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East Africa: Welcome to Kenya, Region's First Welfare State
Nairobi — Barely weeks after two of its much-trumpeted social programmes -- "Unga for the Poor" and "Kazi Kwa Vijana" -- flopped, the Kenyan government through Prime Minister Raila Odinga last Wednesday launched yet another initiative in which the rural and urban poor will receive a $20 monthly stipend to supplement their domestic expenditure.

A total of $8 million will be spent on the programme in the first year.

Tellingly, no criteria were given on how the beneficiaries would be selected, or what structures had been established to ensure that the money was not looted.

Like many Kenyans, labour union leader Francis Atwoli is sceptical of the new initiative.

"It is just another plot to siphon off taxpayers money," he charged last week. 

And one has to ask, can a country that can't even resettle its IDPs sustain a Nordic-like social welfare system, handouts and all?

The verdict is yours.

A Kampala court last week sentenced David Lyagoba, who works with a local airline, to a fine of $150 or year in jail for blocking President Yoweri Museveni's convoy. Nothing extraordinary about that, except the fact that in the past two months, several other people have been charged with the same offence.

Three weeks ago, for example, businessman Frank Gashumba was charged for failing to give way to the presidential convoy, incidentally on the same road Mr Lyagoba is said to have committed the offence.

Earlier, a security guard had been charged with a similar offence.

Which makes one wonder.

Could it be that some daring souls have found a novel way of telling President Museveni what they think of him?

Getting hooked up - the mobile Somali way

Cheap mobile services, in which a month's calls can cost just $10, are having a profound effect on Somali traditions, conservative elders in that country say.

Boys can now talk discreetly to girls, and the rate of elopement is rising, complained one elder, Hassan Aden.

"The youth of today enjoy modern technology, fast transportation and free-of-charge marriages," Aden, a storeowner, said in the capital Mogadishu. "Today, even reasonable boys pay just $50 bride price and a copy of the holy Koran after making the girl pregnant or seeing her secretly for months, thanks to the mobile phone."

Bile Farah, 25, a fellow resident of Mogadishu, agreed.

"I don't think I'd be sane if it were not for the 'Qudbasiro', free-of-charge secret marriages," the unemployed secondary school graduate told Reuters. "I've divorced nine women already. Voluntary brides and cheap phone services -- it is the only life we have."

Faster, higher stronger condoms from Beijing

When the Olympics hosted by Beijing ended, sport memorabilia collector Zhao Xiaokai quickly snapped up the 5,000 condoms left over from the 100,000 distributed free to athletes.

Now, he is putting the entire collection on sale, at a starting price of 15 US cents, provided the bidder buys the entire lot.

The sale will be done at the "Exceptional Auction of China Sport Collection" on November 29.

Each condom wrapper carries the motto of the Beijing Games -- faster, higher, stronger _ in both English and Chinese.

Fighting words, don't you think, for the man who will soon own enough condoms to last 20 years or so!

Cows breaking wind the new climate villains An office wag last week came up with a bizarre solution to global warming after stumbling onto some statistics - kill all cattle, sheep and pigs.

Apparently, each exotic cow releases an incredible 120 kilogrammes of methane each year, compared with just 0.12kg emitted by one human.

Sheep release 8kg annually, and pigs 1.5kg. In a 2006 report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18 per cent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions.

By comparison, it said, all the world's cars, trains, planes and boats accounted for a combined 13 cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

So, kill the windy animals?

Source: East African

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