Kuwaiti Firm Disproves Public Radio International Guest’s Slander

A few weeks ago, I was driving into work listening to a Public Radio International program about ongoing terrorism in Iraq. The topic that day was the murder of a driver for a Kuwaiti trucking firm. Obviously, the goal of the terrorists was to deny supplies from coming into Iraq by instilling fear in the company and/or it’s drivers.

The guest on PRI that day made what I thought was a rather bizarre slander against the Kuwaiti trucking firms. Asked by the host whether or not this would be an effective tactic, the guest noted that the drivers employed by the Kuwaitis are foreiengers and that the tactic would not work because the Kuwaiti firms could care less about the safety of their foreign workers.

In fact, last week one of the major trucking firms, Kuwait Gulf and Link, announced it would cease all operations in Iraq in an effort to free seven of its drivers held hostage by a group calling itself the Secret Islamic Army. The hostages were all foeigners — three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian.

Frankly, I don’t think the firm should have given in to terrorism on principle, but it’s understandable why they made that decision. I wonder if the PRI guest will go back on network now and apologize. I won’t be holding my breath.


Kuwaiti firm bows to kidnappers’ demands, stops work in Iraq. Agence-France Press, August 27, 2004.

Just How Accurate Are HIV Estimates?

In January, Kenya announced that its HIV rate had fell almost in half overnight. But this was not due to any new program adopted by Kenya. Rather the government released a more accurate estimate that only 6.7 percent of people in Kenya suffer from AIDS compared to the older estimate of 15 percent.

The 6.7 percent infection rate is based on the most extensive look at AIDS in Kenya yet, and even then the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey looked at a mere 8,561 households in a country of 32 million people.

On the heels of other studies in Mali, Zambia and elsewhere that found similar overestimates, one has to wonder about the quality of data on HIV prevalence throughout the developing world.

Meanwhile UNAIDS advisor Catherine Hankins took the bizarre view that there was, in fact, no overestimation of HIV rates,

We cannot say that we have overestimated HIV rates in Africa. All figures for HIV prevalence in Africa are estimates.

Yes, but I don’t remember UNAIDS ever warning publicity that HIV prevalence may be off by up to 100 percent. Such large discrepancies could potentially cause donor nations to question the reliability of UNAIDS assessments of the epidemic.


Study cuts Kenyan HIV estimates. The BBC, January 9, 2004.

Population Action International: U.S. Abortion Gag Rule Undermines Health Care Around the World

Population Action International released a report in September charging that the U.S.’s global gag rule on abortion is undermining health care efforts in a number of countries. The gag rule bars any monies being given to family planning agencies that performs abortions or offers abortion counseling.

According to a press release from Population Action International announcing its report,

Conducted by a coalition of reproductive health care organizations, the study documents the effects of the Global Gag Rule in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, and Romania. Health services have been scaled back and closings of reproductive health clinics have left some communities with no health care provider. Because of the gag rule, many family planning organizations have been cut off from supplies of USAID contraceptives, including condoms. Public health evidence shows that lack of contraception leads to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion.

Population Action International cites the case of a clinic in Mathare Valley, Kenya, which had to shut down after the global gag rule was reinstituted. According to the report, this left 300,000 people in the Mathare Valley with no access to health care.

Similarly, the report found that after Lesotho refused to abide by the gag rule provisions, USAID refused to donate any condoms or other contraceptives to that nation. About a quarter of Lesotho’s population is HIV positive and USAID had been sending more than 100,000 condoms annually to the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association.

Amy Coen, president of Population Action International, said in a press release, “The Global Gag Rule is yet another example of how the Bush Administration is allowing political ideology to trump science. The policy shows no respect for scientific evidence and proven public health practices, and no compassion for the millions of women around the world engaged in a daily struggle for existence.”

The full report is available here.


US abortion rule ‘hits Africa women’. The BBC, September 25, 2003.

Bush AdministrationÂ’s Global Gag Rule Jeopardizing Health Care, Weakening HIV/AIDS Prevention and Endangering Lives. Population Action International, September 24, 2003.

How Much Is That Kenyan Judge in the Window?

Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation published in October a price list for what it costs to bribe judges in that country and claimed that as many as half of the judges in the country were corrupt and could be bought.

According to the report an appeals judge would want US $19,800 for a bribe, whereas a mere magistrate could be had for about $50.

The Daily Nation’s story was based on a report commissioned by Kenya’s Chief Justice Evans Gicheru. Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki promised to crack down on judicial corruption during his successful election bid in December 2002.

The BBC reports that Evans told corrupt judges that they should do themselves a favor and resign now or face prosecution,

Those who are corrupt know themselves. The option is theirs, they can get out quietly without causing ripples but those who want hard-tackling we are prepared. We will wait for them to go, but for those remaining, I’ll advise the president to set up a tribunal.


‘Price list’ for Kenya’s judges. The BBC, October 3, 2003.

Debate Over Kenyan Rape Allegations

There has been much controversy in recent weeks over a planned lawsuit on behalf of 650 Kenyan women who claim to have been raped by British soldiers. The crux of the debate is whether or not the rape charges are genuine or are being invented out of thin air in order to pursue the potentially lucrative lawsuit.

Much of the controversy centers around the Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict (IMPACT) — a Kenyan group that has been working with British lawyers in preparing the lawsuit.

One of the major pieces of evidence buttressing the rape charges were mixed-race children born to Kenyan women who claimed they had been born as the result of rape by British soldiers. First, however, it turned out most of these children were born to prostitutes. Then, Kenyan prostitutes began stepping forward claiming they were told by IMPACT that they could receive thousands of dollars if they accused British soldiers of raping them.

The Daily Telegraph reported on one of these prostitutes,

Angela Muguri, 24, claims three IMPACT activists sought her out and promised to make her a millionaire. All she had to do was pretend that British soldiers raped her — and then give them a cut of any forthcoming compensation.

Miss Muguri held her two-year-old daughter, Britanny, who, like scores of children in Nanyuki, is mixed race. “They told me that if I said I was raped by British soldiers and showed them my baby then I would get three million shillings [30,000 pounds],” Miss Muguri said. “I would take two million and they would take one.”

According to Miss Muguri, Britanny’s father is a British soldier, but she insisted that the child was the product of a six-week consensual relationships, not of rape.

“I know it was a lie but they told me if I told the truth I would get nothing,” she said. “This British soldier no longer sends me ay money, or communicates with me. I am very poor. How could I say no?”

Those sort of revelations followed on the heels of Royal Military Police investigators concluding that police records documenting the alleged rapes were in fact fakes created specifically for the purposes of pursuing the IMPACT lawsuit.

According to the Daily Telegraph,

A spokesman at the British High Commission in Nairobi confirmed that the 37 reports expected to form the backbone of the case, the only ones filed at the time of the alleged attacks, had proved to be fakes. The reports had encouraged hundreds more women to come forward.

“I am therefore unaware of any genuine entries concerning rapes by British servicemen in police records,” the spokesman said.

Unfortunately the Royal Military Police have not yet explained how they were so certain the reports were not genuine. British newspaper The Guardian, however, examined hospital records related to the rapes and said that the records appeared to have been doctored after-the-fact to include rape-related materials. For example, there tended to be large numbers of patients allegedly raped by British soldiers added to the end of daily hospital logs, suggesting they were added at a later date.

Writing about the controversy, Wendy McElroy noted that it’s often difficult to sort out whether such allegations are accurate or not because of what McElroy terms the “compensation culture” that is currently prevalent in developing countries that plays on Western feelings of guilt over colonial-era injustices,

A “compensation culture” seems to be spreading through poor nations. This “soak the rich” attitude toward the West draws upon Western guilt over its own prosperity and over historical wrongs, like slavery. This collective guilt is especially undeserved when placed on the blameless shoulders of children born today. It is also likely to harm the credibility of true victims who seek compensation.

It also has the effect of infantilizing the governments of developing nations who often seem to spend more time blaming Western nations than actually trying to solve problems their countries face.


Rape claims are forged, says Army. Adrian Blomfield, Daily Telegraph, September 27, 2003.

New doubt thrown on Kenyan mass-rape claim against UK. James Astill, The Guardian, October 2, 2003.

Prostitutes ‘told to fake rape claims’. Daily Telegraph, October 11, 2003.

Wambui Otieno Mbugua Sets Kenya Abuzz

Former-Mau Mau activist and politician Wambui Otieno Mbugua certainly knows how to create a controversy. When she made an appearance at a conference dedicated to creating a new constitution for Kenya, tempers flared and the conference had to be recessed for 30 minutes.

Why all the fuss? Because Wambui, 67, was married in July to a stonemason 42 years her junior.

The marriage itself drew hundreds of onlookers and created something of a schism among churches in Kenya. Although clergyman with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa opined that the marriage was perfectly appropriate, Catholic priest Father Emanuel Ngugi characterized the marriage of Wambui to a much younger man as “uncouth” and criticized her for not consulting her local community before going ahead with the marriage.

When Wambui showed up at the constitutional conference, Member of Parliament Bonny Khalwale was the leader of a faction of male MPs who demanded that she be ejected from the conference. Khalwale was quoted by the BBC as saying, “We are discussing African culture and what she did [by marrying a much-younger man] negated the very concept of our culture.”

Not everyone in Kenya thought this was the major issue facing delegates. According to the BBC, conference delegate Hubbie Hussein noted that, “there are land grabbers, looters, murderers and other criminals among the delegates, but no one has questioned their presence in the conference.”


Kenya split by wedding row. Kariuki wa Mureithi, BBC News, July 22, 2003.

Kenyan woman slams ‘disgusting’ MPs. BBC, August 21, 2003.