoral college system at all levels, giving influence which has resulted in disability-friendly legislation. The success of Uganda’s approach to PWDs inclusion has seen the country record among the highest numbers of elected representatives with disabilities in the world.

When PWDs participate in political and public life, their voice is heard and reflected in policy decisions. Inclusivity principles in the party leadership and decision-making structures should be applied to attain the legal threshold.  Ms Jattani is an economist. Mr Ochieng is a communications practitioner   By Darmi Jattani and Oscar Ochieng |The Standard

  • President William Ruto tries out virtual reality headsets at the Jamhuri Tech and Innovation Summit at KICC, Nairobi, on December 11, 2022.
    TWITTER   WILLIAM RUTO 
  • There was confusion at Nyayo Stadium on Monday, December 12, after the majority of Kenyans who attended the Jamhuri day celebrations failed to access the free scholarships announced by President William Ruto.

    The scholarship that offered a sixteen-module course was promised by Ruto to suit entrepreneurs and innovators.

    While unveiling the project, the president directed those in attendance to scan a Quick-Response code to access the scholarships.  

    Shortly after the announcement, a section of Kenyans who did not have smartphones found it difficult to access the online course.

    Kenyans follow proceedings at the Nyayo Stadium during Kenya's 59th Jamhuri Day celebrations.
    Kenyans follow proceedings at the Nyayo Stadium during Kenya's 59th Jamhuri Day celebrations.  KENYANS.CO.KE

    They explained how difficult it was to log in and register which made them give up, a process they lamented did not favour people without smartphones. 

    “I would love to know where these scholarships are being accessed, we heard it on television but I have not seen it,” a disgruntled Kenyan quipped.

    “I have heard about the course but I have difficulty accessing it,” another complained.

    On Sunday, December 11, the head of state urged Kenyans to attend Jamhuri Day celebrations in huge numbers so as to enjoy the free University of Arizona scholarships.

    "Every citizen who will come to Nyayo Stadium tomorrow will go back with a course paid for by the University of Arizona," the president revealed.

    During the Jamhuri celebrations, in the middle of his speech, Ruto intimated that he was now keeping his promise by announcing to Kenyans attending how to access the course.

    “As promised, everyone present in this stadium today will get a free scholarship on global entrepreneurship and innovation from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.” 

    “It is now time to keep the promise. There is a QR Code near you. Scan and access the scholarship now,” the president announced.

    Each Kenyan who had attended Jamhuri Day celebrations received free access to a 16-unit course valued at Ksh100,000.

    The courses are provided by the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University which offers programs designed to prepare students to navigate the dynamic digital world.

    President William Ruto during Jamhuri Day celebration at Nyayo Stadium on Monday, December 12, 2022.
    President William Ruto during the Jamhuri Day celebration at Nyayo Stadium on Monday, December 12, 2022.  TWITTER  WILLIAM RUTO  By ANZUGIRA PEREZ , Kenyans.co.ke
Crime scene. PHOTO/Courtesy 
 Zambian police on Sunday said the bodies of 27 suspected Ethiopian migrants were found in an area north of the capital Lusaka, believed to have died of "hunger and exhaustion".

The victims are "all males aged between 20 and 38", the police said in a statement, adding they were all believed to be Ethiopian citizens.

Officers found a 28th man "gasping for breath" and he was taken to hospital.

The 27 bodies were found by residents after they were "dumped", police said, adding they were "suspected to have died of hunger and exhaustion". 

Ethiopian migrants

Migrants from eastern Africa use Zambia as a transit route to South Africa, the continent's second-biggest economy.

In October, the bodies of 30 suspected Ethiopian migrants were found in Malawi. BY Agencies/K24 

Benin Bronzes - University of Cambridge© University of Cambridge

The Charity Commission will allow the University of Cambridge to repatriate its Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, despite fears about the future of the artefacts.

The university’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology pledged to return its 116 Bronzes, sparking concerns the artworks would fuel a row between rival Nigerian claimants, and end up in the hands of communities which had historically profited from slavery.

The commission was urged by campaigners to reject plans to repatriate the Benin Bronzes, but the regulator has now given Cambridge permission to fulfil its “moral obligation” by returning them to Nigeria.

A statement from the regulator, responsible for charitable organisations including UK universities, said: “We have granted the required consent allowing Cambridge University to transfer the title of 116 artefacts (Benin Bronzes) to the Nigerian National Commission for Museum and Monuments.

“The trustees (of Cambridge) made the decision to transfer the artefacts, concluding that they were under a moral obligation to take this step.”London museum repatriates looted Benin bronzes to Nigeria/

  • London museum repatriates looted Benin bronzes to Nigeria Dailymotion
  • Former culture minister supports return of Benin Bronzes/
     
    Former culture minister supports return of Benin BronzesITN/ITN/Photo Courtesy 

Tribal leaders of the Benin ethnic group insist that the Bronzes should only be handed to their Oba (king), despite the Nigerian government also laying claim to the artworks, leading to concerns about who will ultimately care for them when they are repatriated by Cambridge.

 
Benin Bronzes: A brass commemorative head in the Udo style - University of Cambridge
Benin Bronzes: A brass commemorative head in the Udo style - University of Cambridge© Provided by The Telegraph

As well as fuelling an internal row in Nigeria, repatriation has also proven controversial for the descendants of African slaves, who have argued that the Kingdom of Benin created the Bronzes with wealth derived from the slave trade, and therefore its modern-day successors should not be rewarded for this by returning the artworks.

Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a US lawyer who runs legal campaigns to secure reparations for the descendants of slaves, wrote to the Charity Commission urging it to reject Cambridge’s plans on these moral grounds, and is disappointed with the regulator’s decision. 

‘A step backward’

She said: “Cambridge recently took a bold step to atone for its slavery benefits by addressing the ‘legacies of enslavement’.

“Now they take a step backward by discriminating against descendants of enslaved people by ignoring our role in the making of the Benin Bronzes, and giving them away to slave trader heirs. This is tragic.”

While the trustees of Cambridge have cited a moral obligation, the commission has not made a judgment on the right and wrong of this pledge, and has only assessed whether the university’s plans accord with UK charity law.

The decision comes from Cambridge’s museum, which agreed with Ugandan authorities to return traditional charms and clothing from its collection.  By Craig Simpson, Telegraph

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