Archive for November 2010
Over 30 people including a respected-Kenyan human rights activist, Al-Amin Kamathi, will appear before a Kampala court tomorrow to answer charges related to terrorism. The suspects were remanded to Luzira maximum prison in September on allegations of having links to the 7/11 twin bombings in Kampala -which killed over 70 people and injured hundreds of others. Suspects expected to appear before court includes: Yahya Suleiman Mubuthia, Khalifa Abdi Muhammad, Idris Magondu, and Hamid Suleiman among others. Two Human rights lawyers in Kampala, Siraji Ali and Ladislaus Rwakafuzi are expected to represent the suspects. Several human rights organisations including, Amnesty international, Cage Prisoners, Human rights watch and Frontline defenders have condemned the Ugandan Government for arresting Al-Amin Kimathi a leading Muslim human rights activist in the region.
Arresting Muslim Shiekh in Kenya( Click on this link to listen to an audio interview between Hassan Isilow and Advocate Al-Amin Kimathi speaking about the arrest of Jamaican cleric arrested in Kenya)
By Hassan Isilow
SPECIAL REPORT- It’s a Wednesday evening September 15, at Entebbe International airport. I find myself inside a fast food store, as I wait for my flight to Johannesburg. I sip a freshly made cup of Arabica coffee,and looking at the screen there is news about Al-Amin Kimathi’s arrest being broadcast live on NTV-Uganda. The first conclusion I make of the arrest, is that Al-Amin will be incarcerated for long, because he has been very critical of counter terrorism policies and operations in the region. Al-Amin Kimathi is Executive Coordinator of the Muslims Human Rights Forum (MHRF) based in Nairobi-Kenya. Prior to his arrest, Al-Amin had documented human rights violations, arbitrary detention and unlawful renditions in the context of counter-terrorism operations in the East and Horn of Africa region. I have never met Al-Amin in person, but I conducted several telephonic radio interviews with him. I must agree that during the interviews, Al-Amin sounded very eloquent and well informed. In fact it would be a mockery for one not to call him an intellectual. So why was Al-Amin Kimathi arrested? Was he a terrorist, a sympathizer or victim of circumstances? Africa Witness digs deeper into Kimathi’s arrest.
In January Al-Amin Kimathi organised a protest march in Nairobi calling for the release of a Jamaican-born Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abdullah El-Faisal. The Kenyan anti terrorism police had arrested El-Faisal on New Year’s Eve in Mombasa, after reportedly breaching migration rules. According to migration officials sheikh El-Faisal, was not supposed to preach while on his visit in Kenya, but it was reported that he had breached his visitor’s permit by preaching in some mosques in Mombasa. The Nairobi protest latter turned violent as angry protestors clashed with police. The police fired live bullets at protestors killing a few and injuring a couple of others. Property around the Jamia mosque in Nairobi was also reportedly vandalised. In the eyes of the Kenyan Government, Al-Amin was perceived as an Islamic ‘fundamentalist’ with little national interests. Kimathi was then arrested in mid January to answer charges of inciting violence. Although he was released within a short period of time, the Kenyan Government was still worried of his popularity with in the Nairobi Muslim community. His organisational skills were also considered a great threat owing to the fact that the protest he organised was well attended. Internal security minister George Saitoti quickly apportioned blame on Al-shabaab militants whom he accused of participating in the protest march. Although, Al-shabaab spokesmen denied any involvement, the Kenya police immediately rounded up hundreds of Somali’s including members of parliament. The Nairobi protest surely must have put Al-Amin in bad books with his Government. It wouldn’t be wrong for one to urge that, the Kenyan Government could have ordered their Ugandan counterparts to arrest Al-Amin. The Kenyan Government calculated well by having AL-Amin arrested in Uganda, because the Uganda community is not good at demonstrating besides Uganda is almost a military state. So no one would dare demonstrate in Uganda. I assume, if Al-Amin had been arrested in Kenya, there would have been many demonstrations and he should have been released by now.
It ought to be noted that, Britain and the United States were not happy with Al-Amin when he questioned the arrest of the Jamaican born preacher -sheikh El-faisal. In the western eyes, Al-Amin was viewed as a sympathizer of ‘terrorists’ owing to the fact that sheikh El-Faisal was on the international terror watch list. In 2003, the Jamaican cleric was deported from the United Kingdom after reportedly soliciting for the murder of Jews and none Muslims. He served a seven year jail sentence before being deported. As a human rights activist, the west expected Al-Amin to keep quiet when El-Faisal was arrested in Mombasa on 31 December 2009.
After the Nairobi protests a group of Muslim leaders in the port city of Mombasa quickly disowned both sheikh El-Faisal and Al-Amin. Sheikh Muhdhar Shariff Khitamy, of the Muslim Supreme Council of Kenya warned Muslim youth in Mombasa not to protest the arrest of Sheikh El-Faisal, adding that the Jamaican was not welcome in Kenya and should be immediately deported.” We called this press conference on receiving reliable information that a small group of reckless individuals are planning to cause chaos,” Sheikh Khitamy told a media briefing in Mombasa. Sheikh Khitamy said El-Faisal’s presence in Kenya had brought unnecessary hatred and acrimony. “We have always lived in harmony with the Kenyan government until El-Faisal arrived in our country. We shall not tolerate him.” He told the press conference in mid January 2010.Present at the press conference were several officials of the Kenya Muslims Supreme council, Kenya Assembly of Ulamaa and Imams (Kauli), Moon Sighting Committee, the Muslims Association, among others. So could there be a possibility that, some Kenyan Muslims leaders sold out to get AL-Amin arrested in Uganda??????
Disclaimer: views expressed on this blog, do not represent those of my family or friends.
The 7/11 bombings in Kampala have generated a huge debate in the media and social networking sites, with reference to Islam and terrorism. People are asking whether Islam teaches terrorism or not. Of course, Islam does not teach terrorism nor does it support the killing of innocent people.
I believe it’s healthy to have debates of this nature, because they will help educate both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, about Islam as a religion and its stand on terrorism. Unfortunately, some people engaging in these debates are largely informed by prejudice which is not good for learning, or even co-existence.
I have also sadly learnt that our local media, think tanks, and government have continuously used the word “Islamists” whenever they refer to the Harakat al Shabaab Mujahedeen fighters. It’s wrong to continue referring to al Shabaab as “Islamist” fighters because what they are doing is unacceptable by the teachings of the Islamic faith.
And if you looked up in the English dictionary, the term “Islamist” refers to those people who adhere to strict Islamic teachings. Islam teaches us NOT to kill or even inflict harm on another human being, yet al Shabaab does the opposite. Let’s look at the formal name of al Shabaab, which is Harakat al Shabaab Mujahedeen, meaning Movement of Warrior Youth (MWY). There is nothing Islamic about this name. In my opinion, al Shabaab is a political movement trying to attain its goal by tarnishing the good name and image of Islam.
As Muslims, we strongly condemn the recent terrorist attacks in Kampala, which caused the death and injury of several people. We extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the families, relatives and friends of the victims. Ugandans should know there is no room for terrorism in Islam. Islam totally forbids all forms of terrorism and aims at bringing peace, unity and love to humanity.
Terrorism is an old practice, which should not be linked to any religion or ethnicity, because terrorism has been carried out in different parts of the world by different groups for a number of reasons. We have heard of a communist organisation, or even a fascist group, assuming responsibility for conducting a terrorist act. Many extreme political movements in the world today, make their voice heard the wrong way by using terror. At times they may conduct these ruthless activities so that their demands can be met. It’s also totally wrong to link Islam or tribes with terrorism. Linking an entire religion or tribe to terrorism could be viewed as a stereotype.
In Uganda, Muslims and Christians have co-existed for a very long time. Some have even intermarried so I pray no one breaks this bond. Likewise, Somalis have lived in this country for a very long time without causing any trouble. So let’s not isolate Muslims and Somalis. Islam totally condemns all forms of terrorism or violence against humanity.
Islam, as a divine religion, advocates peace and tolerance. According to the holy Koran, it is a great sin to kill an innocent soul, and whoever does so will suffer great torment in the hereafter. I pray the Almighty God heals those nursing both physical and psychological wounds.
By Hassan Isilow
I have nothing against the ruling National Resistance Movement Party or President Yoweri Museveni. But what concerns me, is the luck of fulfilment of pledges made by NRM party during the past many presidential campaigns.
In the past elections for instance, President Museveni promised to improve the lives of poor rural Ugandan’s. However, the situation has not changed much, despite the introduction of several Poverty alleviation projects including Naads. People are still poor to the extent some cannot afford buying basic necessities such as salt or paraffin. In Kachumbala- Bukedea District for instance, very few people received goats meant for Bona-Bagagawalle programee, which has only benefitted a few. Although, I appreciate that President Museveni, gave Bukedea, Ngora and serere District statuses. On the other hand, I doubt if the creation of more districts will improve the lives of poor peasants, though I’m aware some people will urge that having many Districts brings services closer to the people. In my opinion, I think peasants in Uganda need better health care, quality education, seed-capital and fertilizers but not more Districts.
Last week, I visited Kachumbala in Bukedea District and was surprised at the high level of poverty, frustration and hopelessness among the people. I almost broke down in tears when one old man in Kachuru-parish (Kachumbala) told me he had not had a meal in three days. Mr. Epooli, who survives on (ereja-reja) cultivating other people’s farms, had not been hired for a week, so he could not find money to buy food. He told me, he survived on water and wild fruits. Most people in Kachuru parish make a living by doing, ereja-reja (cultivating other people’s farms for either money or food) which is a tough way of making a living.
Many rural Ugandan’s especially in Eastern region are suffering from poverty & Famine-but have not given up supporting President Yoweri Museveni. I think it would be fair for president Museveni to reward such people’s allegiance by considering them in his development programs. Giving Ugandan’s more Districts will not solve poverty. I think seed money (entandikwa) should be provided to the poorest in every region. I know many graduates sitting in rural areas without Jobs.
NRM carders have often told rural Ugandans, too many times to be patient that pledges made by the president would be fulfilled, but they end up waiting forever. If someone falls sick in Amusi village in kachumbala, for instance- they have to be ridden on a bicycle for 8 kilometers to Mbale hospital. Most women in Amusi village give birth at their homes because there are no decent hospitals nearby. If a lucky patient gets to the Government hospital alive, they won’t find medicine. I have also meet patients in Government hospitals complaining they have been asked for money so as to have x-rays done on them. A friend of mine was asked to pay Ugsh: 22,000($10) for an X-ray reportedly because Mbale hospital did not have materials used for conducting x-rays. As I left kachumbala, a strong gush of sadness overwhelmed me.
We, who interact with rural Ugandans, on a daily basis, know how disgruntled they are. These desperate Ugandans want to know, why they cannot get proper services at Public hospitals. Why are Government Poverty alleviation programmes filled with graft. And why is President Museveni ignoring their cries.
If NRM does not quickly address these issues, I’m afraid rural Ugandan’s might switch their support to opposition; after all they have been loyal to the movement for long period without drawing any benefits.
HIV/Aids patients excitedly wait for free soup distribution at Iliso care society in Khayelitsha,near Cape Town. Iliso is a non-governmental organization based in Site C Khayelitsha, one of South Africa’s most marginalised and poverty-stricken Townships. Many residents here live in self-constructed wooden or corrugated tin shacks, without access to clean water, electricity, or sanitation.
Most children attend school on empty stomachs. The unemployment rate in Khayelitsha officially stands at a staggering 50%. In reality, the figure is much higher. But there is a silver lining to the dark cloud.
M/S Vivian Zilo, a research assistant at Stellenbosch University, and four other women are steadily restoring hope in this Township through their organisation Iliso- which means ‘eye’ in Xhosa language.
“I knew about the suffering of people in this area, while working as a research assistant for Stellenbosch University. I used to frequent site c where I counselled HIV/AIDS patient. But they were often too weak to take medicine that I administered, because they were hungry,” Vivian told African witness in an interview.
The Suffering of HIV/AIDS patients prompted Vivian to start the work of Iliso in the area where need was greatest, with a soup kitchen. But soon she broadened the scope to include helping the elderly, underprivileged and schoolchildren.
Vivian’s organisation also provides safety and care for orphans and vulnerable children. She also organizes workshops for youth to help them cope with problems they face in the community. Iliso also offers psychosocial and community empowerment to families and children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Khayelitsha has one of the highest incidences of HIV/Aids infection in South Africa, which the United Nations Aids Foundation recognizes as having the second highest HIV/Aids rate world wide. Reliable estimates suggest there are as many as 14,000 orphans in Khayelitsha, the majority being a result of the Aids pandemic. Whilst some 27% of adults are HIV positive, amongst expectant mothers this figure may be as high as 40%.
Vivian says with these shocking HIV/AIDS statistics, unemployment and the orphan crisis, is stretching her organisations small budget. In case you want to help Iliso, to continue with its good work, then contact Vivian on +2783 548 9268 or +2721 387 7423
Somali Pirates,who do they work for?( Click on this link to listen to an audio interview between Hassan Isilow and Dr. Moosa Gabobey,expert on piracy and chairperson of the Somali Fisheries Association)
By Hassan Isilow
Somali Pirates are back in the headlines after receiving $ 12.3 million in ransom money for the release of two ships .This incident has left many thinking, who do the Somali pirates work for? And what could be the motive behind the escalating piracy. This week, Africa witness caught up with Dr Moosa Gagobey, chairperson of the Somali Fisheries Association and a former lecturer at the Fisheries Institute of Somalia. He says a number of factors are responsible for the increase in Piracy. First, he points out the issue of greed among Somali youth who have been encouraged to join piracy because of the huge sums of money involved. The London-based academic says unemployment has also motivated a number of Somali youth to join piracy.
“Somalia has not had an effective government for a long time and people have taken to doing whatever they want. But at the same time, Somali’s are very angry with foreign vessels for dumping toxic waste along their coast and illegally fishing in their waters,” the academic told Africa Witness in an interview.
Last year pirates accused European firms of dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast. They demanded an $8m ransom for the return of a Ukrainian ship and about $25m for the Saudi tanker they had seized. The pirates claimed the ransom would be used to clean up the waste. Dr. Moosa agrees with concerns of toxic waste, saying there is environmental dilapidation on the Somali coast as a result of toxic waste being dumped by certain western firms.
“Yes, the Somali coastline has been hugely destroyed as a result of toxic dumping, but it ought to be noted that pirates do not represent any environmental organization. They are out to enrich themselves,” Gagobey related. As a result of Somalia’s extended civil war, several countries have taken advantage of the situation and freely dump their toxic wastes in the country’s waters without much thought, he added.
Piracy is becoming fashionable among Somali youth because of the huge sums of money involved. According to reports in the Somali media-pirates live a lavish lifestyle, with most of them driving big cars and marrying the most beautiful girls in Town. Since most youth want such a life style which is difficult to reach in Somalia, a country where almost half the population needs food aid after 20 years of non-stop conflict. The only option these youth have to reach their dreams is to hijack vessels plying off the Somali coast.
“The Islamic University plays a very important role in providing a world class education in Africa within both the broad sphere of circular and religious studies,” Rector Dr. Ahmed Kawaase Sengendo told Africa witness. “Our academic record is unquestionable.”
Financed by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the university was established in 1988 to serve the English-Speaking African Muslim community in Southern and Eastern Africa. But since then the mission has expanded as the institution continued to welcome students from across the continent and beyond. Dr. Sengendo says that the number of student enrolment, which began with only 80 students in1988, keeps growing every year. The university has graduated more than 7000 students in different disciplines including Islamic studies, Arabic, law, science, arts and social sciences. Sengendo noted that while the university initially started with a single campus at Mbale in eastern Uganda, it has since grown to four campuses. “We have established the four campuses so that students easily access our services at their home towns. Unlike previously when students had to travel to the main campus,” he explained. And although the university focused in its early years on serving African Muslims, it is open to both Muslims and non-Muslims. “Although we are an Islamic founded institution, we are also open to Christian students who wish to join our institution.” the Recto said. Success Recipe The university officials are proud that their students have carried the knowledge they had gained to different parts of the world. “Our university is recognized world over and most of our students are always given admissions to study their Masters and PHDs at leading world universities in Europe and America,” says Dr. Sengendo. “Our graduates have maintained good performances in the labor market.” For many graduates, the passion for learning and the multicultural environment they experienced in the IUIU were a success recipe. “It was a great experience for me to study at a highly respectable institution which has good academic and moral standards,” Imaan Faith Maleka, a South African who works in a leading communication firm in Cape Town, told this publication. Maleka was inspired by fellow colleagues who came from different countries. Matovu Abdallah Twaha, a senior reporter for the Gulf Today newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, agrees. “I recall the good days we enjoyed at IUIU,” Twaha, who studied journalism from 1997-2002, told our reporter in a telephone interview from the UAE. “The lecturers were very friendly. And students treated each other as one family without segregation of which country or religion one belongs to.” Abdifatah Shafat, a Kenyan graduate, shares the same appreciation for the Islamic University. “I have learnt a lot academic, cultural and religious wise. It was a great experience for me.” Shafat, who is currently pursing his master’s degree in the US, is still in touch with his former colleagues from different countries. “IUIU was like a second home to me.”