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Nairobi: Celebrating Efforts to Spark Change

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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Film Festival to Address Migration, Radicalization, Women in Leadership

The fifth annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival will be held in Nairobi on November 14-19, 2016, with a program of five award-winning documentary films.

The films highlight the many social and legal obstacles that activists and ordinary citizens have to overcome, often at great personal cost, to obtain justice. The films will be shown at three venues; the
 Alliance Française de Nairobi, Monrovia/Loita Street; The Rift Valley Institute, Laikipia Road, and Pawa 254, on Statehouse Crescent Road. A question-and-answer session will follow each screening. Admission is free.

“This year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Nairobi hosts an array of films that look at people who have taken action to change not only their personal stories but the narratives of their communities and societies,” said Andrea Holley, strategic director, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, who will be in Nairobi for the festival. “By coming together to share these stories, we believe we can create new narratives and establish a platform for discussing human rights issues from diverse perspectives.”

The films document the struggle for social justice by the United States African-American community, radicalization in Pakistan, migration by Africans to Europe, the struggle against dictatorship in Nigeria, and the work of a band of Kenyans seeking retributive justice using digital technology as a people’s court in the face of what it views as the country’s failing criminal justice system.

Film Screenings

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution: Monday, 14 November 2016; 6.45 p.m.; 116 minutes (Alliance Francaise de Nairobi)
Stanley Nelson – US – 2015 – documentary

The festival will open with
 The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, a feature-length documentary with first-person accounts by early members of the organization and rank-and-file members in cities like Chicago, Oakland, Los Angeles, and New York, as well as the voices of lawyers, journalists, scholars, police officers, and former FBI agents.

In the 1960s, change was coming to America. Those seeking to drastically transform the system believed radical change was not only feasible, but imminent. For a short time, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense put itself at the vanguard of that change.

An opening reception will be held at
 6.15 p.m. 
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A discussion will follow the screening.

Among the Believers: Tuesday, 15 November 2016; 6.30 p.m.; 84 minutes (Alliance Francaise de Nairobi) 
Hemal Trivedi, Mohammed Ali Naqvi and Jonathan Goodman Levitt – Pakistan – 2015 – documentary

Among the Believers charts the personal quest of a firebrand Pakistani cleric to impose a strict version of Sharia (Islamic law) throughout the country, as a model for the world. But while the Red Mosque Islamic School offers food and lodging, many people in Pakistan seek to stop the scourge of violence that it encourages.

The film uses extensive access and chilling footage to explore the spread of the radical ideology of the Red Mosque, which trains children from a very young age to devote their lives to jihad.

A discussion will follow.

Mediterranea: Wednesday 16 November 2016; 6.30 p.m.; 107 minutes (Alliance Francaise de Nairobi)
Jonas Carpignano – Italy – 2015 – drama

The world in recent months has watched in horror and been shocked at the TV images being beamed into their living rooms about the perilous and fatal journeys of Africans and others from the Middle East to Europe in a desperate bid to escape intolerable war and economic hardships in their countries of origin. During the first five months of 2016 alone, more than 2,500 refugees and migrants have been killed trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Mediterranea charts the struggle of Ayiva and Abbas, Burkinabe brothers who cross oceans and deserts to pursue a better life. But the promise of opportunity soon turns to frustration when they face the hardships of racist small-town Italy. The film is built on the narrative of the 2010 Rosarno riots and the real life journey of Koudous Seihon, an African immigrant who is the lead actor. The filmmaker, Jonas Carpignano, injects a powerful sense of urgency into this film.

The film from the filmmaking collective behind
 Beasts of the Southern Wild, had its international premiere during critics’ week at Cannes in 2015.

A discussion will follow.

Tuko Macho: Thursday, 17 November; 6.30 p.m.; 90 minutes (Alliance Francaise de Nairobi)
The Nest Collective – Kenya – 2016 – special program

 Tuko Macho organization, a vigilante cell run by the ruthless Biko, snatches up criminals from Nairobi streets and puts them on trial before the world’s most powerful public court – the internet, whose anonymous viewership decides whether the offenders should live or die.

Tuko Macho (meaning “We Are Watching” in Swahili), is an interactive web series created and produced by The Nest Collective. The films follow a series of kidnappings carried out by a vigilante cell. Three selected episodes from the series will be shown.

Join us for an interactive discussion with the creators of this series, moderated by Agnes Odhiambo of Human Rights Watch.

The Supreme Price: Friday, 18 November; 6.30 p.m.; 93 minutes (Rift Valley Institute)
Joanna Lipper – Nigeria – 2014 – 75m – documentary

The Supreme Price tells the story of Hafsat Abiola, daughter of the human rights heroine Kudirat Abiola, and Nigeria's then-President-elect M.K.O. Abiola, who won a historic vote in 1993 that promised to end years of military dictatorship. Shortly after the election, his victory was annulled and he was arrested. While he was imprisoned, his wife took over leadership of the pro-democracy movement.

The Abiola family’s intimate story unfolds against the epic backdrop of Nigeria’s evolution from independence in 1960, through a series of military dictatorships to present day civilian rule as Hafsat Abiola continues to work to transform a corrupt governing culture into a democracy capable of serving Nigeria's most marginalized population: women.

A discussion will follow.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution: Saturday, 19 November 2016; 2.30 p.m.; 116 minutes (PAWA 254) – REPEAT 

A discussion will follow.

For more information about the Human Rights Watch Nairobi Film Festival, please visit:

First major Quran exhibition in US set to open

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Thursday October 20, 2016

“The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts” exhibition will bring 48 manuscripts and folios from the museum in Istanbul together with manuscripts from the various collections around the world.

Forty-seven centuries old handwritten Qurans from Turkey will be presented Saturday at the first major Quran exhibition in Washington at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Qurans were brought from the more than 100-year-old Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. The exhibition will also include 18 Qurans from the permanent collections of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M.Sackler Gallery-both part of the Smithsonian.

The manuscripts are among the most important ever produced from geography spanning Turkey to Afghanistan and covers almost 1,000 years of the history of Islamic art between the 8th and 17th centuries.

In addition to the exhibition, there will also be several seminars and panels on Islamic Art, curator tours, family-friendly hands-on art activities, storytelling performances and live demonstrations of calligraphy and illumination.

A Quran symposium will also take place Dec. 1 at the Turkish Embassy.

Organized by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Smithsonian Museum, "The Art of the Qur'an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts" will be on view through Feb. 20.

Officials from the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Turkish embassy are expected to attend the exhibit's opening sponsored by Turkish Airlines, the Koç Holding and the Doğan Group.

Somalia Faces Election Challenges

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Thursday October 20, 2016
Somali soldiers patrol a street market following a suicide car bomb and gun attack on Tuesday that killed 11 people in Afgoye, Somalia, Oct. 19, 2016.

America’s presidential elections may be getting much of the world’s attention right now, but in the Horn of Africa, another country’s electoral season is also underway.

Somalia hopes to elect a president, as well as members of two houses of parliament, by the end of November. Somali parliament member Abdiweli Qanyare says overall, the election process is going smoothly.

“So far, we are not seeing much complaint,” said Qanyare. “But anyway, wherever elections happen, there are people who will complain and people who will say it’s not fair. Even in the first world. So, legitimacy at the moment is fine.”

The Special Representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Somalia, Michael Keating, says there are challenges in conducting the elections, like security threats, since Somalia is attempting to recover from three decades of war and lawlessness, while still battling threats from al-Shabab. Also, there is the absence of a national ID system, and a lack of institutional capacity and memory.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that this is going to go well, even though it’s going to be very messy and even though, as somebody said to me, it is possibly the most complicated electoral process on planet Earth, of all time,” said Keating.

New parliament

There will be a new federal parliament, consisting of an upper and lower house. State assemblies will elect the 54 members of the upper house. The lower house will consist of 275 members, elected by 14,025 delegates selected by 135 clan elders.
Voting for upper house candidates has begun, while polls for the lower house are scheduled to start Sunday, Oct 23. Both houses will then elect Somalia’s president on November 30.

But not everyone, including Abdi Samatar, a Somali-born economic geographer at the University of Minnesota, is pleased with the arrangement.

“This is not an election, Jill, it’s a selection,” said Samatar. “A group of people are going to pick up candidates for parliament. Ordinary citizens have no way of influencing that, in any sense of the word. So it’s really a charade of a selection, of an election, I should say.”

International concerns

The United Nations, African Union, United States and European Union issued a joint statement October 16 expressing concern that “individuals with a history of criminality, violence and terrorism” are being presented as candidates for the upper house of parliament, saying it represents a “regressive step.”

But parliament member Qanyare argues that if someone has not been found guilty of doing something “illegitimate,” they have the right to run for office.

“Because, according to our constitution, it says that someone can be elected if he has not been convicted in the court [in] the last five years,” said Qanyare. “So I believe they are within the framework of the legality.”

Keating says that rejecting candidates who have been implicated in rights abuses would reaffirm Somalia’s commitment to ending the culture of impunity.

“But if we get through this and the results are legitimate, and it is not marked by excessive violence, then it is a huge confidence boost for Somalis, and it’s going to really set the stage for Somalia to go to another level,” said Keating.

Many are hoping that next level includes nationwide one-person, one-vote elections by 2020.

World Bank expert advises smallholder farmers to invest more on right farming technologies

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Rice farmers plant the crop at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.
Rice farmers plant the crop at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme. A World Bank expert has urged smallholder farmers to invest more in precision agriculture. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

·         Dr Ladisy recommends that the government should empower smallholder farmers, acquire land and lease out the schemes to the farmers to manage for maximum returns.
·         The government should also invest in human capital, trained labour has much higher mobility than untrained ones.

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Smallholder farmers in areas facing land and water constraints have been advised to invest more on right technologies which allow precision agriculture and guarantee high returns at the same time.
Precision agriculture entails approaches such as use of drip irrigation and green-houses so that to ensure that only crops which need water or fertilisers receive the inputs.
Dr Ladisy Chengula, lead agriculture economist at World Bank, says such interventions protect crops during shocks which has been intensified by climate change impacts.
In September this year the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) issued drought alerts for 11 counties and an alarm for one. According to the authority’s early warning bulletins, Narok, Kajiado, Taita-Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Kitui, Makueni, Marsabit and Garissa counties are experiencing a decline in food and livestock production as well as water supply.
The food security situation in the counties is expected to get worse in the coming weeks, the authorities warned.
Food security situation comes in the wake of increasing investment in agriculture by the government which the expert World Bank agricultural economist has faulted as unsustainable and therefore a waste of resources.
Government run irrigation projects such as the 10,000 acre model farm that forms the first phase of the Galana-Kulalu one million acre food security project has terribly failed due to claims of mismanagement and runaway corruption.
Initially the Sh7 billion irrigation project was meant to address the country’s perennial maize deficit of 20 million bags of the grains, but  in the end, the project produced only 10 bags rather than the targeted 40 bags of 90kg per acre on it first harvest.
“Nearly all the irrigation schemes in the country managed by the government, for instance Galana-Kulalu irrigation project have failed to give yields as have been expected,” Dr Ladisy pointed out, during the commemoration of international day of poverty eradication at the World Bank Group offices in Upper Hill, Nairobi.
Dr Ladisy instead recommends that the government should empower smallholder farmers, acquire land and lease out the schemes to the farmers to manage for maximum returns.
He says that unless resilience is built poverty will not end.
“The government should also invest in human capital, trained labour has much higher mobility than untrained ones,” said the expert, adding that farmers in the village should aggregate to overcome challenges of market access and poor prices.

Where Do Somali Refugees Go When Kenya Shuts Down Camp?

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October 18, 2016 6:58 PM

 A child holds another refugee in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, Sept. 20, 2016.

Twenty-eight-year old Nurto Ahmed Abdullahi stands beside the dusty airstrip at Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, preparing to board a charter flight to Mogadishu.
She is one of tens of thousands who after years of seeking refuge in Kenya are going back to their native Somalia as part of a "voluntary repatriation" program backed by the United Nations and the Kenyan government. But Abdullahi and others say the process is hardly voluntary, and accuse Kenya of forcing refugees back to an unsafe country.
Kenya plans to shut the 25-year-old Dadaab refugee camp, which houses nearly 300,000 people, by the end of the year, citing the economic burden and concerns that the camp is a recruiting ground for al-Shabab militants.

The shutdown comes amid cutbacks in health services and food rations in Dadaab that have pushed some refugees who are dependent on aid into destitution.
Business people who once brought goods into the camp aren’t coming either, further reducing the supply of food.
"If someone is complaining about you, you can’t say, ‘I have to stay in his house,’ so you have to decide to leave his house. So Kenya is now going to close Dadaab, and we have to leave Dadaab,” says Abdullahi, who came to the camp in 2011 because of conflict in Mogadishu.
IN PICTURES: Life in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp

Life in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp

Meanwhile, those who have returned to Somalia say they're worse off than they were in Dadaab. Now, many are pointing the finger at the U.N. and Kenya's government for pushing refugees back to their homes before Somalia is ready to take them.
A preference for Kenya
Over 80 percent of Dadaab residents want to stay put, says Doctors Without Borders, including 48-year-old Fatuma Mahad Samatar, who came to the camp in 2011 from Gedo.
“I’m not ready to go back to Somalia,” says Samatar, who says she has been pleased with the free education for her children, free health care and good security in Dadaab.
Going to Somalia is particularly problematic for the many Dadaab residents born there since the camp opened in 1991, like Mohamed Abdullahi Jimale, 24. He's never actually been to the war-torn country of his parents, who are both deceased, and has four young siblings to care for.
“I don’t feel like the decision was nice to somebody like me who was born in the camps. And I don’t feel like going. I want to stay here in Kenya. Even if we are forced, I want to die here, pretending to be a Kenyan,” he says.
For those who do sign up to return, the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, offers a return package, including cash. Thousands have opted to take what they can get before the end of November and hope for the best in Somalia.
But it appears that what they receive may not live up to what was promised.

Workers help refugees check-in for repatriation flight to Mogadishu, Dadaab, Kenya, September 21, 2016.
Empty promises
UNHCR Kenya head Raouf Mazou told VOA that each returnee receives $200 upon leaving Dadaab. But VOA saw returnees receiving only $150 each at the Dadaab airstrip. A bit more, about $30, is given for those with special needs, said a UNHRC worker at the airstrip.
There is also confusion about what awaits them in Somalia. Mazou said that returning refugees should receive health, education and other essential services in Somalia. Returnees tell a different story.
Hubi Abdillahi Aden fled Somalia's war with her husband and newborn in 1991 for Dadaab, where she gave birth to six more children. The family returned to Somalia earlier this year.
Now in Kismayo, the family of nine lives in an overcrowded camp for displaced people on a trash-strewn beach. Their dwelling is a tiny hut of cardboard, a far cry from the house with curtains Aden beams about inhabiting in Dadaab.
"We were promised a lot of things," Aden says. "There will be a house, and provide us with the basics. Now there's no toilet, there's no water, there’s no house, the promises that were made by the U.N. — education, the health, job creation, anything that would move our lives forward — there was nothing."
Health workers say their clinics in Kismayo are overcrowded and there aren't enough drugs to go around. Vouchers provided by the World Food Program are often not honored by local vendors. Without enough clean water in the camps, aid workers worry of cholera outbreaks in the rainy season.
Aden's main concern is education for her seven children. She says she can't afford education fees in Kismayo, and she says the schooling in Kismayo is at a far lower standard than it is in Kenya anyway.
"I would like to go back to Kenya to take them back to the school, but the situation does not allow me," she says, lamenting she expects her children to grow up to be shoe shiners if things don't improve. "I really, really regret [coming back to Somalia] so much."

Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, September 19, 2016. (Jill Craig/VOA)
The problem is that war-torn Kismayo can't accommodate the thousands of new arrivals. The city's residents are still recovering from the war, while drought and active conflict in the hinterlands have forced some 40,000 displaced Somalis into camps in town in recent years.
"People who live in Kismayo were already vulnerable," says Adam Ibrahim Aw Hirsi, the Jubaland region justice minister who oversees the returnee program. "So you have vulnerable people, on top of IDPs who are more vulnerable, on top of them over 16,000 and counting new refugees from Kenya."
Abdi Adan Salat, who runs the American Refugee Committee's aid operations in Kismayo, including health, education and jobs programs, says relief organizations are overwhelmed.
"The projects now we have in Kismayo are not enough to meet the needs to the returnees, the IDPs and the host community, so there is a huge gap," Salat says. "Intervention from respective donors is highly required to avoid deterioration of the situation."
UNHCR Somalia spokesperson Julien Olivier acknowledges there aren’t enough health and education services in Kismayo, because UNHCR's main focus has been getting people out of Dadaab.
"We have to be better. We have to be more services-oriented to the population," Olivier says, noting there have been indications that donors will support more reintegration programs.
Lawlessness and al-Shabab
Another problem is that much of Somalia remains unsafe. Though Kismayo is relatively calm, there is fighting in other parts of Jubaland where some returnees have gone.
Abdullahi Mohamed Aden, 47, went back to Jubaland in May but returned to Dadaab soon afterward because of violence.
“The place we went, there was no security, no health, no education, no water. It was a tough place," he told VOA in Dadaab. "At night, armed men would come to you, they will tell you to give them what you have. We had to leave.”
While frustration mounts at the lack of services in Kismayo, others are pointing the finger at Kenya, saying authorities there were too quick to close Dadaab.
"To the Kenyan government, to be honest, we are thankful. We are requesting, as your brothers and your neighbors, that you have taken care of us for over 20 years, you don't end an old relationship in a shameful way," says Ahmed Mohamud Abukar, the chairman of the returnees in Kismayo.
"Since you have taken care of these people for almost 30 years, please take care of them the way you did before, until our government has put its feet on the ground."
For those who’ve already returned to Somalia, there is little recourse. Back in Dadaab, there is only uncertainty. Kenya's government has stood by its wish to see Somali refugees go home, meaning that come November 30, the future of Dadaab residents is in limbo.

12 Somali startups accepted onto Innovate accelerator

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Innovate Ventures has announced the 12 early-stage Somali startups that have been accepted onto the inaugural Innovate Accelerator in Hargeisa, Somaliland, with the top three to receive a total of US$10,000 in equity investment.
Disrupt Africa reported in June Somali startup accelerator and fund Innovate Ventures had launched its first accelerator programme in partnership with the Work in Progress! Alliance and VC4Africa.
The 10-week programme aims to support and invest in the next wave of tech startups in Somaliland and Somalia while growing the nascent startup ecosystem in the country. It will include mentorship and training provided by domain experts and entrepreneurs.
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After over 160 applications were received from Somali tech startups, Innovate Ventures has chosen 12 to take part in the programme based on the quality of application, existing traction, quality of team, and viability of product.
The selected startups include digital services company Mojatu Media, online rental and property management startup Guri Yagleel, online wedding and event planning startup Xasuus Reeb, web hosting company SomSite, Raspberry Pi hardware firm Somaliland Raspberry, and software development startup Anfac Software.
B2B startup iTech Solutions, online payments company Zapi, fintech startup ePocket, e-commerce company Muraado, accounting software provider SomDevelopers, and media management software Hargeisa Daily complete the cohort.
The startups will now undergo a rigorous 10-week programme, which will culminate in a demo day in November in Hargeisa where they will pitch to potential investors. Three startups will walk away with funding from the Innovate Ventures Fund.

Int'l community concerned over parliamentary candidates with a history of violence and criminality

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mogadishu - The United Nations, African Union, European Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, Ethiopia, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States are deeply concerned about the inclusion of individuals with a history of criminality, violence and terrorism on the lists of candidates for the Upper House of Parliament submitted by some leaders of the existing and emerging federal member states and potentially among candidates for the House of the People.
The nomination and potential election of any individual responsible for the violence that characterized Somalia’s civil war represent a regressive step at a time when Somalia is poised to turn a new page. This must be taken into consideration by all key stakeholders as voting for Upper House candidates continues and 14,025 electoral college delegates convene later this month to choose members of the House of the People.

Somalis, as well as Somalia’s international partners, deserve to have confidence in the institutions that will emerge from the current electoral process. Every effort should be made to ensure that the process results in the designation of reputable holders of public office who will not undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the new Government and Parliament.
The process of registering candidates for the 275 seats of the House of the People is underway, and individuals with documented histories of criminality and violence should not be chosen by electoral colleges to represent their clans and sub-clans in the lower house of Parliament.

“Somalia is rebuilding its institutions and legitimacy after 25 years of armed conflict,” said Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia. “A rejection of parliamentary candidates who have been implicated in some of the country’s worst human rights abuses will reaffirm Somalia’s commitment to end the culture of impunity in the eyes of its own citizens and the world at large.”