brad brace

6/28/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 12:30 pm






6/27/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:17 am



6/26/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:18 am





India quietly ringing Bangladesh with barbed-wire, cutting off former neighbors

Filed under: bangladesh,General,global islands,india — admin @ 4:28 am

SUJATPUR, Bangladesh: Everyone knew it was out there somewhere, an invisible line that cut through a cow pasture and, at least in theory, divided one nation from another. But no one saw it as a border.

It was just a lumpy field of grass, uneven from the hooves of generations of cattle, and villagers crossed back and forth without even thinking about it.

Today, no one can ignore the line.

In a construction project that will eventually reach across 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles), hundreds of rivers and long stretches of forests and fields, India has been quietly sealing itself off from Bangladesh, its much poorer neighbor. Sections totaling about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) have been built the past seven years.

In Sujatpur, a poor farming village, the frontier is now defined by two rows of 3-meter-high (10-foot-high) barbed wire barriers, the posts studded with ugly spikes the size of a toddler’s fingers. A smaller fence, and miles of barbed wire coils, fill the space in between. The expanse of steel, set into concrete, spills off toward the horizon in both directions.

“Before, it was like we were one country,” said Mohammed Iqbal, a Bangladeshi farmer walking near the border on a windy afternoon. “I used to go over there just to pass the time.”

As he spoke, a cow wandered past, brass bells jangling around its neck. “But now that’s over,” he said.

In the United States, the decision to fence 1,100 kilometers (700 miles)of the Mexican border triggered months of political debate ranging across issues from immigration reform to the environmental impact. When Israel announced it would build a 680-kilometer (425-mile) barrier around the West Bank, an international outcry erupted.

But there has been barely a ripple over India’s far larger project, launched in earnest in 2000 amid growing fears in New Delhi about illegal immigration and cross-border terrorism.

The Bangladesh government made a few complaints — the fence felt like an insult, as if their country was a plague that needed to be quarantined — but soon gave up.

India has become enamored with fences in recent years.

First it started closing off much of its border with Pakistan, trying to stop incursions by Muslim extremists. Then it turned to its other Muslim neighbor, Bangladesh, and has been building the fence intermittently ever since.

There’s no clear completion date for the US$1.2 billion project, which when finished will nearly encircle Bangladesh — leaving open only its seacoast and its border of about 320 kilometers (200 miles) with Myanmar.

India believes some Indian militant groups are based in Bangladesh, a charge the Bangladeshi government denies.

But the larger fear in New Delhi is that illegal immigrants will flood out of Bangladesh, one of the world’s most crowded countries. Its 150 million people, about half the U.S. population, jam an area the size of Wisconsin, and the low-lying land is prone to devastating floods and typhoons. Scientists also warn that rising sea levels from global warming could force millions of Bangladeshis from their homes.

India already has millions of its own citizens living in desperate poverty, despite an economy growing at more than 8 percent annually. Its population is approaching 1.2 billion and what little is left of its once-vast wilderness is being chewed up rapidly.

It is nearly impossible to judge how many residents of India are actually Bangladeshi. Particularly among the poor, many people have no identification showing their nationality, and residents of the frontier region tend to be similar in language and ethnicity. But some experts estimate as many as 20 million Bangladeshis are in India illegally, most crammed into large cities or in shantytowns just over the border.

“You’ve got an increasing population (in Bangladesh) with a shrinking land mass,” said Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management who worries the Indian government is not building the fence quickly enough. “India has enough nightmares of its own without adding to them.”

In villages like Sujatpur, India’s fears have changed everything.

It began about a year ago, when Indian soldiers and construction workers arrived on their side of the border without warning and announced the frontier was closed.

Until then, people from this village of thatch-roofed huts, barely 200 yards from India, crossed the border daily to graze cattle, see friends or — since this part of India is one of the few that remains heavily forested — cut firewood and bamboo. Indians came to shop in Bangladeshi markets.

For Bangladeshis, particularly, the open border was a lifeline. India’s US$730 per capita income looks pitifully low by Western standards, but it’s a decent income to many in Bangladesh, where some 60 million people live on less than US$1 a day.

In a place like Sujatpur, where most families live hand to mouth, the cheap Indian grazing land and extra income from harvesting bamboo were economic godsends.

“Look at this place, we are poor,” said Iqbal, gesturing around him. “Selling that wood earned us money that we needed.”

The fence is being built on Indian soil, though, and there’s nothing that can be done about it on this side.

“They’re big and we’re small and so they can do this to us,” said Sulaiman, a Bangladeshi border guard with only one name. “It’s insulting.”

But it’s also easy to see why India is nervous.

Sujatpur may reflect a picturesque side of poverty, with its Technicolor-green fields and gentle-spoken farmers, but a glance at the border makes a stark statement.

On the Bangladesh side are huts and roads, rice paddies and cattle. There are families whose sons have fled to the cities, or to India, because there is no land left to farm. It’s a rural area, but people are everywhere.

On the Indian side, sealed off behind the barbed wire, there is nothing but silent forest.

India quietly ringing Bangladesh with barbed-wire, cutting off former neighbors

Filed under: bangladesh,General,global islands,india — admin @ 4:28 am

SUJATPUR, Bangladesh: Everyone knew it was out there somewhere, an invisible line that cut through a cow pasture and, at least in theory, divided one nation from another. But no one saw it as a border.

It was just a lumpy field of grass, uneven from the hooves of generations of cattle, and villagers crossed back and forth without even thinking about it.

Today, no one can ignore the line.

In a construction project that will eventually reach across 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles), hundreds of rivers and long stretches of forests and fields, India has been quietly sealing itself off from Bangladesh, its much poorer neighbor. Sections totaling about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) have been built the past seven years.

In Sujatpur, a poor farming village, the frontier is now defined by two rows of 3-meter-high (10-foot-high) barbed wire barriers, the posts studded with ugly spikes the size of a toddler’s fingers. A smaller fence, and miles of barbed wire coils, fill the space in between. The expanse of steel, set into concrete, spills off toward the horizon in both directions.

“Before, it was like we were one country,” said Mohammed Iqbal, a Bangladeshi farmer walking near the border on a windy afternoon. “I used to go over there just to pass the time.”

As he spoke, a cow wandered past, brass bells jangling around its neck. “But now that’s over,” he said.

In the United States, the decision to fence 1,100 kilometers (700 miles)of the Mexican border triggered months of political debate ranging across issues from immigration reform to the environmental impact. When Israel announced it would build a 680-kilometer (425-mile) barrier around the West Bank, an international outcry erupted.

But there has been barely a ripple over India’s far larger project, launched in earnest in 2000 amid growing fears in New Delhi about illegal immigration and cross-border terrorism.

The Bangladesh government made a few complaints — the fence felt like an insult, as if their country was a plague that needed to be quarantined — but soon gave up.

India has become enamored with fences in recent years.

First it started closing off much of its border with Pakistan, trying to stop incursions by Muslim extremists. Then it turned to its other Muslim neighbor, Bangladesh, and has been building the fence intermittently ever since.

There’s no clear completion date for the US$1.2 billion project, which when finished will nearly encircle Bangladesh — leaving open only its seacoast and its border of about 320 kilometers (200 miles) with Myanmar.

India believes some Indian militant groups are based in Bangladesh, a charge the Bangladeshi government denies.

But the larger fear in New Delhi is that illegal immigrants will flood out of Bangladesh, one of the world’s most crowded countries. Its 150 million people, about half the U.S. population, jam an area the size of Wisconsin, and the low-lying land is prone to devastating floods and typhoons. Scientists also warn that rising sea levels from global warming could force millions of Bangladeshis from their homes.

India already has millions of its own citizens living in desperate poverty, despite an economy growing at more than 8 percent annually. Its population is approaching 1.2 billion and what little is left of its once-vast wilderness is being chewed up rapidly.

It is nearly impossible to judge how many residents of India are actually Bangladeshi. Particularly among the poor, many people have no identification showing their nationality, and residents of the frontier region tend to be similar in language and ethnicity. But some experts estimate as many as 20 million Bangladeshis are in India illegally, most crammed into large cities or in shantytowns just over the border.

“You’ve got an increasing population (in Bangladesh) with a shrinking land mass,” said Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management who worries the Indian government is not building the fence quickly enough. “India has enough nightmares of its own without adding to them.”

In villages like Sujatpur, India’s fears have changed everything.

It began about a year ago, when Indian soldiers and construction workers arrived on their side of the border without warning and announced the frontier was closed.

Until then, people from this village of thatch-roofed huts, barely 200 yards from India, crossed the border daily to graze cattle, see friends or — since this part of India is one of the few that remains heavily forested — cut firewood and bamboo. Indians came to shop in Bangladeshi markets.

For Bangladeshis, particularly, the open border was a lifeline. India’s US$730 per capita income looks pitifully low by Western standards, but it’s a decent income to many in Bangladesh, where some 60 million people live on less than US$1 a day.

In a place like Sujatpur, where most families live hand to mouth, the cheap Indian grazing land and extra income from harvesting bamboo were economic godsends.

“Look at this place, we are poor,” said Iqbal, gesturing around him. “Selling that wood earned us money that we needed.”

The fence is being built on Indian soil, though, and there’s nothing that can be done about it on this side.

“They’re big and we’re small and so they can do this to us,” said Sulaiman, a Bangladeshi border guard with only one name. “It’s insulting.”

But it’s also easy to see why India is nervous.

Sujatpur may reflect a picturesque side of poverty, with its Technicolor-green fields and gentle-spoken farmers, but a glance at the border makes a stark statement.

On the Bangladesh side are huts and roads, rice paddies and cattle. There are families whose sons have fled to the cities, or to India, because there is no land left to farm. It’s a rural area, but people are everywhere.

On the Indian side, sealed off behind the barbed wire, there is nothing but silent forest.

6/25/2007

Rastafarians

Filed under: belize,General,kenya,nicaragua — admin @ 10:17 am

Identification. Rastafarianism is a Black-nationalist religious movement; founded in Jamaica, which affirms that the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, is the returned messiah, Jesus Christ; that God is Black; and that like the children of Israel, all people of African descent in Jamaica and throughout the Americas, live in enforced exile. Repatriation to the ancestral home will bring redemption and freedom from the system of White oppression, which Rastafari identify as “Babylon.” The majority of Rastas are highly visible owing to their matted hair, or dreadlocks, which they hold to be sacred and which they sometimes cover under woolen caps colored red, gold, and green (representing blood, gold, and land). They regard the herb ganja (Cannabis sativa) as a special gift of God—first found on the grave of King Solomon—and smoke it as part of their sacred ritual discussion, using a hookah, or “chalice.”

Location. Although it maintains its highest concentration of adherents in Jamaica, Rastafarianism has spread to all islands of the Caribbean and to Black populations throughout the hemisphere and in Europe. Rastafarians are also found in many African countries, including South Africa, and in Australia and New Zealand. It would appear, however, that the belief in Haile Selassie is not as pronounced in countries outside Jamaica, although the focus on an African identity remains.

Demography. There are no reliable estimates of the number of Rastafarians in Jamaica or elsewhere. Official Jamaican censuses so far do not recognize Rastafari as a legitimate religion. Even if they did, however, the results would still be uncertain, owing to Rastafari hostility toward cooperation with Babylon. Nevertheless, rough estimates put adherents in Jamaica at between seventy thousand and a hundred thousand, or 3 percent to 4 percent of the population.

Linguistic Affiliation. Dread talk, an argot of neologisms, homonyms, and inversions, is used to express certain basic philosophical concepts, the most prominent example being the use of the pronomial I to express one-ness and divine immanence.

Creoles of Nicaragua

Filed under: belize,General,global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 10:11 am

Identification. The Creoles of Nicaragua are an Afro-Caribbean population of mixed African, Amerindian, and European ancestry, most of whom live in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Creoles’ distinctive culture is strongly influenced by its West African and British roots, as well as by prolonged interaction with North Americans, Nicaraguan mestizos, and the Miskito (a Nicaraguan Afro-Amerindian group). “Mosquito” is the name given to the region and the latter people by early European visitors to the area. The name “Miskito,” currently used to designate this people and their language, is apparently a twentieth-century ethnographic innovation that more closely approximates the Miskito people’s name for themselves, in accordance with the phonetics of their own language.

Location. The bulk of the Creole population is concentrated in the market/port town of Bluefields, located at 12°00′ N and 83°50’W, and in a number of small communities scattered north and south of that town along Nicaragua’s southern Caribbean coast, part of a region known as the Mosquito Coast (or Mosquitia). The terrain is low-lying tropical rain forest, with an average annual rainfall of 448 centimeters and a mean temperature of 26.4° C. This coastal plateau is crossed by large rivers and fringed by brackish lagoons, on the banks of which most Creole settlements are located. Smaller numbers of Creoles reside in the large towns of the northern Caribbean coast, and a substantial number live in Managua (Nicaragua’s capital), in other Central American countries, and in the United States.

Demography. In the early 1990s the approximately 25,000 Creoles who resided in Nicaragua represented less than 1 percent of that country’s total population. The national census does not enumerate Creoles separately; during the 1980s, however, estimates of the size of the Creole population were made by an array of government institutions and in the course of various ethnographic studies. These estimates vary substantially. The most reliable approximations place 10,000 Creoles in Bluefields, 11,400 elsewhere on the Caribbean coast, and perhaps 5,000 in other areas of Nicaragua.

Linguistic Affiliation. Most Creoles speak, as their first language, Miskito Coast Creole (MC Creole), an English-based creole closely related to other creoles spoken in the Anglophone Caribbean, particularly in Belize and Jamaica. By the 1990s, all but the oldest Creoles were fluent Spanish speakers as well. MC Creole is described by Holm (1982, 3) as characterized by a “… very African syntax organizing sentences out of words from a variety of sources: most . . . from English . . . but . . . [also] from Miskito, African languages, and .. . New World Spanish.” There is evidence that MC Creole is being influenced at the syntactic and the lexical levels by Central American Spanish.

Garifuna

Filed under: belize,General,global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 10:09 am

Identification. The term “Garifuna,” or on Dominica, “Karaphuna,” is a modern adaptation of the name applied to some Amerindians of the Caribbean and South America at the time of Columbus. That term—”Garif,” and its alternate, “Carib”—are derivatives of the same root. The label “Black” derives from the fact that during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries considerable admixture occurred with Africans whom they captured, or who otherwise escaped being enslaved by Europeans.

Location. Modern-day Garifuna live mostly in Central America, in a series of villages and towns along the Caribbean coastline of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Many have emigrated to the United States, where they live in large colonies in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and several other cities. Small groups survive in Trinidad, Dominica, and Saint Vincent. Although all of them recognize a distant kinship, the Central American and Caribbean groups are virtually distinct today.

Linguistic Affiliation. In spite of their name, their language is basically of the Arawakan Family, although there is a heavy overlay of Cariban, which may once have been a pidgin trading language for them. Linguists term their language Island Carib to distinguish it from Carib as it is spoken among groups ancestral to them still living in the Amazon area of South America.

Demography. Historical sources indicate that only about 2,000 Carib survived warfare with the British to become established in Central America in 1797. Because they reside in so many different countries, and because they are not counted as a distinct ethnic group except in Belize, it is difficult to state how many there may be today. Estimates vary from 200,000 to 500,000; high fertility rates and the absorption into their communities of many other Blacks in the Americas helped boost their population over the last 200 years.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:26 am


African Twig Toothbrush Offers Day-Long Dental Carec

Filed under: General,global islands,kenya — admin @ 5:41 am

Brush your teeth every day, dentists say. In Africa, that can mean keeping your toothbrush in your mouth all day long.

Across the continent south of the Sahara, many people go about their daily business with a small stick or twig protruding from their mouth, which they chew or use to scrub their teeth.

Cut from wild trees and shrubs in the bush, this is the African toothbrush. Its users swear it is much more natural, effective – and cheaper – than the prettily packaged but pricey dental products on sale in pharmacies and supermarkets.

“It cleans your teeth more than plastic brushes, with the liquid that comes out of the wood,” said Mr Marcelino Diatta, a stick twitching from his mouth as he sought handouts from foreigners in downtown Dakar.

In Senegal, the chewing stick is called “sothiou”, which means “to clean” in the local Wolof language. In east Africa, the stick is called “mswaki”, the Swahili word for toothbrush.

Their users say the sticks are also medicinal, providing not just dental hygiene but also curing a variety of other ills. Dental experts agree they seem to clean teeth well and some up-market health stores in the United States have been selling chew-sticks as a natural form of dental care.

“It’s good for your stomach and your head … it whitens your teeth and gets rid of bad breath,” said Abedis Sauda, a Senegalese street vendor.

Traders in Dakar and other Senegalese cities sell neat bundles of the pencil-sized sticks – usually about six inches long -on the pavement, offering a variety of different types of wood at different prices.

Mr Elimane Diop, 70, dressed in a blue boubou robe and white bonnet, extols the virtues of his wares with all the pride of a salesman for a multinational health care company, explaining the advantages of a new design of brush or type of dental floss.

“This is the Dakhaar … It cleans really well,” said Mr Diop, holding up a slender, knotty twig with a dark brown bark.

Another bush toothbrush, the Werek, is cut from the branches of the gum tree, while the thicker Neep-Neep helps ease toothache. “If you’ve a bad tooth, it’s a medicine,” said Mr Diop.

The Cola, cut from a soft, whitish wood, is prized for its sweet taste.

If chewed, most of the twigs fray into finer strands, which have the effect of “flossing” between the teeth, or if rubbed up and down, can scrub tooth enamel clean as well as any brush. But they can taste bitter compared with commercial toothpastes.

“There are several documented studies which suggest that the cleaning sticks are at least as effective as normal toothbrushes and paste in maintaining routine oral health,” Christine D. Wu, Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry, told Reuters.

She said some laboratory studies indicated plants from which some of the sticks in Africa are cut contain protective anti-microbial compounds that act against the bacteria in the mouth which cause tooth decay and gum disease.

“And if these sticks do contain fluoride, as plants do, then this would be beneficial for caries prevention,” Wu said, although she stressed much more research needed to be done on the sticks and their use by humans.

The World Health Organisation has encouraged the use of chewing sticks as an alternative source of oral hygiene in poor countries where many cannot afford commercial dental products.

In mostly Muslim Senegal, people say there is religious precedent for the use of the chewing sticks.

In holy Islamic writings known as the Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad recommends their use as part of cleaning rituals that are an essential element of daily prayers.

“For prayers, you have to get really clean, and that includes the teeth,” said Diop, an invalid whose left leg is deformed – a childhood injury sustained when a sharp twig pierced his bare foot in the bush and the wound became infected.

Although commercially made toothbrushes from leading international brands are available in Dakar supermarkets and pharmacies, many people say they prefer the chew sticks. “It’s better because it’s natural. I used to use a brush, but it made my gums bleed,” said Allissane Sy, an off-duty police officer, stopping to buy a stick from Diop.

Price helps too. While a manufactured toothbrush can cost upwards of 300 CFA francs (60 cents), a chew-stick costs only 25 or 50 CFA.

Mr Diop said each type of stick had different stories and origins associated with them.

For example, the one named Matou-kel was believed to bring luck. It is named after the tree it is cut from where bush deer – prized in Senegal for their tender tasty venison – like to feed and rest.

Another wood variety, Soumpou, was traditionally used to provide a liquid used to cook a fortifying dish, Laakh, which is made with millet. “It gives energy,” Mr Diop said.

But Wu had a word of warning for stick chewers: don’t overdo it, as too-vigorous scrubbing can push back the gums, causing gum recession exposing teeth roots to damage and decay.

6/23/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 11:01 am





Kenya's secret society sows dread

Filed under: global islands,kenya — admin @ 5:14 am

NAIROBI: These days, Charity Bokindo, the district commissioner of Nairobi North, is taking no chances. Wherever she goes, she carries not one but two pistols and she always travels with armed guards.

“The Mungiki,” she whispered, “they threatened to circumcise me.”

Kihara Mwangi, a member of Kenya’s Parliament, recently revealed that he had been kidnapped by the Mungiki, a secret society that is part Sicilian mafia, part Chicago street gang, with a little local cultism sprinkled in.

“These guys are devil worshipers,” he said. “And no one knows what they want.”

The Mungiki mystery is sweeping across Kenya, and taking a lot of lives with it. In the past month, more than 50 people have been killed in a crime spree and brutal police crackdown related to the shadowy outfit.

Police officials said the Mungiki were trying to destabilize the country before presidential elections in December and blamed them for some downright ugly acts: chopping off legs, skinning heads and guzzling jerry cans of blood. Government officials accused them of running a vast extortion empire and hacking up victims as a scare tactic.

The Mungiki Menace, as the local papers have dubbed it, plays straight into many of Kenya’s sore spots: tribal frictions, political shenanigans, poverty and crime. The flash point is Mathare, a giant slum and mountain of rust near central Nairobi, the capital, where 500,000 people are crammed into a warren of corrugated metal shanties.

On a recent afternoon, John Kinywa, a 17-year-old vendor of passion-fruit juice, trolled his patch of Mathare, shaking a plastic bowl for donations for a friend’s funeral.

“Just a shilling. Can’t you spare a shilling?” he asked passers-by, who, by the look of their ragged clothes and chopstick legs, probably could not spare it.

Kinywa said police officers shot his friend, who he insisted was innocent, in a raid against the Mungiki in early June after two police officers were gunned down in Mathare. With grubby fingers, he counted out several other people he knew who had recently been zipped into body bags.

There may be a lot of death in Mathare’s muddy alleyways, but there is also a lot of life: reggae rap thumping from blown-out speakers; women sitting on the ground and braiding hair; boys pushing impossibly overloaded carts; goats nibbling grass; little chicken wire barbecues cooking up corn.

Mathare is one of the countless slums in Kenya that the government does not reach. There are no police stations here or fire hydrants or roads. There are few toilets and the hillsides reek of fresh waste.

Many of the dented metal kiosks advertise in dripping hand-painted scrawl paraffin for oil lamps, because despite the palatial homes in the neighborhood next door that light up like soccer stadiums at night, most Mathare dwellers do not have electricity.

“These people live like beasts,” said Bokindo, one of the government officials in charge of Mathare.

The Mungiki did not start here. They came from the Kikuyu highlands north of Nairobi, that carpeted green, straight-off-a-postcard “Out of Africa” side of Kenya.

Hezekiah Ndura Waruinge, one of the Mungiki’s founders, said the group began as a local defense squad during land clashes in the late 1980s between forces loyal to the government, which was dominated by the Kalenjin tribe, and farmers who were Kikuyu, a rival tribe.

The Mungiki, which means “multitude” in the Kikuyu language, modeled themselves after the Mau Mau, Kenya’s independence fighters who sprouted dreadlocks, took secret oaths and waged a hit-and-run guerrilla war against British colonizers.

By the late 1990s, the Mungiki went urban, Waruinge explained, taking over the city’s minibus trade. Then they diversified into garbage collection, building materials and eventually the protection racket.

“It was beautiful,” Waruinge said. “We had 500,000 members and millions of shillings coming in every day.”

But then the Mungiki made a mistake, Waruinge said, and dabbled in politics, supporting losing candidates in the elections of 2002 and falling on the wrong side of the government.

Top Mungiki leaders were rounded up and charged with inciting violence. The Mungiki went underground, although they continued to levy protection taxes, electricity taxes and water taxes. They even gave receipts.

“They’re not such bad people,” said Dominick, who runs a lunch stall in Mathare and employs two Mungiki members to pour tea and bake chapati. Even though he had little bad to say about the Mungiki, Dominick declined to give his last name because, he said, “these guys drink blood. You never know what they might do to you.”

Dominick, along with several others, said that Mathare had been infested by muggers and drug dealers until the Mungiki came along and established a rough sense of order.

But that order began to unravel last autumn when the Mungiki tried to raise taxes on bootleggers who brew a toxic form of homemade alcohol, called chang’aa, on the banks of the smelly Mathare River.

The bootleggers armed a rival gang called the Taliban (no Muslim connection – the gang members just thought the name sounded cool) and the fighting between the two sides killed more than a dozen people and drove thousands away.

In May, the Mungiki were suspected of beheading four defectors. Then the two officers were ambushed. The police responded by storming Mathare with machine guns and tear gas. More than 30 people were killed and hundreds arrested.

Before the smoke had even cleared, the political accusations began to fly. Opposition members blamed the government for allowing the Mungiki menace to spin out of control. Government ministers fired back by threatening to arrest opposition leaders, including a presidential candidate.

Bokindo admitted the government was very worried about the Mungiki.

“They almost overwhelmed us,” she said.

The Mungiki seem to be in a dormant phase now, with little sign of them along Mathare’s mud boulevards. But several residents said that was not necessarily a good thing. Apparently, the muggings are back.

Kenya’s secret society sows dread

Filed under: global islands,kenya — admin @ 5:14 am

NAIROBI: These days, Charity Bokindo, the district commissioner of Nairobi North, is taking no chances. Wherever she goes, she carries not one but two pistols and she always travels with armed guards.

“The Mungiki,” she whispered, “they threatened to circumcise me.”

Kihara Mwangi, a member of Kenya’s Parliament, recently revealed that he had been kidnapped by the Mungiki, a secret society that is part Sicilian mafia, part Chicago street gang, with a little local cultism sprinkled in.

“These guys are devil worshipers,” he said. “And no one knows what they want.”

The Mungiki mystery is sweeping across Kenya, and taking a lot of lives with it. In the past month, more than 50 people have been killed in a crime spree and brutal police crackdown related to the shadowy outfit.

Police officials said the Mungiki were trying to destabilize the country before presidential elections in December and blamed them for some downright ugly acts: chopping off legs, skinning heads and guzzling jerry cans of blood. Government officials accused them of running a vast extortion empire and hacking up victims as a scare tactic.

The Mungiki Menace, as the local papers have dubbed it, plays straight into many of Kenya’s sore spots: tribal frictions, political shenanigans, poverty and crime. The flash point is Mathare, a giant slum and mountain of rust near central Nairobi, the capital, where 500,000 people are crammed into a warren of corrugated metal shanties.

On a recent afternoon, John Kinywa, a 17-year-old vendor of passion-fruit juice, trolled his patch of Mathare, shaking a plastic bowl for donations for a friend’s funeral.

“Just a shilling. Can’t you spare a shilling?” he asked passers-by, who, by the look of their ragged clothes and chopstick legs, probably could not spare it.

Kinywa said police officers shot his friend, who he insisted was innocent, in a raid against the Mungiki in early June after two police officers were gunned down in Mathare. With grubby fingers, he counted out several other people he knew who had recently been zipped into body bags.

There may be a lot of death in Mathare’s muddy alleyways, but there is also a lot of life: reggae rap thumping from blown-out speakers; women sitting on the ground and braiding hair; boys pushing impossibly overloaded carts; goats nibbling grass; little chicken wire barbecues cooking up corn.

Mathare is one of the countless slums in Kenya that the government does not reach. There are no police stations here or fire hydrants or roads. There are few toilets and the hillsides reek of fresh waste.

Many of the dented metal kiosks advertise in dripping hand-painted scrawl paraffin for oil lamps, because despite the palatial homes in the neighborhood next door that light up like soccer stadiums at night, most Mathare dwellers do not have electricity.

“These people live like beasts,” said Bokindo, one of the government officials in charge of Mathare.

The Mungiki did not start here. They came from the Kikuyu highlands north of Nairobi, that carpeted green, straight-off-a-postcard “Out of Africa” side of Kenya.

Hezekiah Ndura Waruinge, one of the Mungiki’s founders, said the group began as a local defense squad during land clashes in the late 1980s between forces loyal to the government, which was dominated by the Kalenjin tribe, and farmers who were Kikuyu, a rival tribe.

The Mungiki, which means “multitude” in the Kikuyu language, modeled themselves after the Mau Mau, Kenya’s independence fighters who sprouted dreadlocks, took secret oaths and waged a hit-and-run guerrilla war against British colonizers.

By the late 1990s, the Mungiki went urban, Waruinge explained, taking over the city’s minibus trade. Then they diversified into garbage collection, building materials and eventually the protection racket.

“It was beautiful,” Waruinge said. “We had 500,000 members and millions of shillings coming in every day.”

But then the Mungiki made a mistake, Waruinge said, and dabbled in politics, supporting losing candidates in the elections of 2002 and falling on the wrong side of the government.

Top Mungiki leaders were rounded up and charged with inciting violence. The Mungiki went underground, although they continued to levy protection taxes, electricity taxes and water taxes. They even gave receipts.

“They’re not such bad people,” said Dominick, who runs a lunch stall in Mathare and employs two Mungiki members to pour tea and bake chapati. Even though he had little bad to say about the Mungiki, Dominick declined to give his last name because, he said, “these guys drink blood. You never know what they might do to you.”

Dominick, along with several others, said that Mathare had been infested by muggers and drug dealers until the Mungiki came along and established a rough sense of order.

But that order began to unravel last autumn when the Mungiki tried to raise taxes on bootleggers who brew a toxic form of homemade alcohol, called chang’aa, on the banks of the smelly Mathare River.

The bootleggers armed a rival gang called the Taliban (no Muslim connection – the gang members just thought the name sounded cool) and the fighting between the two sides killed more than a dozen people and drove thousands away.

In May, the Mungiki were suspected of beheading four defectors. Then the two officers were ambushed. The police responded by storming Mathare with machine guns and tear gas. More than 30 people were killed and hundreds arrested.

Before the smoke had even cleared, the political accusations began to fly. Opposition members blamed the government for allowing the Mungiki menace to spin out of control. Government ministers fired back by threatening to arrest opposition leaders, including a presidential candidate.

Bokindo admitted the government was very worried about the Mungiki.

“They almost overwhelmed us,” she said.

The Mungiki seem to be in a dormant phase now, with little sign of them along Mathare’s mud boulevards. But several residents said that was not necessarily a good thing. Apparently, the muggings are back.

'Sect violence' rocks Kenya capital

Filed under: global islands,kenya — admin @ 5:09 am

Armed police recently raided Nairobi’s slums in a crackdown on the Mungiki.
At least 11 people have been killed in violence around Nairobi that police blamed on members of a banned sect that is powerful in the Kenyan capital’s slums.

Police said on Friday that the Mungiki sect killed three people overnight whose mutilated bodies were dumped in the Banana shopping centre, 20km north of Nairobi.

“Two people were slashed to death and dumped there. About a kilometre away, a man was beheaded. We suspect the killings were carried out by Mungiki,” a police official said.

Mungiki members were also suspected of involvement in a gun and grenade attack on a bar in which eight people died.

Other reports put the death toll for the night’s violence at as high as 22.

Mau Mau influence

Once only a religious group who embraced traditional rituals such as female circumcision, the Mungiki sect has fractured into a politically linked gang.

Mungiki claims to have thousands of adherents, all drawn from the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest tribe.

The group, whose name means “multitude” in the Kikuyu language, was inspired by the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule.

In recent years, it has been linked to extortion, murder and political violence.

The group’s founder, Maina Njenga, who has publicly denied links to Mungiki recently but who is widely believed to still be a guiding force, was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday on gun and drug charges.

Banned in 2002 following deadly slum violence, the gang is notorious for criminal activities including extortion and murder.

Leaflets circulated by the group call on Kenyan youth to join up and prepare for an uprising against the government.

“Arise! Arise! Arise!” one of the leaflets says. “Stand up for your rights now.”

Hundreds of people fled a shantytown in Kenya’s capital earlier this month, where at least 33 people were killed during a police crackdown on on the Mungiki group.

Political control

Meanwhile, a Mungiki leader said the government crackdown has done nothing to stop the secretive group, which makes money by demanding protection payments from minibus drivers.

It also controls illegal businesses that produce homemade alcohol or provide electricity to slum areas by rerouting the circuits.

The minibuses, known as matatus, are the main form of public transportation in Kenya.

“Nothing has changed,” the leader told the AP news agency, insisting his name not be published because he is wanted by police.

“Most politicians in this area are affiliated with us in one way or another.”

‘Sect violence’ rocks Kenya capital

Filed under: global islands,kenya — admin @ 5:09 am

Armed police recently raided Nairobi’s slums in a crackdown on the Mungiki.
At least 11 people have been killed in violence around Nairobi that police blamed on members of a banned sect that is powerful in the Kenyan capital’s slums.

Police said on Friday that the Mungiki sect killed three people overnight whose mutilated bodies were dumped in the Banana shopping centre, 20km north of Nairobi.

“Two people were slashed to death and dumped there. About a kilometre away, a man was beheaded. We suspect the killings were carried out by Mungiki,” a police official said.

Mungiki members were also suspected of involvement in a gun and grenade attack on a bar in which eight people died.

Other reports put the death toll for the night’s violence at as high as 22.

Mau Mau influence

Once only a religious group who embraced traditional rituals such as female circumcision, the Mungiki sect has fractured into a politically linked gang.

Mungiki claims to have thousands of adherents, all drawn from the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest tribe.

The group, whose name means “multitude” in the Kikuyu language, was inspired by the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule.

In recent years, it has been linked to extortion, murder and political violence.

The group’s founder, Maina Njenga, who has publicly denied links to Mungiki recently but who is widely believed to still be a guiding force, was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday on gun and drug charges.

Banned in 2002 following deadly slum violence, the gang is notorious for criminal activities including extortion and murder.

Leaflets circulated by the group call on Kenyan youth to join up and prepare for an uprising against the government.

“Arise! Arise! Arise!” one of the leaflets says. “Stand up for your rights now.”

Hundreds of people fled a shantytown in Kenya’s capital earlier this month, where at least 33 people were killed during a police crackdown on on the Mungiki group.

Political control

Meanwhile, a Mungiki leader said the government crackdown has done nothing to stop the secretive group, which makes money by demanding protection payments from minibus drivers.

It also controls illegal businesses that produce homemade alcohol or provide electricity to slum areas by rerouting the circuits.

The minibuses, known as matatus, are the main form of public transportation in Kenya.

“Nothing has changed,” the leader told the AP news agency, insisting his name not be published because he is wanted by police.

“Most politicians in this area are affiliated with us in one way or another.”

6/22/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 2:02 pm





Sri Lanka under fire over Internet censorship

Filed under: General,global islands,media,sri lanka — admin @ 5:05 am

Media rights groups attacked Sri Lanka’s government for blocking domestic access to a website favouring the Tamil Tiger rebels and for saying it would like hackers to disable the site.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Colombo should immediately unblock the Tamilnet.com website.

“Sri Lanka’s Internet service providers have been blocking access to the website on the government’s orders since June 15,” RSF said. “The government must put a stop to this censorship and restore access to the site at once.”

A local rights group, the Free Media Movement (FMM), also criticised government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella over comments in which he said he would “love” to hire hackers to pull down Tamilnet.

The FMM said Rambukwella’s statement was “tantamount to government sanctioned cyber-terrorism against websites that do not toe its line.”

“The FMM seeks urgent clarification from the government as to whether Minister Rambukwella’s comments are indicative of official government policy to shutdown, disrupt or censor content and websites on the Internet.”

But Sri Lanka’s Media Minister Anura Yapa insisted his ministry had nothing to do with preventing users of Sri Lanka Telecom, the country’s main Internet service provider, accessing Tamilnet.

“It is unreasonable to level charges against the government,” Yapa told reporters here. “We have nothing to do with this.”

Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said the security forces had not ordered the blocking of Tamilnet either.

“Security forces have not asked the Tamilnet to be blocked,” Samarasinghe said.

Despite the denials, Sri Lanka Telecom’s Internet service help desk told callers that the “government has asked to block Tamilnet.”

“You can access any other site, but you can’t access Tamilnet,” callers are being told.

The government owns just under 50 percent of Sri Lanka Telecom, which is run by NTT of Japan.

A Colombo-based editor of Tamilnet, Dharmaratnam Sivaram, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in April 2005. The killing remains unresolved.

Some Internet service providers, who have their main offices abroad, still allow access to the website.

Tamilnet is an influential source of Tamil views on the island’s separatist conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives in a 35-year campaign by rebels for a separate homeland for minority Tamils.

Sri Lanka under fire over Internet censorship

Filed under: General,global islands,media,sri lanka — admin @ 5:05 am

Media rights groups attacked Sri Lanka’s government for blocking domestic access to a website favouring the Tamil Tiger rebels and for saying it would like hackers to disable the site.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Colombo should immediately unblock the Tamilnet.com website.

“Sri Lanka’s Internet service providers have been blocking access to the website on the government’s orders since June 15,” RSF said. “The government must put a stop to this censorship and restore access to the site at once.”

A local rights group, the Free Media Movement (FMM), also criticised government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella over comments in which he said he would “love” to hire hackers to pull down Tamilnet.

The FMM said Rambukwella’s statement was “tantamount to government sanctioned cyber-terrorism against websites that do not toe its line.”

“The FMM seeks urgent clarification from the government as to whether Minister Rambukwella’s comments are indicative of official government policy to shutdown, disrupt or censor content and websites on the Internet.”

But Sri Lanka’s Media Minister Anura Yapa insisted his ministry had nothing to do with preventing users of Sri Lanka Telecom, the country’s main Internet service provider, accessing Tamilnet.

“It is unreasonable to level charges against the government,” Yapa told reporters here. “We have nothing to do with this.”

Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said the security forces had not ordered the blocking of Tamilnet either.

“Security forces have not asked the Tamilnet to be blocked,” Samarasinghe said.

Despite the denials, Sri Lanka Telecom’s Internet service help desk told callers that the “government has asked to block Tamilnet.”

“You can access any other site, but you can’t access Tamilnet,” callers are being told.

The government owns just under 50 percent of Sri Lanka Telecom, which is run by NTT of Japan.

A Colombo-based editor of Tamilnet, Dharmaratnam Sivaram, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in April 2005. The killing remains unresolved.

Some Internet service providers, who have their main offices abroad, still allow access to the website.

Tamilnet is an influential source of Tamil views on the island’s separatist conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives in a 35-year campaign by rebels for a separate homeland for minority Tamils.

6/21/2007

Filed under: belize,General,global islands — admin @ 6:27 am

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:14 am

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress