Mount Kenya University honours top Kenyan scientist

By James Wakahiu
Mount Kenya University conferred a honorary Doctorate Degree in Pharmaceutical Science to a renowned Kenyan Global Scientist during the university 6th graduation ceremony held at its graduation pavilion at Happy Valley Estate Grounds on July 25, 2014.

Dr Frank George Njoroge was born in Kamuchege Village, Githunguri District in Kiambu County. His mother is Alice Nyaucha while his father was the late Muiruri Laban Kimungu.

 He was educated at Kamuchege and Kiawairia Primary schools before proceeding to Thika High School where he took Chemistry and Biology.

 His star started shining at the University of Nairobi where he came top of his class with a First Class honours degree in Chemistry. His next stop was Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio from where he graduated with a Master of Science degree in Chemistry in 1983.

He took record time to graduate with a PhD in Organic Chemistry in 1985 in the same university - less than two years after his Masters degree.

 Armed with ample knowledge, Dr Njoroge quickly got into drugs research.

 Between 1985 and 1987, as a Research Associate in the Institute of Pathology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Ohio with Prof Vincent Monnier, they established the relevance of the Maillard Reaction (browning) in complications associated with diabetes and aging processes.

  In 1988 as a Senior Research Associate in the same university, he established major agents involved in cross-linking of proteins in diabetic and aging people which provided important bio-markers for evaluating disease progression.

 Nothing would stop the momentum of the young and motivated scientist who was on a mission to save the world of its deadliest diseases. His tireless efforts started paying off since as a Principal Scientist and Senior Principal Scientist between 1991 and 2000, he was very successful in leading the way to the discovery of a farnesyl transferase inhibitor (SARASAR) for cancer indication which advanced all the way to Phase III clinical trials.

Although studies for this compound were halted at an advanced stage, it is now being extensively investigated for treatment of progeria, a rare disease that affects toddlers by accelerating their aging process.

 After the significant contribution in the cancer field, at Schering-Plough Research Institute New Jersey, in 2000, he was promoted to the position of Associate Director, Medicinal Chemistry and then as the Director, where he embarked on a journey to discover drugs that would treat the deadly hepatitis C disease.

After years of intense scientific work, together with his group, they discovered Victre1is, a very important molecule that treated this disease in a remarkable way. On May 13th 2011, Victrelis TM was approved by the Food and Drug Administration Agency (FDA) as the first protease inhibitor to treat hepatitis C disease. The medicine has been used to treat thousands of patients who would have otherwise died from this deadly disease.

 

The world had to then notice this great scientist. He was Inducted to the ‘Hall of Fame’ as 2012 Hero of Chemistry and awarded the Heros of Chemistry Award by the American Chemical Society for the discovery of hepatitis C drug and named one of the ‘25 most influential Africans in America’ by The Sun Times in 2012, no mean feat for a Kenyan among millions of African Americans.

 He has received other numerous awards including Schering-Plough Research Institute’s President Award for the Discovery and Development of Non-Peptide Tricyclic Inhibitors of Farnesyl Protein Transferase; Black Achievers Award for Excellence in Research for Anti-cancer Drugs; New Jersey Minority Achievers Award for Cutting Edge Research into Life Threatening Diseases such as Cancer and Hepatitis C; Schering—Plough Research Institute’s President Award for the Discovery and Development of an Orally Rio- available NS3 Protease Inhibitor for Treatment of Hepatitis C Infections  through  Structure-assisted Design; Emerald Award for Professional Achievement in industry; Shining Performance Award (Shared Accountability and Transparency, Cross-Functional Teamwork and Collaboration, Business Integrity: Kilo synthesis of RLC recommended HCV Inhibitor, Sch 772502); Top Minority in Research Science- Science Spectrum Trailblazer:  Value Enhancement initiative (VEI Wins) award for executional excellence in customer value  enhancement:  Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for US patent number 7,012,066 Novel Peptides as NS3-Serine Protease Inhibitors of Hepatitis C, an award named after the famous scientist who discovered the light bulb. He was also honored with the Sapa Community Service Award by the Chinese professionals in USA.

 

Dr Njoroge has published extensively in professional journals on synthetic organic chemistry and drug design. He is an author or co-author of 129 scientific publications and 90 granted US patents.

 Sales of Victrelis TM (boceprevir), the Merck Company’s oral hepatitis C virus protease inhibitor, grew to $ 115 million (Sh10.235 billion) in the quarter of 2013 versus $ 87 million (Sh 7.743 billion) in 2012 as the product continued to be launched. Global sales for the full year 2012 were $ 502 million (Sh44.678 billion). VictrelisTM is approved in 69 countries and has been launched in

34 markets.

 After his great discoveries at Merck, Dr Njoroge was invited by Eli Lilly and Company, another one of the multinational pharmaceutical companies, to oversee their discovery operation as Senior Research Fellow.

  His long term vision is to start a Life Science Centre with Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical focus that would have a combined collaboration between United States of America (USA) and Kenya, whereby some of the sophisticated research would be done in the USA while the more labour-intensive work would be done in Kenya. This would facilitate the provision of greatly needed jobs to both US and Kenyan citizens.

 "To our Son the Great Organic - Chemist, Science Hero, Prominent Researcher, Drug Designer, Pharmaceutical Entrepreneur and Patriot, we award the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Pharmaceutical Science," declared MKU’s Chancellor, Prof Wulsin as she conferred the degree to the recipient amid wild cheers from the gathering.

In his acceptance speech, Dr Njoroge thanked MKU for the award of the honorary degree. “Thank you to MKU for making me feel appreciated – especially in my own country!  Thank you Graduands for the endurance that you have demonstrated in successfully completing your studies and thus, providing me with the opportunity to come all the way from United States and celebrate this event with you. To all, I graciously accept the MKU Honorary Degree award,” said Dr Njoroge amid thunderous cheers from the crowd.

The Gun madness in Karamojong cluster

By Metro Reporter

For Many years, the problem of illegal guns has caused a lot of suffering to the people of the Karamoja Cluster. Many people have lost their lives, others displaced, property destroyed and children forced out of school.  Recently the Merille militia attacked Turkana fishermen in Todonyang killing for in the first incident and six others in the second. A total of 7 boats and other fishing gear were stolen. Even though efforts have been made by respective governments and other stake holders to bring this problem to an end, nothing much seem to have been achieved.

Recently Merille Militia men from Ethiopia struck and killed 10 Turkana Fishermen on Lake Turkana in Todonyang area. According to Kibish Deputy County Commissioner, Eric Wanyonyi, who talked to us on phone, four people were killed during the first incident that took place on 2nd of August 2013 while six more were killed on 12th August 2013. Five managed to escape in the second attack. A total of 7 boats plus other fishing gearwere stolen.

Yet, sometime back, some parts of Turkana County, to be precise, the people of Tododoyang andKokuro in Turkana North Sub-County, were engulfed in mourning when their loved ones were slain by militia men from Ethiopia. Even though the exact number of the dead was put at 42 people by the Press, the official number given by the authority was 20 people who included 14 Turkanas and 6 Ethiopians while the local leaders insisted that those who lost their lives were more than 50 people.To be precise, they had put the figure at 60.

According to the local Administration, the senseless killings were sparked off in retaliation mission when local residents decided to avenge the death and injury of the two Turkana fishermen who had been attacked by the Merille in unclear circumstances. This provoked the other community to hit back, by killing about 20 Turkanas who had gone to a village occupied by Merille to do barter trade.

According to Todonyang Parish Priest, Stephen Ochieng, when this incident took place, there were several Turkanas who had crossed over to Ethiopia to do batter trade with their neighbours, and had it not been for timely interventionof the Catholic Mission, which offered protection to 45 Turkanas who had crossed to Ethiopia, to protect them, many would have lost their lives.

This sad incident raised a lot of concern. Leaders from various levels of the Government visited the place and voiced their concern promising that the Government would do all it takes to protect its people. Security was also was supposed to be beefed up in the region to ensure that the two communities do not attack each other; something local leaders have reportedly said has not been done up to now.

Namorupus, where the first attackers are believed to have come from, is an area believed to be situated 5 Kilometres inside Kenya on a fertile Lake Turkana shores. It has been an issue of concern for many years and yet very little, if any, has been done to put the record straight by having the illegal occupation corrected.

Though in Kenyan territory, the area has been in occupation of Merille, who wrongfully believe that the area is in Ethiopia. Many people look at this as a hot spot that could spark off confrontation between the two communities if corrective measures are not taken early enough.

For many years, the local leaders have voiced their concern over this illegal occupation and yet nothing much has been done by the two authorities to persuade the Merille, who grow sorghum in the area, go back to Ethiopia.

Apart from the by then Prime Minister, RailaOdinga and other top Government officials visiting the place, the immediately former President MwaiKibakialso held talks on this issue, with his Ethiopian counterpart, the by then Prime Minister MelesZenawi, in Uganda when the two attended the swearing in of the Ugandan President, YoweriKagutaMuseveni.

Also Kenyan Parliament had to suspend its normal business to discuss the Todonyang issue, at the same time prompting the Parliamentary Security Committee to visit insecurity prone areas with a view of assessing the situation.

For many years, Todonyang, a once promising fish landing centre, has been a shadow of what it used to be due to repeated attacks and counter attacks by the two communities. This has made occupation of the place a nightmare save for the efforts of the Catholic Mission which has been working hard to restore hope in the area.

For the last few years, the Catholic Mission, through the Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle(MCSPA) has been working hard to repair the bad relationship between the two communities which had been damaged by repeated raids against each other. Dialogue and sharing of resources have been among the approaches applied. Equally, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) advocating for peace have used a lot of resources trying to restore peace among the two communities in the region.

It is through these efforts that sanity was slowly returning to the centre which had been completely razed down by raiders with its residents fleeing to other places for safety. It was through these initiatives that the church, which had been destroyed, was renovated and a primary school which had equally been vandalized was rehabilitated, thus giving the people who had fled to safety a reason to want to go back and start life again from where they had stopped. Some had indeed done this.

The recent killings were among several such sad incidents that had turned Todonyang, a once promising fish-landing centre with good batter trade and flourishing opportunities, into a dreaded place where guns are used indiscriminately, to the peril of the local communities from both sides.

Senseless Killings

Whatever the case, the senseless killing of innocent people, may it be Kenyans, Ethiopians, Sudanese or Ugandans by trigger happy raiders in the Karamojong Cluster must be stopped by all means. The uncontrolled use of illegal arms in the region in the name of protecting property should bebrought to an end.

Indeed, the indiscriminate use of firearms, more so illegal firearms, has been an issue of big concern in the affected areas. Many lives have been lost, property destroyed, people displaced, young women widowed, children orphaned and some dropped out school as a result of this. Poverty reigns supreme as the rate of illiteracy skyrockets with retrogressive cultural norms that have little room for development,being wholesomely embraced.

Karamojong Cluster, found in the Dry-lands of East Africa, and occupied by mainly nomads who practice pastoralism, has experienced this problem for many years. Efforts to contain it using various means have yielded very little results.

And as it were, Todonyang is just one of such centres in the vast Cluster where possession of illegal guns has turned life into nightmare, despite efforts to help silence it. Things aren’t better in other parts of Turkana County either.

Sometime back,, an Assistant chief for Napeitom Sub-Location, Turkana EastSubn-County, CalystusNaudoiEkidor, was gunned down when he tried to repulse raiders who had attacked his people. Two other people were also killed.

Yet, almost at the same time, an Assistant Chief for Lopii Sub-Location, John Ekuwom, was seriously injured when he was hit by raiders who had attached his people. He was taken to Moi Referral and Teaching Hospital (MRTH), Eldoret, for specialized treatment. Todate, he is still nursing the injuries. Lokwamosing is yet another volatile spot in Turkana East.

In 1998, a total of 190 people were attacked and killed at a Manyatta near watering point in Lokichoggio by Toposas from Southern Sudan. Yet in October 1992, a total of 200 people who included women, men and children were attacked and killed by Toposas in Narus, Southern Sudan where they had gone to graze and water their animals. There have been several such senseless killings in various parts of the vast Karamojong Cluster. Several security officers have also lost their lives.

 

The use of Illegal arms in the Cluster has remained a big challenge for along time. For time immemorial, illegal firearms, which initially were acquired for protection, have been turned into machines of terror and total destruction in the region.

 

Some years back, some of the communities, more so those that practice pastoralism, acquired some firearms to protect themselves and their animals against external aggression. A move which was seen as protective measure has turned out to be a curse to those communities as those firearms are used indiscriminately. As result of this, many people live in fear, not knowing if they will wake up and see the light of the next day.

 

For many years, these communities have continued to pile illegal firearms on pretext of protection and self-defense. Instead, these arms have become a major source of conflict and a big threat to lives of innocent people.

 

The Karamoja Cluster which comprises the Pian, Karamoja,Jie, Matheniko, Bokora, Tepes and Nyangatom (Uganda); the Turkanas and Pokots (Kenya); the Dodoth, Dongiro and Desnerch (merille) of South-Easterrn Ethiopia and the Dodoth and Toposas (Southern Sudan),has had its ugly share of armed conflicts that have left many lives lost, animals stolen, people displaced and properties destroyed.

 

Historical Background

Raids upon raids have been the order of the day for many years with no hope of getting a permanent solution. Even though joint efforts by concerned Governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to help stem out the vice, nothing much has been realized as armed conflicts continue to flare up in these communities making lives of many people miserable.

 

By extension, this problem has affected many parts of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) in Kenya where struggle for accumulation of wealth, fight for watering points and scarce resources have seen pastoralists go for each other’s throat.

 

Indeed, the use of the illegal gun has almost become way of life in the Karamoja Cluster making armed conflict in East Africa ASALs an issue of great concern

 

A report of Market Baseline Survey carried out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the European Economic Union (EEU) in the cross-border of Karamoja (Uganda) and Turkana (Kenya) in 2004 says that proliferation of thousands of firearms into hands of wrong people has increased the severity and scope of conflicts in the Karamoja cluster. It further says that a study carried out by the Security Research and Information Center (SRIC), Nairobi, found out that Turkana alone had over 66,239 of such firearms.

 

The Report further says that over 60,000 firearms were in the wrong hands among the Karamojong community of Uganda.  It is believed that most of this cache of arms was amassed after the fall of Obote’s governmentin 1979 and from the civil strife that has been going on in in Sudan for many years. When Obote was overthrown, the army in Moroto abandoned their barracks leaving the Karamojongworriors take advantage of the situation and made away with firearms.

 

However, there are many reasons why armed conflicts continue in the Cluster. One of them is Nomadic way of life that has embraced pastoralism which embraces retrogressive cultural norms such as cattle rustling which has seen many people killed, livestock stolen, property destroyed and other people displaced

 

 Many cases of violent raids have been witnessed in Turkana. These raids have been carried out in various parts of the County. The northern part has continually suffered from attacks by the Dongiro, Desnerch, Toposa and Nyangtom from Ethiopia and Southern Sudan respectively, whereas the Southern part has experienced attacks from Pokots, Jie and Tepes. The westerners have always suffered under the hands of the Matheniko,Pian and Karamojong from Uganda.

 

Likewise the Pokots have suffered attacks from Turkanas and their neighbours from Uganda while the pian, Bokora, Matheniko, Dodoth and Karamojong have equally suffered armed raids from their Turkanas and Pokots (Kenya) and Nyangatom and Toposas (Southern Sudan).

 

In Turkana County, the violent thefts of cattle by organized groups (raiding), as well as banditry, have greatly impaired strategies to generate livelihood. These raids particularly in Turkana County, are so frequent in that they have formed main stories in both print and electronic media. In most cases these raids result in loss of lives, property and displacements. Unfortunately the most vulnerable in these attacks are the most poor, elderly, women and children most of whom have to live hard lives after losing their loved ones and property. It remains to be seen if things will improve with devolved system of government in place.

 

 

 

 

Associated Problems

 

The  continued use of illegal arms in Karamojong Cluster has impacted on the communities living in it negatively affecting various facets of life. Development has suffered as a result of this. Education level has remained all the time low, especially in Eastern Ethiopia, Southern Sudan and Turkana County. Poverty reigns supreme in many parts of the Cluster

 

Apart from loss of lives, displacement of people and impediment of development of education in the region the resultant insecurity has made it hard for the available resources to be utilized fully.

 

 Indeed conflicts in the region have hindered the production of dry-lands products and resources in various ways. Livestock production, the main and leading economic activity in Turkana and Karamoja dry-lands has borne much of the brunt of conflicts.

 

 

Livestock Production

Livestock and its byproducts are the main economic activities in the region, and yet they are among the leading causes of raids in the Cluster.

 

The continued conflicts have rendered areas with abundant pasture and water resources inaccessible. This has always led to starvation, loss of weight and eventual deaths of livestock that could have fetched good income for owners. In most cases Livestock are concentrated in areas that are presumed safe constraining the nomadic pastoralism as a good source of income and earning livelihood.

 

 On the other hand, livestock production has suffered whenever raids take place and animals driven away and herders killed. By extension agro farming also suffers a lot when pastoralists abandon their homes and farms conflicts, a move that has always affected food security in the region.

 

Also spread of animal diseases is associated with conflicts. Whenever there is fear of conflicts, animals are put together for safety in a given area. This helps the rapid spread of contagious livestock diseases. The same thing happens after the raid when stolen animals are mixed with other livestock. If such livestock have diseases they easily transmit to the other herds. A whole herd is likely to be wiped out.

 

Education

 

 

Education in the Cluster in general and Turkana County in particular has suffered a lot as a result of illegal guns. Children have not only been forced to abandon their education but also fled to safety in other places.

 

Educational institutions in various parts of Turkana and Pokot Counties have not only been abandoned but also destroyed by marauding raiders who do not seem to appreciate the importance of education for their children. Lochakula, one of the promising tourist attraction centre in Turkana East Sub-County was forced to close down several years ago when raids on it became frequent. A health centre and school that had been put up in the area were destroyed.

 

 

On the other hand, the fish landing centre of Todonyang in Turkana North Sub-County closed down when attacks from the neighbouringDesnerch community from South-Eastern Ethiopia became frequent. Like Lochakula, all the facilities that had been put up, including a school that was benefitting the two communities, were completely destroyed

 

Napeitom in Turkana East Sub-County also suffered the same fate. Efforts to relocate people there are being met with a lot of resistance from the neighbouring community.

 

The Turkana South District Education Officer (DEO) Dixon Ogonya says that that the gun has made it difficult to develop education in the region. He further says that in some schools, teachers are forced to go to class wit guns whereas in others parents refuse to let their children attend classes.

 

The DEO further says that performance has been poor in various schools in the region because teachers refuse to take up transfer to those schools fearing for their lives

 

 

Poverty

Poverty level in the region is high as there are no tangible development projects taking place. Exploitation of the scarce resources available is not easy due to insecurity and livestock and its products which could be the pillar of economic growth in ASALs have turned out to be a curse as they are among the main sources of conflict.

 

Also the approach to addressing facing the pastoralists such as endless droughts and famines have not been well-structured as livestock owners are not well educated on the importance of selling their animals when the drought strikes. Instead they leave them to die hoping to be assisted in restocking.

There is also this problem of depending on relief supplies when either famine or droughts strike. This has made people more vulnerable and ill prepared for such eventualities. In this case, people have been left over-exposed to multiplicity of problems that help to perpetuate the age-long fabric of poverty that would have been cut through capacity building for self-empowerment.

 

 

 

 

Past Interventions

For many years, the concerned authorities in the Cluster, NGOs, CBOs and FBOs have directed their efforts towards finding a long-lasting solution to the problem of the illegal firearms and their impact in the region.

 

 

Voluntary Surrender of Arms

For years now, both Kenyan and Ugandan Governments have used various programs in their bid to mop out illegal firearms. One of the approaches in Uganda has been through Voluntary Surrender of illegal firearms in which those who surrender are compensated. Though some people have heeded this with the assurance of amnesty, not much has been realized. The same approach was used by the Kenyan Authority minus compensation bit but with amnesty clause. Like in Uganda, very few people came out to surrender their illegally owned arms. And it is widely believed that even the few who did this, most of those that were given out were old guns that had failed to work.

 

 The Ugandan Government started programme of voluntary surrender of fire arms way back in 2001 through the assistance of UNDP. When it failed to work, it resorted to using force which resulted in resistance from the targeted communities.

 

A research report entitled; Human Right and Gun Confisitication,  by David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant and Joanne D. Eisen, of Independence Institute, Golden Colorado, says that on December 2, 2001, at the urging of the United Nations,  Ugandan President YoweriGagutaMuseveni, began a government-sponsored voluntary disarmament program with the stated justification of reducing pastoralist violence.  “The program expired on February 15, 2002, and only 7, 676 guns (out of a conservatively estimated 40,000) were collected. President Museveni then escalated his tactics to disarm the Karamojong. The army commenced a “forcible disarmament operation” in an attempt to obtain the remainder of the guns yet many gun-owners refused to disarm,” the report says further.

 

On the other hand a research report by Ken Matthysen, Sergio Finardi, Brian Thomas and Peter Danssaert, entitled:  The Karamoja Cluster of Eastern Africa: Arms transfers and their repercussions on communal security perceptions’says that the ‘unintended side effect of the Ugandan disarmament campaigns was that it left the disarmed communities powerless and unprotected, because of the lack of law and order and the incapacity of the state’s security institutions. Weapons have become an indispensable means to defend livestock and to access limited resources vital for the cattle. Communities that have undergone disarmament are justified in fearing attacks by cattle rustlers, still in possession of their arms, a consequence of unbalanced disarmament.

 

It further says that: ‘The campaign was not executed simultaneously throughout the Karamoja region. While one village had handed over its arms, another still possessed theirs. The groups that retained their firearms could easily raid the disarmed ones. In several cases, no more than a few days after a village had been disarmed; a raid struck its population. Because of the weak state security apparatus, the disarmed pastoralists cannot be guaranteed security by the state. Improved coordination and regional cooperation in disarmament exercises would certainly facilitate its effectiveness’.

 

In Kenya the situation hasn’t been different either as the pastoralists have remained armed despite almost-continuous disarmament programmes for over a century. In 1984, it experienced the difficulty of disarming civilians who declared that they would rather die than disarm.  The report further says: “Operation NYUNDO” was a collaborative effort of the Kenyan and Ugandan armies, similar to the joint campaign against civilian gun owners that began in 2005.”

 

The research further says that, “Fearing a repeat of the 1984 atrocities, 15,000 panicked people fled to Uganda with their cattle and their guns, leaving behind the aged, the infirm, and the children. In West Pokot alone, 120,000 people needed food aid, but only 68,000 received rations. Schooling was disrupted, and farmsteads were neglected. Five weeks after the forced disarmament began; only seventy illegally possessed firearms had been recovered.”

 

 

Beefing up Security

Both the Kenyan and Ugandan Government have tried to beef up security along common borders but the long stretch has made it difficult to realize the desired results. While Ugandan side has engaged vigilantes (community policing) Kenya has used Kenya Police Reserves (KPRs) to boost security in the affected areas.

 

The challenges that are faced in this strategy are that those who are engaged are ill-trained and sometimes have attendance of misusing the arms that are provided to them. It has been claimed that the wave of highway banditry that are experienced along the roads in the Cluster, particularly in Turkana County are carried out using KPRs arms.

 

Conflict Resolution Approach

Apart from efforts from respective Authorities,  NGOs, CBOs and FBOs have facilitated in peace dialogues and conflict management in the Cluster helping to bring together the warring groups. Leaders, women, elders and the youths have been facilitated to attend such forums.

This strategy has been useful since it has helped to bring down rates of raids in the Cluster.

 

Perhaps one of the most successful peace campaign was the one applied by the African Union/Inter Bureau for Animal Resources (AU/IBAR)’s Community Based Animal Health and Participatory Epidemiology (CAPE) Unit that came up with various programmes to address the problem. CAPE brought together pastoralists from Toposaland (southern Sudan) and Turkanaland (Kenya). It was held at Nawoitorong Centre, Lodwar, in 1999. 

 

In 2002,  it held a Cross-Border Leaders meeting at Turkana Teachers Resource Centre, Lodwar.The meeting brought together various stake holders to discuss peace. The participants were drawn from Kotido and Moroto (Uganda) and Turkana (Kenya). A follow-up meeting was later held in Moroto Uganda. Similar meetings were to be held in various parts of the two countries.

 

CAPE Unit also came up with Alokita in which Women and the youth drawn from Southern Sudan, Uganda and Kenya joined hands and travelled the ragged terrain of the Cluster castigating the continued use of the illegal gun in the Karamoja Cluster and also preached peace using songs and poems.

 

During that time raids were virtually reduced to isolated cases of animal thefts in the Cluster as the involved communities embraced peaceful co-existence.

 

Apart from AU/IBAR’s CAPE Unit, there are several organizations that have participated in conflict management strategies in the Cluster. Among them; Practical Action (formerly Intermediate Technology Development Group- ITDG-East Africa), Oxfam; The World Vision-initiatedPokot, Karamojong, Turkana and Sabiny (POKATUSA), which closed down in 2003 and TeglaLoroupe Peace Foundation, Paxi Christi Netherlands.

 

In Karamoja (Uganda), the organizations which have been active in conflict management are: the World Vision POKATUSA peace project (which closed down some years back), the Matheniko Development Forum (MADEFO),KaramojaInitiatives for Sustainable Peace (KISP) andKaramoja Agro-Pastoralism Development Programme (KADP) among others. The interventions of these various stake holders have always resulted to peaceful resolution of conflicts leading to sense of tolerance and peaceful coexistence among these communities, albeit for a short period in some cases.

 

The question that has been asked more often than not is that why has it been hard to silence the sound of the illegal gun in Karamoja Cluster despite various efforts and enormous resources that have been used before?

 

The answers to this question have been as varied as the reasons given. Cultural norms that embrace and glorify accumulation of wealth, no matter how they are acquired, payment of hefty bride price, and utter lust for wealth and sheer hatred have all been blamed on the endless use of the illegal gun in the Cluster.

The Merille of Ethiopia, for example, have a queer culture which requires young worriors to capture and mutilate the bodies of the captives by removing private parts before they can be considered men. This normally takes place in the month of August; the time they raid their Turkana neighbours more frequently.

 

On the other hand, some of the approaches that have been used to address this problem have been castigated in some quarters. More so, the approach of holding meetings in boardrooms far away from the scene of action has been seen as wrong approach.

 

However, the current approach to conflict resolution in the Cluster has not changed much. Meetings through which peace-related issues are discussed are still organized and held. Local leaders, administrators and elders as well as youth and women attend such meetings.

 

Sometimes such meetings bring about a lull of peace that last for a few days, weeks or even months. Other times they do not as the peace accords that are signed are broken before the ink dries on the paper.

 

And yet, other times, elders and local leaders trade accusations which, only help to scuttle such well-intended meetings.

 

Past experience indeed shows that various ways have been used by various people to address the problem and yet it still persists.

 

The Radical option

Those who advocate for this approach to the problem say that the only way out of the whole thing is through forceful disarmament which should be carried out simultaneously. However past experience shows that this is unlikely to work as the disarmed communities are likely to fall vulnerable to those still holding hands.

 

 Past studies like the ones carried out by David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant and Joanne D. Eisen, of Independence Institute, Golden Colorado, show that they have been tried for many years, not only once, but several times, but have failed. Instead, they have only resulted in abuse of human rights when extreme force is used against those who are unwilling to surrender their arms.

 

Persuasion

Yet there are those who still believe that dialogue is better than using force. This school of thought says that the traditional way of bringing together elders to sort of differences, if embraced, could work miracles. These are the people who believe in strong well-structure community peace committees that will help to monitor and bring up dialogue where necessary as opposed to acquisition of illegal firearms by force.

 

Empowerment

Poverty and high rates of illiteracy in the region have been blamed for many problems that pastoralists face. This has led into believing that holding a gun is the only way of ensuring that the little wealth one has is protected

Unfortunately, the temptations of abusing the very gun that is kept for protection remain high in the region where getting a meal a day can be a nightmare to most of the people.

 

This has made some people believe that if the level of poverty is brought down, then urge to use a gun in order to get something to eat will go down. One of the ways is empowering the community through provision of education. Another one is through utilization of available resources that will help empower them. Proper marketing of livestock and their products could be a positive move towards this direction.

Identification of all available resources and their full utilizations for the benefit of the local community could be another.  Apart from livestock gypsum and various minerals are found in the Cluster. Turkana handicraft and Fishing industries are yet other resources that could be tapped and turned into vibrant industries that could create jobs for the idle youth. Agricultural activities could help boost food production.

 

Sharing of Resources

It has been said that with properly executed policies by all the concerned authorities, sharing of resources and amenities will foster sense of brotherhood. Schools and health facilities which are constructed along the common border will greatly help, more so as people try to appreciate the importance of education and understand the usefulness of these facilities. “They have been tried and failed miserably,” some will argue, “Try again and keep on trying and eventually pieces of the big jigsaw will fall in place,” yet argue the proponents of peace in the Cluster.

 

Enforcement of the Law

Law is law. Unlicensed guns are illegal no matter what. Selective application of the law has seen some communities among the nomads believe that carrying the gun, even if it is illegal is their right, and yet in other parts, carrying an illegal gun is a serious offense. In this case, the law should be applied to all and those found flouting it should be punished accordingly

 

In spite of all these challenges, the organizations which have been fighting hard to restore sanity and peace in the Cluster strongly believe that all is not lost. They still work hard with the local communities and administrators all the time holding strongly onto the conviction that one day a permanent solution shall be found and the sound of the illegal gun in the Cluster will be silenced.

 

Theirs is a strong conviction in that no matter what it takes to arrive there, they will not lay down their tools of trade until the illegal gun is silenced in the KaramojaCluster to give the people of the Cluster moments of peace to enjoy their sweet Dreams. And journalists too, seem to have vowed to always be there to capture the story as it breaks. Perhaps, the total silencing of the sound of the illegal gun in Karamoja Cluster will be the biggest story of all times. Certainly, we will be there to bring it to you as it breaks.

Storm as Kenyan woman ventures in US medical field

By Metro Correspondent

Switching from a corporate attorney to a business entrepreneur, Catherine Karuga-Ndivo is on a mission to serve families with elderly or medically challenged relatives with high quality and easily affordable home medical equipment, pain management and wellness supplies that make peoples’ lives easier, safer and more comfortable.  Known as Vondi Independent Living Medical Supplies, the new business was officially launched on Saturday, July 12, at 2294 Main Street in Tewksbury, near Lowell in United States, where introductory discounts were offered for all customers.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Karuga-Ndivo said Vondi was stocking a more diverse full range of items from well-known manufacturers hard to find in local pharmacies, making the business a more than welcome development to the huge African and local community in the region.
“We provide all sorts of medical supplies from simple diagnostic instruments to walkers, commodes, lift chairs, diabetic shoes and many more. We also offer crucial information to families in the process of buying a needed medical supply,” she said.
The enterprising Kenyan left the practice of law after eight years with a top rated Boston Law firm to pursue a business career.
The firm held a Ribbon Cutting ceremony on Friday, July 11 with the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the opening of the store, the first of its kind in Tewksbury. 
The District’s State Representative, James R. Miceli graced the ceremony. 
Vondi provides a variety of products in essential categories such as: mobility aids; bathroom safety; lift chairs; beds and bedding; orthopedic supports and bracing; compression therapy stockings; orthopedic and diabetic shoes; respiratory products and accessories; diagnostic aids; incontinence supplies; skin care products; pain management products; rehabilitation and wellness products; and aids for daily living. “We will match each individual to the right equipment and supplies based on their unique needs and circumstances.  Any person who comes to us will find something that will make their life easier,” she

Formal education indispensable in society’s management

By Kennedy Buhere

When the last Parliament tried to confine eligibility to contest legislative positions in National and County assemblies to holders of University Education, some people mobilized public opinion against it and Parliament dropped the requirement.

Reports that National Assembly wants is looking at the possibility of raising the bar for eligibility to contest to post-secondary education has met similar disapproval.

The argument is that formal education is not the only source of the knowledge required to manage society. That indigenous knowledge—people get by word of mouth—cannot impart the knowledge, skills and aptitudes that can manage the challenges modern political and social and economic institutions grapple with.

In principle, possession of post secondary education does not automatically confer leadership competencies to students. However, to dismiss the place of University education in nurturing the knowledge, skills and aptitudes society needs to manage its institutions is shocking.

Modern society has become increasingly complex. The variables and complexities modern Governments and their respective institutions are forced to grapple with are highly technical.

The knowledge gained through informal education does not have the insights and technical knowledge that should enable an individual to analyse, discern, or understand the policy problems involved in any situation. And one cannot properly solve or resolve the policy problems and challenges before him/her without the habits of thinking and reasoning that University Education imparts or should impart to its students.

At its   best Post-Secondary and University Education equips individuals with the skills and substantive knowledge that allows them to define and to pursue their own goals, and also allows them to participate in the life of their community as full-fledged, autonomous citizens.

Anthropologist  E.B. Taylor defined culture as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and many other capabilities and habits acquired by...[members] of society."

Formal education introduces its students to the body of knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs and other capabilities that previous and contemporary generations have acquired/developed for their safety and well being.

The indigenous knowledge those without quality secondary glorify had and still has its place in the African society. It did to the mind, heart and spirit of every African child in every generation what formal education ideally does to the minds, hearts and spirit of every modern student in every generation, who is attending or has attended secondary and University education.

Both formal and informal educations transmit certain knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and habits of thinking and behavior to generation to the next but with certain fundamental differences and distinctions.

Informal education catered for small communities and some of the values and skills they respectively propagated were not only limited to that community, but also narrow and jingoistic in orientation.

Needless to say here, the world this system of education sought to interpret was extremely elementary in their social, economic and political organization.

Modern world is bewilderingly complex. So complex that even highly educated people, particularly those who had early specialization at during their undergraduate education find frighteningly herculean to understand. 

This is particularly true in the technical operations of Government and any institution—be it public or private institutions.

Notwithstanding the complexity, at bottom, the issues that face any institution—public or private—are universal. Embodied in modern education, in liberal education, are ideals and ideas by which contemporary life and society is knowingly and unknowingly governed. The bank or storehouse of this knowledge and ideals are the great books that have shaped successive civilizations—books written by great thinkers who have deeply thought about life and it should be lived and managed.

Apart from depicting a simple a simply and largely idyllic (which modern society is not), indigenous knowledge was largely oral in nature. It was transmitted from mouth to mouth; through interpersonal communication channels, unlike the formal education we have today.  The sage philosopher could not transmit his/her wisdom to the four winds.

Modern education has been stored in physical artifacts such as the book, scientific equipment and an army of people we call teachers, lecturers and tutors.

Teachers, tutors and lecturers not only indentify for us the appropriate books that can help us understand certain facets of knowledge; they also digest or simplify some of these ideas for students  before they can fruitfully interact with the books the great thinkers wrote.

American Statesman, Adlai Stevenson defined  education(formal as well as informal) as the transmission of ideals as well as knowledge, the cultivation of the ability to distinguish the true and the good from their counterfeits, and the wisdom to prefer the former to  the latter.”

This kind of education provides a perspective, self discipline, judgment, courage and power to master the environment.

It is the peculiar function of modern education to cultivate the intellects and communication abilities of learners so that, upon assumption of duties as citizens and as formal leaders of institutions society has at its disposal, to deploy their minds, hearts and spirits to manage the duties society entrusts them with, more effectively, efficiently an honestly.  

The gargantuan investments the Government is making in providing education is borne of the conviction that education is the best tool to develop the capacities he country needs to manage public affairs more effectively and efficiently.

Western Countries and middle income countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia have leapfrogged in economic development largely because of the investment they have made in education—academic and technical and vocational education and train. The knowledge people get by word of mouth cannot impart the knowledge, skills and aptitudes that can manage the challenges of modern life.

Instead of sneering at the efficacy and beneficence of formal education, should suggest ways and means of reforming formal education institutions to effectively serve the needs and aspirations o the Country better.

Kenya is facing exciting public policy challenges and opportunities that require men and women who have had quality modern higher education.

It will require men and women who have ha quality post secondary and university education to fill our legislative, executive and judicial institutions. Management of public affairs is a highly technical field. It needs people with knowledge, vision, judgment, wisdom. The place to forge, to cultivate this is in modern educational institutions and not fireplaces as of old. Nor do have these sage philosophers in most of our villages. And if we have, their knowledge is limited to extremely rudimentary issues.

Ends

 

Somali Prime Minister announces $500,000 drought emergency fund

By Agencies

The Humanitarian situation in the country dominated the debate of Council of Ministers meeting. Under the leadership of  Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Somalia, concrete and immediate measures have been established to respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation affecting many regions around the country.

Prime Minister Ahmed with the support of the Council of Ministers has stood-up a Ministerial Emergency Committee comprised seven Ministers who together will act as the lead coordinating body for this Government and develop a Drought and Emergency Response Plan.

The Prime Minister of Somalia said: “We have immediately committed an initial $500,000 that will go towards providing quick concrete actions and offer rapid response to areas severely hit by the prevailing drought. Furthermore we will spearhead a fundraising campaign seeking the contribution of Somalis and friends of Somalia around the world to fund and mobilise the necessary resources.”

He added: “Finally, this Government will coordinate and closely work with all Humanitarian organisations in a consolidated effort to ensure an effective and prompt response to the current Humanitarian Crisis.”

Finally, the committee will be chaired by the Minister of Agriculture and include as members the Ministers of Water and Energy, Interior and Federal Affairs, Health, Planning and International Cooperation, Finance, and the

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