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September, 2019

 

Time we eradicated ageism, the silent discriminator among us

By WILKISTER WERE
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Ageism is discrimination or unfair treatment based on one’s age.

And ageism is everywhere and is said to be bigger and more pronounced than all the other discriminations combined.

There are many stereotypes against older people. The most common types of ageism include lack of access to palliative care, job sacks and harassment from doctors and other service providers.

How many geriatricians, for example, does the Kenyan government have to ensure older people are given the correct diagnosis?

Are there special queues or arrangements for the elderly in banking halls, public transport, supermarkets and other institutions frequented by the elderly?

Some clubs do not allow membership to persons past a particular age, same for insurance companies. How about excluding them from important decision-making forums?

Very few people are aware of the existence of the International Day of Older Persons, which falls on October 1 annually.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is, “The Journey to Age Equality”.

Despite this being a global event, most governments really have no idea of what it entails or how it should be celebrated.

I would want to know, for instance, how many county governments accommodate this day in their programmes.

The elderly continue to be the most discriminated group of people in our societies despite global agendas on ageing.

There is growing alarm over the well-being of older people, especially those living in rural areas.

Poverty, lack of basic health and social services and migration of young people to cities in search of jobs, leaving their ageing parents in the village, are endemic in rural areas, affecting millions of senior citizens.

The Constitution talks of the right to live in dignity and respect free from abuse.

The Bill of Rights protects the rights of the elderly. Ironically, this is the group that is least considered in any budget in this country.

The assumption is that the Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT) takes care of them.

The elderly are everywhere and in need of us in one way or another. As the world celebrates the International Day of Older Persons, today, let’s all try to make a difference in their lives.

You can make a difference by reaching out to a range of older persons, trying to find out how they feel about ageism and trying to make a difference in their lives in whichever way.

It’s high time we all embraced older persons as it is a process all the living must go through.

So far, there is no antidote for ageing. You can start anti-ageism campaigns by advocating the rights of the elderly. Say ‘No’ to ageism!


Police arrest man over Dusit attack

VINCENT ACHUKABy VINCENT ACHUKA
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Kenyan security agencies have made a major step in the fight against terror after they arrested a suspect linked to the DusitD2 Complex attack in Nairobi.

Mr Fawaz Ahmed Hamdun, one of the most wanted Al-Shabaab operatives, was smoked out of his house in Majengo, Mombasa, on Sunday night by a multiagency team.

The insurgent group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack that left 21 people dead eight months ago.

Other than facilitating the Dusit attack at 14 Riverside Drive, the suspect is said to have been involved in the recruitment of youth into the Al-Shabaab.

Mr Hamdun, 28, allegedly played a key role in facilitating the re-entry of DusitD2 suicide bomber Mahir Riziki to Kenya from Somalia to execute the attack.

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He is reported to have coordinated Riziki’s journey from Somalia and facilitated his stay.

Riziki was in 2014 placed on the most wanted list after being involved in the killing of a police officer at Royal Court Hotel. He then fled to Tanzania.

Mr Hamdun is suspected of facilitating the travel of Mr Salim Fariz Hadin, a young man from Majengo, to Somalia a fortnight ago.

Mr Hadin came to the attention of security agencies after he went missing on September 8.

Video footage obtained by detectives shows the two strolling in the streets of Mombasa on the day the latter’s family reported he had disappeared.

They circulated posters and made reports to human rights organisations about their missing son.

Mr Hamdun was tracked and arrested. He has also been linked to the Ramadhan Kufungwa radicalisation network at the Coast, which targets the youth for Al-Shabaab recruitment.


Police should clamp down on bandits now

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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The wave of violence that has hit Kitui County in recent weeks is terrifying.

Reports say the violence is perpetrated by suspected bandits rummaging the county in search of pasture and water for their livestock.

But this is not a resource conflict; it is a major security threat. It is a matter of life and death.

At least five people have been killed and several families hounded out of their homes and forced to seek shelter in churches and other public institutions, creating a humanitarian crisis.

Attackers invading villages, killing and maiming people are not merely herders seeking water and pasture.

Those are criminals who should be dealt with ruthlessly. They must be hounded and made to pay for their sins.

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Unless checked, the violence is bound to get out of hand. Some political leaders have issued threats and signalled intention for combat, which can only aggravate the matter and create a crisis.

REAL ACTION

On Monday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i visited the county and read the riot act to the provincial administration and security teams to rein in the perpetrators of the mayhem and restore normalcy.

But hard-brow gangs are never deterred by mere threats; they only respond to real action.

The only language they understand is brute force. So the imperative is to exterminate them and stop them from executing their nefarious designs.

What is even more frightening is the fact that the raids have gone on intermittently and for quite a while, peaking during such periods of deepening drought and food scarcity.

Kitui and neighbouring counties such as Tana River and other northern counties are hardship areas characterised by long spells of drought, poor infrastructure and general insecurity.

Tana River suffers perennial insecurity that has defied governmental intervention for years.

SEAL BORDER

Matters are made worse by the fact that the counties are proximate to the trouble-prone Somalia, a lawless state that has bred terrorists who are quick to exploit security lapses to visit harm on hapless civilians.

Some of the raiders could be escaping across the border after striking their neighbours here.

Tackling the bandit menace requires a concerted strategy that involves sealing the borders and preventing external aggressors from getting into our territory or local ones escaping to those jurisdictions.

Besides deploying security teams to crush the aggressors, the government must rein in reckless politicians stoking the embers of violence by calling their communities to war.

Irrespective of who the authors of the violence are, politicians must sue for peace and seek long-term resolution to such a conflict.


Safety measures overdue

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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The raging debate on safety in schools rather ironically confirms the peculiar habit of Kenyans, who wait until a tragedy occurs before coming up with all manner of analyses and prescriptions.

But as time goes on, the focus shifts elsewhere — until yet another deadly incident occurs.

The classroom block that collapsed at a Nairobi primary school, claiming eight innocent young lives, is the latest example.

Interestingly, the commentators sound quite knowledgeable on what needs to be done.

Of course, the collective shedding of tears acts as a catharsis but a lot more needs to be done to secure learning institutions.

It has taken the Dagoretti incident for the public to learn that not a single school has been built by the government or the city county in the area in several decades, creating room for the mushrooming of sub-standard private schools to fill the vacuum.

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Sadly, it takes the tragic deaths of fellow Kenyans for even officialdom to try and right the festering wrongs.

While it is mandatory for schools to be regularly inspected, it does not always happen.

In Nairobi, many of the primary schools built in the early 1960s have become deathtraps.

While it is good to hear that the government has ordered an audit of school facilities, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, coming after a preventable tragedy.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang has issued a circular directing regional and county directors of education to evaluate the facilities in all the schools, while acknowledging that some “do not meet the minimum safety standards”.

Media pictures of classrooms that could easily have been taken out of the early 20th Century have shocked many, but that is the reality in parts of the country.

A national audit of all the schools — and quick corrective action on the report — is long overdue.


Man Utd, Arsenal share spoils in league tie

AFPBy AFP
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MANCHESTER

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half strike, awarded by VAR, denied Manchester United a much-needed win to kick start their season as Arsenal emerged from Old Trafford with a 1-1 draw on Monday.

Scott McTominay’s stunning strike to give United the lead was a rare moment of quality in a poor first-half.

However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could not hold out for all three points as Aubameyang’s goal just before the hour mark was allowed to stand despite the Gabon international being initially flagged offside.

United have now won just two of their last 12 Premier League games dating back to last season and sit 12 points adrift of leaders Liverpool just seven games into the campaign.

A point is enough to edge Arsenal back into the top four on goal difference and maintain their three-point advantage over United, who move up to 10th.

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For many years the clashes between these sides were the Premier League’s marquee fixtures. United and Arsenal were the champions of England for nine consecutive seasons between 1996 and 2004.

However, the fact the were facing off a Monday night because neither are in Champions League action later this week was reflected in a first 45 minutes devoid of quality.

It took 28 minutes for either goalkeeper to be tested as Arsenal’s Bernd Leno saved well low to his left to deny Andreas Pereira after a solo run.

United have not scored more than one goal in any match since the opening day of the season and, even against an Arsenal defence that had conceded nine goals in their last four league games, looked toothless when not afforded space to counter-attack into.

Arsenal, though, played right into the hosts hands in the final five minutes of the first-half.

Firstly, Marcus Rashford wasted a huge chance when played in behind by Paul Pogba’s through ball with the Gunners furiously protesting for a free-kick against the Frenchman as he dispossessed Matteo Guendouzi.

Arsenal then had the chance to strike on the counter-attack themselves as from a United corner the visitors burst forward through Bukayo Saka and after his effort was palmed away by David de Gea, the Spaniard got back in position to block Guendouzi’s follow-up effort.

But from the resulting corner, it was United who took the lead.

Daniel James led the counter from one end of the field to the other and after his cross just evaded Rashford, the England international cut the ball back to the edge of the box where McTominay smashed into the top corner.

That was the first goal United had scored a goal from open play at home in the first-half this season.

But they soon needed a second as Arsenal struck back after the break thanks to VAR.

Saka pounced on a loose pass deep inside the United half and fed Aubameyang, who had been flagged offside, before dinking the ball past De Gea.

However, replays showed he was clearly played onside by Harry Maguire and his eighth goal of the season was allowed to stand.

Seconds later, Unai Emery’s men were unlucky not to be in front when Saka’s shot from Callum Chambers’s cross was deflected just over by Victor Lindelof.

Attack looked like the best form of defence for Arsenal as their backline never looked comfortable at holding out for a point.

Pogba fired inches wide from the edge of the area before McTominay somehow didn’t score his second of the night with a free header six yards out from a corner.

Leno produced a fine save to turn a pile driver from Maguire over as the world’s most expensive defender tried to atone for his earlier error.

But the German goalkeeper’s best save of the evening came at the death as he flew to his left to turn Rashford’s powerful free-kick to safety.


UN expert blasts Saudi prince over Khashoggi defence

AFPBy AFP
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A UN human rights expert who led a probe into the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi criticised Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on Monday for trying to create “distance” between himself and the execution.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, was reacting to an interview with Prince Mohammed bin Salman broadcast by US media on Sunday.

Speaking to CBS’s 60 Minutes, Prince Mohammed denied ordering or having advanced warning of Khashoggi’s killing on October 2 last year at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but said he “took full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia”.

Callamard, whose independent probe found “credible evidence” linking the crown prince to the murder and attempted cover-up, dismissed that defence as “problematic”.
“He is only taking corporate responsibility for the crime, which goes without saying,” Callamard told AFP days ahead of the first anniversary of Khashoggi’s death.
She said that the interview marked a concession by Prince Mohammed that “the killing of Mr. Khashoggi was a state killing”.
But the UN expert condemned the prince, known by his initials MBS, for taking “no personal responsibility for the crime”.
“He is creating huge distance between himself and the crime,” by arguing that he cannot be liable for the conduct of all Saudi government employees, she said.
Callamard told AFP that “for the last 12 months, the Saudi state, their various representatives and (MBS) included have been lying to the international community regarding the nature of the crime. So now we are supposed to take his word that, yes, he has a corporate responsibility but he has no personal responsibility?”

“Not good enough,” she said.

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The CIA has also reportedly said the killing was likely ordered by Prince Mohammed.

But Saudi prosecutors have absolved the prince and said two dozen people implicated in the murder are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men.
MURDER

Callamard has previously blamed UN “paralysis” for the failure to punish those who murdered Khashoggi — a US resident, Washington Post contributor and critic of the Saudi royal family.

She has called on Secretary General Antonio Guterres to independently launch a UN criminal probe.

The UN chief’s office has said that is impossible without a member state request.

“I have not argued that this will be easy for (Guterres) procedurally or politically to do. What I am arguing is that if he wanted, and if he received sufficient formal or informal backing, he could find the legal backing to move forward,” Callamard said.

Like all UN special rapporteurs, Callamard is an independent expert who does not speak for the world body but reports her findings to it.


Varsity student uses Helb loan to pay mother’s medical bill

PHYLLIS MUSASIABy PHYLLIS MUSASIA
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At 21, any young woman in the university would be probably enjoying life to the fullest.

But for Ms Mercy Omukuba, a second year student at Egerton University Town Campus, it is a different story. 

Mercy missed her second year second semester exams in August due to fees arrears. She had spent her Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) loan to pay her mother’s medical bill at Nakuru Level Five Hospital. She has since deferred her studies.

The Procurement and Supply Chain Management Studies student says, she chose her mother’s life over studies.

“I will still go back to class and finish my Bachelor’s degree, but my mother needs to come out of hospital first,” says Mercy.

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Her mother, Ms Linet Wabuko, 45, has been detained in hospital for four weeks now over Sh35,000 bill.  

“In May 2019, my mother complained of recurring headache and rapid heartbeat. She was experiencing heavy menses and I advised her to take enough rest and plenty of water,” Mercy recalls. A month later, her condition had not improved.

“I was in school while mum was in Mpeketoni, Lamu where she worked as a casual labourer. I told her to seek medical assistance,” she added.

Several tests were done on Ms Wabuko but doctors at Mpeketoni Sub-County Hospital could not establish what she was suffering from. Mercy says she invited her mother to Nakuru.

“It was traumatising to see her calling me on phone, and I wanted to be around her and share her pains,” she says.

SINGLE ROOM

After staying in her rented single room at Stima Line estate in Nakuru West Sub-County for two weeks, her mother didn’t show any signs of improvement. She later took her to Langa Langa Sub-County Hospital for check-up.  

“She was bleeding heavily, and her skin had turned pale, so I got more worried,” she adds.

Mercy decided to take her mother to Nakuru Level Five Hospital where she was admitted to the Gynae Ward.

After several tests, results showed that Mercy’s mother   had stage B cervical cancer. “It was like a nightmare, I felt weak,” says Mercy who lives with other two of her siblings. She was forced to learn how to take up responsibilities at very tender age.

As she sat on the hospital bed, full of hope that she would soon leave hospital, Ms Wakubo recalled how she separated with husband in 2004.

“We had our six children but life took a different twist. I was severally battered and at some point, he threatened to kill me,” recalls Ms Wakubo.

She added: “I sought refuge at Mumias Police Station where I later received my children and left my marriage.

Ms Wakubo has singlehandedly raised her six children through casual jobs.

“I have four children in high schools and primary. I’m determined and hopeful that they will all clear their education,” she says.

Ms Gladys Nyabicha, the nurse in charge of the Gynae Ward says Mercy’s mother has undergone her first surgery and her type of cancer can be managed.

“She has been here for one and a half months now. She successfully underwent her first surgery that saw doctors remove a growth in her cervix,” notes the nurse.

Mercy was able to pay Sh4,500 theatre charges. She also paid for drugs. Together with her elder brother, they have donated pints of blood for their mother.

“I’m broke, the situation at my place of residence is even worse because I have my younger siblings around. Regular visits to the hospital are draining,” she says.

CLEAR BILLS

The hospital discharges patients who have failed to clear their bills. Patients pay Sh550 for every extra day spent in hospital.

Mercy says: “I have been to various government offices to plead with leaders and politicians to help but my efforts have been unsuccessful.”   

In a letter dated September, 19, 2019, Mercy asked Nakuru County Government to waive her mother’s hospital bill.  

Through a WhatsApp group she has only raised Sh4, 000 from friends and fellow students. She says she has used the money to apply for an NHIF card for her sick mother.

“My mother needs to start her second phase of treatment and doctors have told me to take her to either Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret or Kenyatta National Hospital,” she says.


'Sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people' – UN Special Envoy

SC/13967

Security Council
8628th Meeting (AM)

New Entity Must Represent Wishes of Syrians, Free of Artificial Timetables, Foreign Interference, Says Permanent Representative

Sketching out the contours of a newly agreed Constitutional Committee for Syria today, the senior United Nations official in that country urged all parties there, as well as Security Council members, to seize that new development as a “sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people”.

Geir O. Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the 15-member Council on the Constitutional Committee’s Rules of Procedure and Terms of Reference, noting that Secretary-General António Guterres first announced the agreement on 23 September. Stating his intention to convene the Committee for the first time on 30 October, he said that acceptance of the Terms of Reference by both the Government of Syria and opposition leaders is the first concrete political agreement between the two sides. In addition, it implies a clear acceptance of each other as interlocutors.

Describing the arrangement as a “door-opener to a wider political process”, he said the Committee’s structure is clear, balanced and workable. It will be led by two equal co-chairs representing the Government and the opposition, with a small group of 45 people — 15 Government nominees, 15 opposition nominees and 15 from civil society — preparing and drafting proposals. A larger body comprising three sets of 50 nominees will then discuss and adopt them, he explained. Meanwhile, a decision-making threshold of 75 per cent will mean that no single bloc can dictate the Committee’s outcomes.

Outlining the composition of the so-called “middle third” — namely, the Committee members representing civil society and affiliated with neither the Government nor opposition parties — he said they hail from a range of different religious, ethnic and geographical backgrounds. Emphasizing that they must never be subjected to threat or harassment, he pledged that the United Nations will jealously safeguard the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led nature of the process. “Syrians, not outsiders, will draft their constitution,” he stressed.

As Council members took the floor, many applauded the new agreement and welcomed plans to convene the Constitutional Committee as early as possible. However, several speakers expressed concern over the possibility of attempts to influence the Committee’s work either by internal or foreign actors. Some called attention to the presence of foreign forces inside Syria, warning that they are already working to divide the country and change its demographic makeup.

Sergey Vasilyevich Vershinin, the Russian Federation’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Council President for September, described the establishment of the Constitutional Committee as the beginning of a long road. Pledging his delegation’s support under the auspices of the Astana framework, he said the people of Syria will find their own solutions, emphasizing that it is unacceptable for external actors to interfere with the ongoing Syrian dialogue or to call for artificial timelines or concessions. There can be no truce with terrorism and international efforts must be bound by the quest for peace, not individual agendas, he stressed.

Gholamhossein Dehghani, Iran’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, International and Legal Issues, reinforced those points, saying that any assistance to the Committee — even form the United Nations — must be extended only upon the request by the Committee itself and with full respect for Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. All foreign actors whose presence is not permitted by the Government must leave the country, he emphasized, citing the presence of United States forces and aggressions by Israel as constituting violations of sovereignty that further complicate the situation. He went on to warn against politicizing or impeding the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, or Syria’s reconstruction efforts.

China’s representative also spotlighted the crucial principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, emphasizing that the Committee must maintain its independence and freedom from foreign interference. He went on to point out that rampant terrorism remains a major challenge to Syria’s broader political process, while warning that humanitarian issues must never be used as a bargaining chip in order to exert external pressure on the Government.

Other speakers, including the United Kingdom’s representative, noted that constitutional challenges are not the only ones facing Syrians. In fact, “the problems in Syria were not caused by flaws in its constitution” but by failure to implement it on the part the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, he said. Against that backdrop, the Constitutional Committee’s work must be accompanied by measures to build trust and confidence while implementing all elements of Council resolution 2254 (2015) in tandem, he stressed.

Germany’s representative said the Committee’s efforts must result in a working constitution, with all parties fully committed to a process free from threats and intimidation. He also reiterated calls for the release of arbitrarily detained persons.

Sedat Önal, Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister, described the Constitutional Committee’s formation as an important first step, emphasizing: “We have an obligation not to fail to deliver this time.” The Committee’s work is the beginning of a formidable task, he said, urging the international community — the Security Council first and foremost — to continue to support it. Recognizing the need to address the presence of radical elements inside Syria, he nevertheless rejected any targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, emphasizing that there can be no military solution to the conflict.

Syria’s representative highlighted the active role played by Damascus in the talks to establish the Constitutional Committee, stressing that it must represent the wishes of Syrians without artificial timetables and foreign interference. While expressing the Government’s readiness to engage further in that process, he expressed concern about potential foreign intervention and violations of the United Nations Charter being committed in his country. Unfortunately, some States continue to use the Council as a platform to defame the Syrian Government and to prevent refugees and displaced people from returning home, he said.

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Kuwait, France, Dominican Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa, Belgium, Peru, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:51 p.m.

Briefing

GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, said he intends to convene 150 Syrian men and women in Geneva on 30 October for the launch of a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, credible, balanced and inclusive Constitutional Committee facilitated by the United Nations. “This should be a sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people,” he added, noting that it comes after the agreement by the Government of Syria and the Syrian Negotiations Committee to a package deal on nominations to the Committee as well as the Terms of Reference and the Core Rules of Procedure to guide its work. Urging Council members to take stock of the significance of that development, he said it is the first concrete political agreement between the Government and the opposition to set a schedule for a new constitution and implies a clear acceptance of each other as interlocutors.

“This can be a door-opener to a wider political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” he continued, while emphasizing that it will not be easy to seize the opportunity. Trust and confidence among the parties is currently almost non-existent, he pointed out. Respect for the Charter of the United Nations, Council resolutions and for Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity must underpin the new process, he stressed. It must include elections supervised by the United Nations and recognize the need for a broader political process to implement Council resolution 2254 (2105). In addition, any constitutional reform adopted by the Committee must be popularly approved and transposed into the national legal order by a means that is yet to be agreed, he said.

Outlining the Committee’s “clear, balanced and […] workable structure”, he said two equal co-chairs from the Government and opposition will proceed by consensus and exert the prerogatives needed to ensure the body’s smooth functioning. A small body of 45 people – 15 Government nominees, 15 opposition nominees and 15 from civil society – will prepare and draft proposals, while a larger body of three sets of 50 nominees will discuss and adopt them. Noting that the agreement promotes consensus within the Committee where possible, he said there is also a decision-making threshold of 75 per cent. No one bloc can dictate the outcome, he emphasized, adding that there will be an incentive to reach out to the middle ground across the divide. The names of the 150 members will be released by the United Nations once they have all formally confirmed their participation, he said, noting that the middle third group hails from a range of different religious, ethnic and geographical backgrounds. “The result is a negotiated compromise, and like all compromises, no one is completely satisfied,” he stressed.

He went on to report that the parties have guaranteed their efforts to ensure that no members of the Committee — nor their relatives or organizations — will be subject to threat or harassment, noting that activists across Syria have worked hard to create a “public space” for democratic and civic debates. While not all of them could be placed on the Committee, their voices will continue to be heard. The United Nations will jealously guard the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led nature of the process, he said, declaring: “Syrians, not outsiders, will draft their constitution.”. Underlining that the Constitutional Committee process alone will not resolve the conflict, he pointed out that a humanitarian crisis continues in Idlib Governorate and many other parts of Syria. Terrorist groups, including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, continue to metastasize, touching all communities.

Meanwhile, the spectre of regional conflagration still looms over Syria, he continued, reiterating the importance of respecting the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. Tens of thousands of Syrians are still detained, abducted and missing, he said, adding that millions of others remain displaced or living in poverty. Against that backdrop, the parties and their backers should think more broadly and inclusively, he emphasized, urging them to seize upon the momentum generated by the Constitutional Committee to take concrete actions, while building trust and confidence. Step by step, the parties as well as international actors must begin to build the kind of safe, calm and neutral environment needed to make Syrians feel that the political process will be able to restore their country and respond to their obligations, he said.

Statements

KELLY CRAFT (United States) said the constitution to be discussed must reflect the aspirations of all Syrians inside and outside the country. Emphasizing that there is no military solution to the conflict she said the Security Council must vigorously support the Special Envoy’s meeting in October, adding that all parties must continue to engage, in good faith, in the days ahead. However, Iran continues to act in bad faith, and if Tehran genuinely wished to promote progress, it would leave Syria without delay, she said, emphasizing that the Assad regime and its allies must not use discussions about the Constitutional Committee as a pretext to delay progress on the ground. Furthermore, the truth must be told about what continues to happen, as aerial bombardments continue to terrorize the population, she added, stressing that her delegation will continue to speak the truth about the Syrian regime’s atrocities. She went on to express concern about more than 100,000 people who remain arbitrarily detained.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), calling upon all parties to work with the Special Envoy in furtherance of his mandate at this critical time ahead of discussions in Geneva, expressed hope that the October meeting will be the first step towards meeting the aspirations of Syria’s people. Emphasizing the need to respect the country’s territorial integrity, he said the process must be accompanied by confidence-building measures, with tangible progress on such issues as detainees. Turning to the situation in Idlib, he expressed concern that massive displacement and related developments there might overshadow political progress. He went on to underline that there can be no lasting peace without justice for perpetrators of the crimes committed, expressing support for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the Constitutional Committee must be a point of departure, emphasizing the need to respect all members fully and the importance of strong actions to drive forward credible peace negotiations in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015). Expressing concern about the situation in Idlib, where a military operation has resulted in civilian deaths, he called for an immediate ceasefire in there and across Syria. Only a cessation of hostilities can allow the creation of favourable conditions for discussions on the Constitutional Committee and for opening humanitarian access, he emphasized. He went on to stress that the fight against Da’esh and Al-Qaida must also be a priority but should not serve as a pretext for indiscriminate attacks. He also underlined the urgent need for progress towards full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) with a view to establishing an inclusive political solution and opening a path to peace and reconciliation.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said that in this new phase, parties involved in discussions about the Constitutional Committee at all levels must demonstrate a spirit of compromise, flexibility and mutual respect, with the Syrian people and their aspirations remaining at the heart of any decisions taken. Women must participate on an equal footing in all steps of a broad political process because the Committee stands as a cornerstone representing the fundamental freedoms of all citizens, he said. Indeed, the path towards political and national reconciliation is long and complex, he cautioned, reiterating that clear provisions must be established to include women. However, trust must be built among all parties through urgent steps on the ground, among them protecting Committee members and their families and establishing protection measures for civilians in north-eastern Syria.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), emphasizing that the forthcoming October meeting in Geneva must focus on finding a political solution to the conflict, commended the Russian Federation and the Government of Syria for their part in declaring a truce in Idlib on 31 August. Expressing hope that the parties will respect the ceasefire and allow humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to people in need, he called upon all actors to respect human rights and international law, particularly in relation to attacks against civilian infrastructure. Establishing a credible and inclusive Constitutional Committee is a step in the right direction, he said.

JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said today’s meeting is one of historic significance, marking political progress more than eight years into the conflict in Syria. Describing recent developments as a source of renewed hope for the Syrian people, he nevertheless emphasized the need for dedication and resolute commitment on the part of all parties. The Constitutional Committee’s Rules of Procedure must ensure that its members are able to act independently and without any political pressure. Warning against dividing Syria into zones of influence, he expressed concern that five different armies are currently present in the country, sharpening the risk of escalating violence and a broader conflagration potentially spilling over into neighbouring States and beyond.

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) called the latest developments to be followed by transitional arrangements and free and fair elections, saying that “problems in Syria were not caused by flaws in its constitution” but by failure to implement it on the part the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad. The Constitutional Committee’s work must be accompanied by measures to build trust and confidence, he said, adding that all elements of resolution 2254 (2015) must be implemented in tandem. The Committee must represent the free views of the Syrian people and its members must not be subjected to fear or intimidation, he emphasized. As for the dire situation in Idlib, he pointed out that it has dominated the Council’s work over recent months, declaring: “Idlib is the Syrian conflict in microcosm”, with thousands of civilians targeted by regime forces either killed or forced to flee. Deploring the recent vetoes by China and the Russian Federation of an important humanitarian draft resolution, he stressed the moral imperative of ensuring that the ceasefire holds and that civilians are protected.

WU HAITAO (China), joining other speakers in welcoming the breakthrough on the political track, he noted that it resulted in large part from the work of the Astana guarantor States. The Constitutional Committee must maintain its independence and freedom from foreign interference, he said, underlining the importance of respecting Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Members of the Constitutional Committee must work to reach consensus at an early date, he added, urging the international community — including Council members — to provide support. He went on to point out that rampant terrorism remains a major challenge to the political process, warning that, if not addressed, it will continue to impact Syria’s progress in all arenas. However, humanitarian issues must not be used as a bargaining chip in order to exert external pressure on Syria, he insisted, stressing that the legitimate concerns of neighbouring States must be considered when addressing the matter of returning refugees. Calling for the lifting of sanctions, he rejected the reference to his country in the intervention by the United Kingdom’s delegate, underlining that all of China’s decisions are made independently.

MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) echoed the expressions of support for the planned convening of the Constitutional Committee, welcoming it as an encouraging development in Syria’s political process. A strong and genuine commitment from all parties are needed to ensure the Committee’s success, he said, while underlining that Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity must not be taken for granted. All parties must agree to work in a cooperative manner in addressing future challenges. Meanwhile, the political process should move forward in parallel with a ceasefire. The Council’s support for both processes is needed now more than ever, he said, adding: “The road ahead is not going to be easy, but reaching the destination is indeed possible.”

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said any sustainable solution to the conflict requires a genuine political transition, as outlined in Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. Describing the plan to convene the Constitutional Committee as a “definite step forward”, she emphasized the paramount importance of ensuring that positive developments on the ground, especially a cessation of hostilities, move forward in parallel with the Committee’s work. All parties must engage in confidence-building measures, she added, stressing the importance of releasing detainees and finding missing persons. “Progress in this area would help raise the level of confidence between the parties,” she said, also underlining the need to ensure humanitarian access and full respect for international law.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), joining other speakers in expressing support for convening the Constitutional Committee’s first meeting as soon as possible, expressed hope that the commitment to 30 per cent representation by women will be upheld, while calling also for active female participation at all levels of the peace negotiations. Underlining the importance of ensuring the safety and security of the Committee members, he said it is also crucial not to forget Syria’s larger political process, of which the Constitutional Committee is one part. Indeed, the new body’s work must be accompanied by active engagement by all parties. He went on to call for the release of civilians from detention, especially women, children, the sick and the elderly.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said the Committee’s efforts must result in a working constitution, with all parties committed fully to a process free from threats and intimidation. The Council should support the process, he added, expressing hope that the Committee will open the door more broadly to involving women. He also reiterated calls for the release from arbitrary detention of children, the elderly and persons with disabilities, and underlined the importance of ending impunity for perpetrators of crimes. Turning to the draft resolution recently considered, he expressed regret that China and the Russian Federation vetoed the text.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) noted that the new developments represent the first time during the conflict that the United Nations is facilitating direct talks between the parties. The Constitutional Committee has the potential to serve as a key opening the door to a political process, as outlined in resolution 2254 (2015). Expressing “prudent optimism”, he described the Committee as a means to a peaceful conclusion to the conflict, pointing out that much time has already been lost in this regard. The Committee must work towards progress without obstacles or intimidation, he said. The Government of Syria has a special obligation to establish a safe, stable and calm environment in the country, he added, calling for an end to violence in Idlib and around the country. Calling attention to the issue of arbitrary detentions, he urged the Special Envoy to redouble his efforts to resolve the issue, and Damascus to recognize that resolving it is a sign of good faith.

LUIS UGARELLI (Peru), highlighting the role played by the Astana guarantors and the constructive participation of the Government and opposition groups, said a new constitution must represent the aspirations of all Syrians. There are reasons to be optimistic that the new Committee can diligently and effectively fulfil its mandate with tangible results given the urgency of the grave ongoing humanitarian situation and terrorist activities in Syria, he noted. However, the parties must demonstrate genuine commitment to flexibility and constructive dialogue, he said, emphasizing that Committee must represent all sectors of society, with women making up at least 30 per cent of the membership. Meanwhile, progress is needed to ensure the voluntary and safe return of millions of displaced persons and to resolve the issue of detainees, he emphasized.

SERGEY VASILYEVICH VERSHININ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, noting that today’s meeting represents the first time that preconditions exist for finding a lasting solution to the conflict in Syria. Describing the establishment of the Constitutional Committee as the beginning of a long road, he said the Astana guarantor countries worked closely with Syria and the United Nations. Pledging his delegation’s support for the Committee’s role in continuing to hold high-level meetings, he said there are plans to hold an Astana format conference in Kazakhstan. Describing Syria as one of the oldest countries in the Middle East, he said its people will be able to find their own solutions. However, it is unacceptable for external actors to interfere with the ongoing Syrian dialogue or to call for artificial timelines or concessions, he said, emphasizing that the Astana format remains a constructive way forward. He added that it was strange to hear a colleague question Iran’s participation in today’s meeting, when that country has played a role in the current progress and in addressing the conflict in Syria. He went on to express regret the discord over the related draft resolution, saying it contains language of a humanitarian nature and thus had little chance of being adopted. By definition, a truce with terrorism cannot exist, he said, stressing that international efforts must be bound by the quest for peace and by not individual agendas.

Mr. WU (China), taking the floor a second time, referred to the comment by Germany’s delegate to the effect that Beijing did not support the draft resolution under consideration today. Emphasizing his delegation’s grave concern about the situation in Syria, he said that is why China and the Russian Federation worked on another text relating to counter-terrorism measures.

SEDAT ÖNAL, Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkey, described the establishment of the Constitutional Committee as an important first step that would not have been possible without the constructive engagement of the Syrian parties with the Astana framework. It will create new momentum to reach a political solution in accordance with Council resolution 2254 (2015) and also raises the expectations of Syrians both inside and outside the country for a stable, secure and prosperous future. “We have an obligation not to fail to deliver this time,” he emphasized. The Committee is the beginning of a formidable task that the international community — the Council, first and foremost — should continue to support, he said, expressing Turkey’s commitment to that end. The upcoming round of negotiations in Geneva can hardly yield any positive outcome without ensuring a conducive environment on the ground, he said, citing Idlib as a case in point. Pledging to continue Ankara’s support for implementation of the Sochi Memorandum within the Astana format, he stressed that preserving the status quo in the governorate remains crucial.

However, whereas Turkey recognizes the presence of radical elements there, as well as the necessity to address the threat they represent, it rejects the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, he said, underlining that there can be no military solution to the conflict. He went on to reiterate that the political process must be Syrian-owned and Syrian-led, vowing to work through the Astana format’s working group for the release of abductees and detainees while helping to push forward other critical confidence-building measures. Pointing out that Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and spares no effort in facilitating humanitarian assistance to those inside Syria living in dire conditions, he said the time has nevertheless come to think seriously and begin to create the conditions for their safe and voluntary return.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, International and Legal Issues of Iran, joined others in welcoming the Constitutional Committee’s formation, describing it as a clear sign of the Astana format’s effectiveness. Iran will actively support Syrians in the Committee’s launch, he said, calling upon others to do the same while avoiding any and all forms of external pressure or the setting of artificial deadlines. He went on to emphasize that any possible assistance to the Committee — even from the United Nations — must be extended only on request by the Committee itself, in accordance with its Rules of Procedure and with full respect for Syria’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity. Recalling the recent Astana format Summit’s reaffirmation of those principles, he noted that it also rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives, and expressed the determination of the guarantor States to oppose separatist agendas.

Accordingly, all foreign forces whose presence is not permitted by the Government of Syria must leave the country, he continued. United States forces continue to support and shield terrorist groups under the mask of combating terrorism, he noted, while describing Israel’s aggressions against Syria as obvious violations of the principle of sovereignty and a further complication of the situation. The international community must compel Israel to end such aggressions and violations. Reaffirming the Syrian Government’s sovereign right to decide how and when to exercise its inherent right to individual or collective self-defence, he said Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Syrian Golan is illegal and the recognition of its annexation by the United States is null and void, underlining that the territory is part and parcel of Syria. He went on to warn against politicizing or impeding the return of refugees and internally displaced persons or Syria’s reconstruction efforts.

MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) expressed hope that convening the Constitutional Committee will be instrumental to ending the Syrian people’s suffering. Hailing the Special Envoy’s key role in that significant achievement, he called upon all parties to support the Committee’s launch as soon as possible, avoiding procrastination. He also urged them to avoid using the Committee’s work as a pretext not to take other important steps forward. All parties should continue to fight terrorist groups in the region, he said, warning them against being taken in by the latter’s blatant attempts to camouflage themselves by periodically changing their names. Deploring attempts to provide such groups with support or political cover, he warned that thousands of terrorists from Syria have spilled into Libya as well as neighbouring countries, calling upon the Council and its relevant subcommittees to shoulder their responsibilities to halt the flow of terrorists and foreign terrorist fighters. Indeed, certain infamous parties continue to provide the groups with safe havens and to help them continue their subversive actions, he said. Meanwhile, he cautioned against attempts to change the demographic make-up of northern Syria and underlined the importance of facilitating the safe and voluntary return of refugees.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) said her delegation supports all efforts to reach a political solution based on resolution 2254 (2015), including the Special Envoy’s initiatives, and welcomes the Constitutional Committee as a means to launch a political process. A solution to the conflict must be acceptable to all Syrians while aiming to end the violence and create a stable environment. Jordan hosts 1.3 million Syrian refugees, placing pressure on the national economy, she said. As such, it calls for a collective solution beyond international aid, in the form of a more coordinated response and the establishment of measures to ensure their safe return home, she added, emphasizing that international support must continue to serve the interest of the Syrian people.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said the new developments offer a glimmer of hope and reflect a decisive step towards finding a political solution that would end the suffering of Syrians and ensure the safe return of refugees. Commending the parties’ cooperating with the Special Envoy, he said Riyadh will host a meeting to foster constructive deliberations on the Constitutional Committee. The Syrian authorities must commit to the political process and take tangible steps in that direction, he emphasized. He went on to state that a foreign State used the conflict in Syria to plunge the region into turmoil, with terrorist groups operating in Syria playing a destructive role. They must be removed from Syrian territory, he stressed, while describing Iran as a rogue State sowing chaos and contributing to the suffering of the region’s people.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), noting that the Russian Federation played a key role in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter, said Damascus worked with the Special Envoy and other key parties to form the Constitutional Committee, which must remain free from any foreign interference. The constitution is the supreme legislation, reflecting the people’s vision, he added. He went on to state that Syria’s achievements across the millennia, as ancient as history itself, range from developing an alphabet to shaping jurisprudence. Damascus is an active partner in the talks to establish the Constitutional Committee that will represent the wishes of Syrians, free from timetables and foreign interference, he emphasized. Keen on progress in the political process, Syria anticipates that steps forward must reflect these wishes. At a time when the Government stands ready to engage in the Constitutional Committee’s work, concerns remain about foreign interference and violations of the United Nations Charter with regard to interfering in Syria’s territorial integrity, he noted. Whereas Damascus anticipated working with true and honest partners genuinely seeking to foster progress, he said, unfortunately, some States continue to use the Security Council as a platform from which to defame the Syrian Government and prevent refugees and displaced people from returning home. As for the concerns raised by colleagues, he said MRI and CAT-scan equipment are much needed, but certain States are preventing the delivery of such medical supplies. Concerning the issue of terrorism, he said counter-measures include fighting illegitimate foreign presences on Syrian territory, emphasizing that the Government needs support for its counter-terrorism efforts. He went on to reject lies against the Government of Syria, and to express concern about newly-offered proposals that are contrary to already agreed elements for establishing the Constitutional Committee.

Mr. DEHGHANI (Iran) took the floor a second time, saying that the delegate of Saudi Arabia has tried his best to distract the Council’s attention from Riyadh’s crimes in the region, from supporting terrorist groups — including Da’esh and Al-Nusrah Front — to grossly violating Islamic teachings. As such, Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for its crimes, from Syria to Yemen, and must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Yemeni mosques and schools, he said.

Mr. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) responded by stating that Iran supports terrorism in Argentina, Berlin and the Persian Gulf, and called upon that country’s delegate to refrain from making false accusations against Saudi Arabia in the future.

Mr. DEHGHANI (Iran) said Saudi Arabia remains the main source of instability in the region as it continues to provide resources for training extremists. Riyadh’s hostility to Tehran seems endless, from supporting Iraq during its war against Iran to accusing Iranians of violating human rights, he said. He went on to recall that most of the perpetrators of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States were from Saudi Arabia, adding that Riyadh funds terrorist groups even today. Iran has proposed peace plans for Syria and Yemen in the past, only for Saudi Arabia to say it is none of Tehran’s business, he noted, expressing hope that all actors can work together to restore stability to the region going forward.

Mr. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said Iran’s delegate is making more false claims, emphasizing that it is most certainly not Tehran’s business to interfere in the Arab world, whether in Iraq, Syria or Bahrain. Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s previous relationship with Iran was good, but worsened after the revolution in that country, he recalled.

Mr. VERSHININ (Russian Federation) noted that the exchange of statements reaffirms the desire for a return to stability, which is a necessary and useful foundation for exploring how all States can help to restore it.

For information media. Not an official record.


Accept Ruto cash, Father John Pesa I tells churches

JUSTUS OCHIENG'By JUSTUS OCHIENG’
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A cleric in Nyanza has defended church fundraisers by Deputy President William Ruto and told off politicians against criticising the DP. 

Father John Pesa I, who heads the Holy Ghost Coptic Church of Africa on Sunday urged the clergy in Nyanza region not to fear hosting the DP for financial support. He argued that the fundraisers were healthy for development.

He said the church has no tools for determining which money is got from corruption hence should not be blackmailed to reject cash.

FUNDRAISERS

“We support church fundraisers to lift the living standards of our people and we cannot distinguish dirty money from good ones unless the authorities issue caution,” said Father Pesa after return from his three-week long prayer and fasting session abroad.

He went on: “You cannot be stingy and claim to be holy. The DP has proved that he is generous and holy and unless the authorities endowed with resources to determine corruption prove him corrupt, nobody should tell us to reject his cash.”

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He however, advised the DP to make follow ups and ensure the money he contributes to churches and schools are well spent.

Father Pesa warned that corruption was a monster ravaging the country and must be stopped.

“Corruption is an embarrassment in the country, our country and leaders have lost respect due to graft and there is need for prayers to end the vice,” the clergy said.

CORRUPTION

He told churches in Nyanza to embrace fundraisers to help finance projects that benefit the flock.

ODM leader Raila Odinga has cautioned clerics not to accept money generated from proceeds of corruption. He claims some men of cloth had deviated from their call and engaged in corruption by accepting cash from politicians.

But Father Pesa pointed out that clerics must not be condemned for getting assistance “from generous leaders.” He warned against rampant calls for constitutional amendments saying it was not healthy for the country. “What is it that we want to change all the time in our laws?” he posed.


Pharmaceutical firms stop importing drugs 

ELIZABETH MERABBy ELIZABETH MERAB
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Kenya is staring at a health crisis after pharmaceutical companies stopped importing drugs following a tug-of-war between importers and the government.

The Kenya Pharmaceutical Distributors Association Chairman Kamamia Murichu said on Monday that the companies that import and distribute medicines and pharmaceutical products had stopped importing the medicines until the government rescinds a new directive that subjects the products to double inspections before they are allowed into the country.

MEDICAL PRODUCTS

“This thing is already affecting us. Over the weekend, we saw seven containers sent back to India because the consignment did not have the PVoC,” said Dr Murichu.

The new move means that the country could run out of drugs and other medical products. The industry supplies about 80 per cent of all imports into the country.

Although there are about 35 local drug manufacturers, imports meet the bulk of local demand. According to data from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), the industry brought in pharmaceutical imports worth Sh72.8 billion USD $728 million last year.

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Through the Ministry of Trade, the government introduced new regulations that require goods to have a pre-export verification certificate known as Pre-export Verification of Conformity (PVoC).

The PVoC is a conformity assessment certificate which is issued to exporting countries before the products are brought into the country.

From October 1, 2019, every importer must have their goods pre-inspected before leaving the country of export (PVoC).

This pre-inspection will cost USD $250 (Sh25,000) per product and will be done by Kenya Bureau of Standards appointed companies like Bureau Veritas, SGS or Intertek.

A new set of inspection of goods shipped to the country, which requires importers to have a pre-shipment certificate of compliance, came into effect in September 2019.

As a result, shipments that previously took between three to five days now take close to two months.

According to a circular dated June 4 head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua said that the new rules are meant “to improve the cost of doing business and efficiency at ports of entry.”

QUALITY STANDARDS

He added that the rules seek to ensure that goods coming into the country adhere to regulatory requirements and conform to quality standards.

The pharmaceutical companies have warned that not only will the delays plunge the country into a crisis, but it will also increase the cost of drugs.

Some essential medicines including cancer, pain killers, diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy, stomach ulcers, and even malaria drugs are already out of stock.

If the goods do not have PVoC they will not be allowed into the country. Instead, they will be returned to the country of export.

If they come in, the importer will have to pay 30 per cent of the value of each consignment.