Life-Changing Water Found Below Kenya's Surface

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified:12:28 p.m. DST, 23 September 2013

African Child Drinking Clean Water, Photo by The OptimizersKENYA, Africa - The Lake Turkana region of Kenya is known for the skeleton found in the region that dates back to 1.5 million years ago, making it one of the suspected origin locations for humans.

Over the eons of cradling human civilizations, the Turkana region has gradually become more and more arid over time to become the drought-stricken area it is today.

However, there has been a recent discovery by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that revealed that below the region's surface, there is 200 billion cubic meters of freshwater reserves in an underground aquifer. Furthermore, this vast supply can supply the entire country's population of 42 million people for 70 years!

This statistic is an unbelievable figure, as this water source has the potential to completely change the livelihoods of Kenya's 17 million citizens who lack access to safe water.

Despite this highly welcomed news, it is imperative that the Kenyan government assures that the water is managed and distributed in an equitable, appropriate manner. The supply has grand economic potential, but the country's leaders should instead look to the human rights potential and ensure that the masses have access to it. Fulfilling people's right to clean water could completely change the lives of millions and improve the standard of living.

This is a crucial opportunity for Kenya and the following decisions about the aquifer could play a huge rule in the country's trajectory.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Action Needed on Iranian Hostage Situation

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 14:41 p.m. DST, 16 September 2013

Omid Dana, Iranian Dissident in danger of execution, Photo by Robert Reed Daly

CAMP ASHRAF, Iran - On 1 September 2013, Iraqi soldiers led by a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard entered Camp Ashraf in Iraq and proceeded to kill 52 members and take 7 hostage of the Iranian dissident movement, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI).

With ties growing stronger every day between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, an attack on the unarmed residents of Ashraf appears to have only been a matter of time, as the other PMOI camp, Liberty, has already been targeted several times.

After eleven days of pressure, Iraq, a staunch ally of Iran’s government, finally admitted on September 12th to having the hostages in custody. Several human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have released statements urging action to be taken as the hostages are at risk of being sent back to Iran to face execution at the hands of the Revolutionary Guard.

Furthermore, the remaining residents in Camp Ashraf, many of whom were injured in the raid, are being moved to Camp Liberty, which further exacerbates the ongoing refugee situation there. This tense situation has the potential to explode into further violence if further action is not taken by the international community promptly. Otherwise, the Iranian and Iraqi governments may feel emboldened to continue these threatening actions.

This incident comes at a critical time in terms of the global agenda as President Obama has given the Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power the mandate to press forward on human rights, as well as Iran being on the agenda of next month’s UN General Assembly meeting. With attention shifting towards Iran in the midst of Syria’s chaos, Rouhani and his leaders should be pushed to explain the attack, ensure the release of the hostages, and assure freedom from persecution for opposition groups.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Central African Republic's Tragic Conditions

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 21:41 p.m. DST, 12 September 2013

CAR Malaria Victim Helped by Aid Victim, Photo by Merlin-Frédéric Courbet-PanosCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa - A few United Nations agencies have released new reports that disclose the dire statistics of the current status of the Central African Republic (CAR). Although a peace agreement was reached in January between the national government and the Séléka rebel coalition, the rebels soon reclaimed the capital of Bangui and have since repeatedly stirred up violence and lawlessness through the volatile country.

The newest UN reports reveal that villages are still being burned to the ground by armed militants which has forced thousands to flee their homes and seek basic human necessities. It is has been calculated that over a third of the country's population of 4.6 million people are in desperate need of food, shelter, healthcare, water, protection and sanitation.

This is clearly a huge humanitarian crisis, and poses a threat to the ever-increasing unstable region. The DRC to the south has its own civil conflict raging on, and refugees from the CAR are fleeing into neighboring Chad and Cameroon daily.

As torture, looting, kidnapping, assaults and extortion continue through the country, UN agencies are trying to provide all of the assistance they can, but it is imperative that the central government regain control of the country and put an end to the rebels' stronghold on power. As long as the rebels have unchecked power, they will continue to ravage the countryside for food, supplies, and potential human capital.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Kenya Reneges on Promise to Election Violence Victims

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 00:31 a.m. DST, 10 September 2013

Victims of 2007 Kenya Post-Election Violence, Photo by Martin NduguKENYA, Africa - At the close of 2007, Kenya held Presidential elections between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga that resulted in months of atrocious violence and mass chaos. The eruption of killings resulted from the ethnic cleavages between the two candidates, as Kibaki is from the Kikuyu ethnic group and Odinga is from the Luo group. Once Kibaki was declared the winner despite widespread electoral fraud and manipulation, opposition groups revolted at the results and chose to make a stand.

However, this resulted in citizens, mostly of opposition Luo ethnicity, targeting Kikuyu citizens and brutally killing hundreds of them. Eventually, some Kikuyus retaliated and murdered citizens of Luo and Kalenjin descent. The few months of violence resulted in over a thousand deaths, and around two hundred thousand displaced persons. This is still a huge issue for the country today as thousands of citizens continue to live in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps that lack proper shelter, running water and basic education and healthcare.

One such example is an IDP camp called Jikaze that is in the Great Rift Valley and is about a twenty minute ride from Limuru. I've visited and worked in the camp twice, and have met the most wonderful, loving people who despite having their lives turned upside down, continue to be hopeful for the future. One couple in the camp owned a hotel before the 2007 election, but had it burned to the ground in the violence and went from being well-off to having nothing. Another family went from having acres of fertile land and a profitable farming business to running for their lives and starting from scratch. Some members of the camp lost family members in the violence and will never be able to return to their old home.

Now, imagine these Kenyans who have spent over five years healing and rebuilding their lives, to now find out that the Kenyan government will not fulfill its promise to face justice and seek justice for the victims of the post-election violence. This week, the Kenyan Parliament voted to remove themselves from the Rome Statute that would ensure that the national government sought justice and reparations for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the violence. Although it has been many years and many citizens have found a new way forward, they still deserve the justice and help that the government owes them. Without fulfilling their promise, not only are they abandoning their citizens again, but are setting a disappointing precedent for government accountability.

On a similar note, the Parliament also voted this week to remove themselves from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to avoid many of their prominent leaders' indictment and trials. Considering Kenya's growing economic and regional power potential, it is a nasty setback that the government is moving backwards in reneging on international standards and human rights laws. The international community, including the US, has released statements urging Kenya to fulfill their commitments and remain accountable to its people.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report
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Reforms Power Growth in Nigerian Energy Markets

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Ty Butler, Senior CorrespondentInternational Development and Conflict Last Modified: 16:32 p.m. DST, 06 September 2013

LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigeria’s long trek towards large-scale energy market reforms is witnessing rapid progress as the Power Holding Company of Nigeria finalizes the sale of 15 energy companies.

A total of ten distribution companies and five generation companies have been sold to private stakeholders as part of an eight year reform effort initiated by the country’s Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSR).

The act seeks to increase private investment into Nigeria’s energy infrastructure in an attempt to address lagging electricity capacity. Brownouts are not uncommon in most Sub-Saharan African states, such inadequacies in power generation and transmission capabilities make it difficult for businesses, particularly manufacturing industries, to operate efficiently.

Publicly owned power companies faced large efficiency troubles in an atmosphere where subsidized tariff rates did not generate enough income to prevent power companies from operating at a financial loss. Such realities led to wide scale inefficiencies in energy companies, including poor maintenance which reduced overall energy capacities.

Low energy prices also made the market unattractive to private investment since companies could not expect to witness economic returns on any investments made. To address pricing distortions, Nigeria implemented the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO) to gradually increase the cost of electricity, allowing the sector to become profitable for businesses to operate in.

To date, Nigeria has netted $2.73 billion through the sale of its energy assets. This money joins $1.6 billion in international loans which is slated to finance, among other things, new private-public partnerships and investments into new energy and gas infrastructure.

Nigeria’s reform efforts have not only attracted international bidders for public energy assets, but have boosted investor confidence as well, encouraging new energy construction efforts. The U.S. company General Electric has agreed to invest $1 billion over five years into a new manufacturing and assembly facility in the city of Calabar; a vote of confidence in Nigeria’s future economic prospects. General Electric has also partnered with the Nigerian firm Geometric Power Limited to construct a new 450 megawatt thermal power plant in Aba.

With over 162 million citizens, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and one of the few in Sub-Saharan Africa with fairly large domestic consumer markets. This makes the country a prime location for the development of local small and medium scale businesses. Healthy domestic markets allow companies to form and compete with generally larger international companies. It also allows for infrastructure and service grouping known as economies of agglomeration to take place which reduces operational costs.

Power sector limitations and unreliability have traditionally bogged down Nigeria’s desire to promote growth outside of its considerable oil industry. With a more inviting and stable power sector, investor risks should decrease over time along with operational costs despite higher energy prices; allowing Nigeria an opportunity to better diversify its economic growth.

Follow Ty Butler on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @TywButler

Instability Returns to Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 23:09 p.m. DST, 03 September 2013

Congo Refugee, Photo by Steve Evans

DRC, Africa - Widespread fighting and instability are nothing new to the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as it has been plagued by conflict ever since the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 spilled over into its borders.

The region, especially the area around Goma, have struggled to find peace since this crisis, and even the current issues can be traced back to this period.

The newest fighting is being caused by a rebel group, called the M23, who have been protesting the national government since April of 2012. The group is made up of members who were formally part of the Congolese national army, but mutinied to display their disapproval and disappointment with the national government that is led by President Joseph Kabila.

Since then, the group has made periodic attacks on civilians and government military forces, and in its most recent offensive, caused civilian casualties, widespread population displacement, and danger to UN peacekeeping forces (MONUSCO).

MONUSCO has practiced peacekeeping without force for over a decade now, but the M23's recent actions have prompted a military response from the UN troops. With their new mandate, certain UN peacekeepers are allowed to fire first and use necessary offensive actions in order to force M23 rebels to back down and put down their arms.

This moved was deemed necessary as the rebels have been given several options over the last few months to meet their requests, yet they continually return to violence. They have failed to follow up with peace talks and ignored demands to put down their weapons.

Beyond M23's responsibility for the chaos in Eastern Congo, the DRC's national government and neighboring country, Rwanda, also play a huge role in implementing peace. They have been involved in the fighting and tensions since the beginning, and thus they must make it their priority to finding a lasting solution before peace can be found.  Otherwise, once UN troops back off, the violence will eventually resume.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Who is Black in America? | Soledad O'Brien

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:00 p.m. EDT, 30 August 2013

Model: Trudyann DucanUNITED STATES - On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech," America has been forced to reconfront the issue of 'colorism' in our society. I am purposely not using the word race because there is only one race, the human race.

However, in America and South Africa in particular, and in other countries to a lesser extent, the issue of color is complex and problematic, and is often the sole measure by which people are defined and relegated to particular groups in society.

I have faced the issue of color and acceptance most of my life. Most recently after the birth of my son whose father is not American, but German; I am constantly reminded of how limited the options are for people of mixed or biracial heritage when confronted with documents and other census gathering transactions that seek to categorize people by race.

With regard to organizations requesting the race of my son, I choose to enter 'other' or write in 'biracial.' In reviewing his records, I have often been chagrined to discover that an institution has subsequently change his assignation to Latino. In fact, most people who interact with my son and view him as Latino, emphasize their perception by pronouncing his name with Spanish accentuation, often changing it to 'Javier' though it is clearly not written as such.

This perception remains in force until they meet me, and then his race is changed to African-American which is wholly inaccurate. This lack of clarity and inability to fit neatly into 'white' or 'black' culture has caused my son to question me about why he is so light and I am brown? Why his hair is straight and mine is curly?

And at one point he identified himself as 'white,' until I emphasized the fact that he is biracial like President Barak Obama, and that he should not only be proud of his dual heritage, but should correct people who mistakenly believe him to be otherwise.

People often believe that I am Ethiopian or Somalian, and because my father though born in America has lived in Africa for the past 40-years, and I spent my childhood there, the cultural nuances of these societies resonate with me more than Black American culture.

As you can see from the video below, my struggle and that of my son is all too familiar to many people of color in this country where black and white cultures are perceived as monolithic, thus stifling any acknowledgment of the multitude of diversity that exists within either group, as well as in America as a whole.

I would encourage you to watch the video below which is both provocative and informative. Hopefully, it will provide greater insight into 'colorism' and the concomitant expression of racism in America.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWcs7YsZVuY]

Follow Ayanna Nahmias on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @ayannanahmias