Thursday, November 25, 2010


Currently one of the top artistes in Eastern Africa, his entry into the public eye has been far from easy. Yet, Kidum 36 has cemented his position as one of East Africa’s most versatile singer as well as skilful master drummer of his time.

Born in 1974 in the remote village of Kinama, Northern Burundi, the artist whose real name is Jean Pierre has overcome the hurdles that would have discouraged many.
Kidum wasn’t special or so he thought. He describes his childhood as average but one who had a deep fascination for music ever since he could remember.

That’s how his pursuit for drums begun. “All I could find were some buckets we used at home for washing, I upturned one of them, took two sticks and started hitting them according to the beat of the music as it played.” He says.

When he was only 12 years, he played in church and one of the famous Burundian musician spotted him Kidum admits that this was his platform and after 5 years with the band he left for another band, Electric Power which only lasted for while before the war started and he had to flee escaping the war.

Burundi, one of the world's poorest nations, is now emerging from a 12-year, ethnic-based civil war. The ethnic violence sparked off in 1994 made Burundi the scene of one of Africa's most difficult conflicts although its now on the recovery process, it faces the formidable tasks of reviving a shattered economy and of forging national unity.

Its is when the war broke out that Kidum found himself in refugee status destined for Kakuma refugee camp where he stayed for a while before moving to Nairobi, a camp where most of his country mates are after they escaped from the war. “I was alone only 21 years and I followed another group that was coming to Nairobi but we headed to Kakuma first and I found my way to Nairobi” he says

On arrival in Nairobi, he visited several studios being turned away as he understood very less of both Swahili and English but he was taken by one producer and he has since picked up.

Born from a Tutsi mother and Hutu father, Kidum is out with his guitar to pass the tall order of peace in the softest language.

He says that although he did not make it as a politician, he continues to sing for peace in his home country hoping that one day people would learn to live in peace
Back in his home country Kidum is an icon of hope and reconciliation to the many who have been caught up in the long standing civil war in between the Hutu and Tutsi bribes in Burundi.

His first album, Yaramenje (2001), established Kidum as the voice of peace in the Great Lakes region. He followed it up with the hugely successful Shamba album, released in 2003. Ishano (poison) released October 2006 by Soundafrica,
Things went from bad to worse even after releasing his third album, Ishano.

A few videos later, and persisting with his band to the extent of playing for free in pubs, by 2007, fans started appreciating his music.

In a series of homecoming concerts staged in October 2006 in both Burundi and Rwanda, Kidum received standing ovations and praise from Rwandese President, Paul Kagame for his song Amosozi (tears).

After the peace concerts, Kidum was named the honorary ‘prefect’ of musical and creative arts in Bujumbura after a series of countrywide performances in 2007.

His fourth and latest album features songs, like Mshoma, a wedding song and in this he teams up with Nameless in Greedy and Nitafanya with Tanzanian diva Lady Jay Dee.

The peace ambassador has also released songs with a Rwandan born Frankie Joe about peace, War and Hunger mostly focusing on real life issues.

The vocal prowess exhibited in his songs is unmistakable and will leave you yearning for more.

Even as Kidum has no doubts saying his band is among the best, he is afraid that his smooth success has come with enemies.

In February this year, there was a rumour mills that Kidum had died.
But he adds that this will not make him fall and will continue giving his music and fans his all for he believes that he has the power to do it and only God can give him the strength.

The Story of Joseph Lekuton

Choosing the plight of the marginalized to taking the next flight out; story of MP Joseph Lekuton
For many they would kill for an opportunity of studying in one of the most prestigious university in the world – Harvard but not the Laisamis Member of Parliament who has instead choose to continue representing his people as an MP as preferred to going and do a doctorate in the United States.

Representing one of the marginalized community in the country, this was a God send opportunity for the youthful MP but after hearing the cries of his people who do not wish him to go, he is staying.

For many, in Laisamis area, accessing education is a privilege of a few. Coupled with lack of schools and the regions culture education is a pipe dream for many.

Many boys had pictured their lives as Maasai warriors and cattle herders. If you are among the lucky few to get education, one had to walk for hours to get to the nearest school and toppled with lack of money discouraged many.

This was the case of the now area MP Lekuton, a man who defied all odds and pursued education to the highest level in the best of the best universities in the world.
Lekuton who did his degree in Education at Harvard University has now got a scholarship to do his doctorate at Harvard.
The Maasai born Joseph Lekuton shot at education was by ‘accident’ after his older brother who was chosen to go to school but he did not want.
At the age of 6, he had already started his education at the missionary boarding school in Laisamis.
8 years later, Lekuton finished his primary education but he could not continue his education due to lack of school fees. But fate as fate would have it, former President Daniel Moi happened to know about the young Lekuton and offered him a scholarship at the Kabarnet secondary school.
He then cleared his A levels doing well in his final exams and got a job at bank as a clerk. The young Lekuton then received a letter of admission at St Lawrence University in the US under the scholarship for the African Students.
After telling his mother who still leaves at a cow dung hut about the news she promised to do whatever it takes to get his ticket so that his son could get education he needed.

His family then sold most of his cattle’s and the rest of the villages helped and he got his ticket to the United States. In four years, Lekuton graduated from St. Lawrence with both a bachelor's in economics and government and a master's degree in education at Harvard University all under a scholarship programme.
He then worked as history teacher in Washington DC at one of the schools in the United States. He was then named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in sharing the culture of Kenya with America, including efforts to share educational resources with nomadic children through the BOMA Fund and Cows for Kids.
“He was then sponsored by the National Geographic to write a book called Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna which was used to educate about the challenges of Nomadic community in Kenya.
Its in 2006, that he made up his mind to come and run for political a position he says he would be able to serve the people who helped him pay for the tickets to get his education.
After the plane crash killed the area MP died in a plane crash, he vied for the position during the by election and he won. As a first timer in the 10th parliament he has recorded impressive record building boreholes in Loyangalani, Merile and in Laisamis town.
His passionate actions have led to a number of accolades and prestigious awards, including Kenya's Order of the Grand Warrior, a presidential award for exemplary service to his nation.

Marsabit County- Tourism Hub

For a region that had largely remained deserted by the central government since independence, the ushering of a new constitution that provides a new system of governance came as a sign of liberation for the residents.

Marsabit County that brings together 4 constituencies in Kenya Northern frontier are can now breathe a sign of relief that at last the power to decide how resources will be distributed now lays in the hands of the residents.

Even before it became a country, the larger Marsabit district was one of the biggest districts with the size of central and western provinces combined.

Once made up of North Horr, Saku and Laisamis constituencies, the Marsabit County will now include the Moyale constituency. This home to the nomadic community that has faced challenges with questionable help from the central government.

Water being the salvation for any life is a rare commodity and only found on shallow wells. Now with the county edition, the residents will be able to hold their leaders accountable.

Insecurity has also been a major source of fear and the most horrific being the 2005 Turbi massacre where hundreds were killed. The incident which took place in July 12that saw thousands of people mostly from the Gabra clan killed by Borana tribesmen.

It has been referred to as one of the deadliest instance of ethnic violence in Kenya. the people killed were buried in mass graves in Turbi desert.

The infrastructure also comes as a major challenge for the one who would have the responsibility to run the county. The road which has taken decades to be built only reaches a few kilometers after Isiolo.

The closest that the tarmarcked road reaches is the town called Merille 150km away from Marsabit country and clearly poses a challenge to the person who will be incharge.

Good health care in Marsabit and its far flang areas of Kargi, Korr, Turbi among others is a pipe dream for many, with no hospitals and lack of facilities, health care poses as a challenge.

The Marsabit county despite being a deserted region in Kenya has a lot to offer in terms of untapped tourist destination. Marsabit is home to one of true desert in Kenya, a scenic picture despite its bareness lies the Chalbi Desert. The desert is located east of Lake Turkana, the largest permanent lake in the world.

This barren vastness stretches 100km from east to west is also a possible Oil area. While here we meet international oil explorers who have flocked the area hoping to smack the black gold.

“We have been here for the last month, we have visited several areas and although so far there is nothing but we are still here for sometime hoping we would get something” says Pian chinc from African Oils a company that has been commissioned for the work.

A ride towards Loyangalani town on the shores of Lake Turkana is a spectacle, lake in a desert is itself amazing but this one with its dramatic scenery even more so.
Foreign tourists flock the area and at the far end enjoying themselves.

The arid beauty of the giant Lake Turkana spreading out in the desert landscape will impress you.

Loiyangalani, Now a cosmopolitan community of Rendille, Samburu, El Molo, and growing numbers of Turkana all depending on fish from the Lake.

The Lake could support a lucrative fishing industry.

At the far end of the town where there is Elmolo bay desert museum stands, behind the lone structure is the vast Lake Turkana stretching more than 150 km, Less than 30 kilometers east of Loiyangalani is Mount Kulal.Kulal is one of three International Biosphere Reserves in Kenya.

The location is always windy but from time to time, sudden wind whip down from Kulal to the lake turning its placid waters into a tempest in minutes. The track passes Loiyangalani and leads to the headquarters of Kenya's most remote National Park, Sibiloi, at AIia Bay.

Recently the area has become a home to Kenya’s second wind power generator after Gitson Energy secured financing from the US.
The new constitution has aroused interest among some individuals who want to be in charge of the country that is a multibillion livestock industry.
Potential candidates who have shown their interest in the county seat are Jarso Jillo Falana Marsabit Women Advocacy and Development Organisation Programme Coordinator, Nuria Agollo, Molo Adika who works for Arid area in Moyale and Alice Kureya a Development Officer for an International NGO who will be expected to transform the county.

Omar al-Bashir and the two wedding rings.

In some of most strategic intersection of Sudan's capital Khartoum, there are huge campaign billboards with the picture of President Omar al-Bashir, and next to him there are two wedding rings.
One ring is black and the other one is white, the two are held together by a ribbon with the colors of Sudan's national flag.
The black ring symbolises the country's south, mainly inhabited by black African tribes, while the white one represents the mainly Arab north.
It's a message the incumbent president wants no one to miss, one he continually hyped up during a vigorous and well organised campaign that took him to most parts of the country: that he will keep the country united at whatever cost.
But unity is what seems to elude Sudan by the day.
The referendum is part of the 2005 peace deal that brought to an end more than two decades of civil war fought over ethnicity, oil, religion and resources.
Intended to set Sudan on the path to democracy and make unity more attractive to the people of the south, the polls seem to be going against the very intentions for which they were included in the peace deal.
Al-Bashir has publicly stated that he would accept secession.
"If the result of the referendum is separation, the Khartoum government will be the first to recognise this decision. We will support the newborn government in the south," he said in January while addressing a public meeting in the south.
Many doubt he is sincere, however.
Division will be a bitter pill for him to swallow.
Most of Sudan's oil is in the south and he would not want to be seen as the man under whose watch Sudan got divided with the possibility of follow-on Balkanization looming large.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in particular, are a grave concern as both have previously fought alongside the south.

South Sudan vote is 'Time bomb'

Sudan is a "ticking time bomb" in the run-up to a scheduled January vote on independence for the country's oil-rich south, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has said.

Clinton says that it was “inevitable" that the south would vote to break away and form an independent state.

She told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations that the US, the African Union and other international partners are trying to ensure the vote goes smoothly.
She added that the south is not quite capable of summoning the resources and the north has been preoccupied and is not inclined to do it.

The referendum would be the capstone of a 2005 peace agreement between the government in Khartoum and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the main opposition group in the south.

She said that "The real problem is, what happens when the inevitable happens and the referendum is passed and the south declares independence," Clinton said. "What happens to the oil revenues? ... This is going to be a very hard decision for the north to accept."

SPLM officials have held a number of recent meetings with their counterparts in Khartoum to discuss the vote.

Officials from the south have been pessimistic about the outcome of those meetings: Yasir Arman, a senior member of the SPLM, accused the north of trying to "buy time" and delay preparations for the vote, according to the Sudan Tribune.

Experts have been warning that the outcome of the referendum would take the country back to the chaos but Yet despite gloomy warnings from outside, there is an incredible sense of optimism and expectation on the streets of Juba.

South Sudan vote

I got a chance to visit South Sudan to get a first hand look at the hopes and expectation that have arisen as Sudan prepares to go to the ballot box that will most probably see the split of Africa’s biggest nation

Many returning refugees such as Deng see the upcoming referendum as the ultimate crowning moment to years of healing and reconstruction by once an ailing region.
“We have fought and lost loved ones, many of us the only thing we can remember is the heartaches we went through and I do not want to see my children grow up like I did” said Deng.

Deng added that the referendum is Southerners golden chance for total independence and the residents there are prepared to see that happens. “If not for us then we are doing it for those who have lost their lives fighting for the independence and our children”

On January 9, 2011, the people of southern Sudan will vote in a referendum for self-determination, which is expected to result in the secession of the South.

Speaking to Deng and majority of other Sudanese you can hear the bitterness in their voices and the great urge to separate from the North.
“If this does happen we are prepared for war.

There is no way we can go back and start negotiating with the same people that have made us slaves, denied us equal rights and even killed majority of our families” said Deng
The ruling National Congress party looks set to romp back to power in the wake of an opposition boycott that challenges the credibility of the first multiparty elections in 24 years.

These are polls fraught with challenges and left in turmoil by partial boycotts by a number of opposition parties.

Fearing that their participation in the election would simply bestow legitimacy on a regime accused of conspiring to rig the results, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), south Sudan's ruling party and partner in the national coalition, announced a selective boycott.

Some of the north's major opposition parties are partially boycotting the polls too.
It is, however, SPLM's boycott of the polls that has raised eyebrows the most.
Salva Kiir, the SPLM leader and Sudan's vice-president, declined to run against Bashir and also withdrew his party's candidate for the national presidency, Yasir Arman, at the last minute, signalling his preference for secession in a referendum planned next year.

The party also withdrew its parliamentary candidates for constituencies in all but two regions of the north.

Five years of a power sharing agreement have no doubt left al-Bashir's National Congress party (NCP) and the SPLM distrustful of each other.

SPLM's boycott is also seen as a reaffirmation that the divisions between the largely Muslim north and the mainly Christian and animist south appear unbridgeable.
The referendum is part of the 2005 peace deal that brought to an end more than two decades of civil war fought over ethnicity, oil, religion and resources.

More than two million people died in the conflict between the Arab-dominated, Muslim government in the capital, Khartoum, and rebels from the marginalized south, where most are Christians or follow traditional beliefs.