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Cameroon leader wants talks to end separatist crisis

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BBC

By BBC
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In a rare address to the nation, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has announced plans for major talks to end the conflict in the English-speaking regions of the country, where separatist fighters are demanding independence.

The two Angolophone regions argue they have been marginalised for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

Mr Biya outlined measures to quell the crisis, which began three years ago when lawyers and teachers in the North-West and South-West regions went on strike over attempts to impose French in schools and courts.

According to BBC, the 86-year-old leader said talks would be chaired by the prime minister and would include politicians, armed groups and victims.

“The dialogue in question will mainly concern the situation in the North-West and South-West regions. Since it will focus on issues of national interest such as national unity, national integration and living together, it is obvious that it will not concern only the population of these two regions.”

Mr Biya, who has been in power since 1982, said consultations would be held before talks started at the end of the month.

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They would bring together a wide range of people to seek ways to end the violence.

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“In the coming days, delegations will also be dispatched to meet the diaspora to enable them to make their contribution to discussions on the resolution of the crisis.”

The president reiterated his offer of a pardon to any separatists who voluntarily laid down their arms, the AFP news agency reports.

UN chief António Guterres welcomed the announcement, urging all Cameroonians to take part in the dialogue.

Since the crisis turned violent in 2017, it is estimated that nearly 2,000 people have been killed and more than 500,000 forced from their homes.

The recent sentencing of 10 separatist leaders to life in prison has further exacerbated the crisis, leading to a lengthy lockdown in the Anglophone regions that has closed schools and shops.

But the president, quoted by AFP, sought to play down the rulings, sayin: “The secessionists’ propaganda wanted to present recent court decisions made against a number of our compatriots, in the context of this crisis, as an obstacle to the planned dialogue. That is not the case.”

According to AFP, the self-proclaimed leader of Ambazonia, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, one of those sentenced, had said he was open to dialogue if the army withdrew from the North-West and South-West regions.

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US official coming to Kenya to discuss huge potential aid project

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KEVIN J.  KELLEY

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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The head of a special US development programme is due in Kenya next week to hold initial talks on the country’s potential eligibility for project funding that could total billions of shillings.

Sean Cairncross, CEO of the Millennium Development Corporation (MCC), said in a press briefing on Thursday that Kenya is making “excellent progress” toward meeting criteria for inclusion in the programme.

Kenya has failed the MCC’s eligibility tests for more than a decade, largely because of rampant corruption.

But the US government-sponsored MCC decided last month to qualify Kenya for a “threshold programme” that will likely carry funding of between $20 million and $30 million.

The money to be given to Kenya through that programme would be used to promote additional gains in the country’s efforts to limit graft.

Successfully completing this initial step could result in Kenya being chosen for a “compact” with MCC. Such an arrangement, usually focused on infrastructure development, involves an MCC grant averaging about $350 million, Mr Cairncross said.

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Established in 2004 during George W Bush’s presidency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation conditions its assistance on countries’ performance in “ruling justly”, following free-market economic policies, and investing in health, education and environmental initiatives.

Since its inception, MCC has awarded a total of more than $8 billion to 25 developing countries, including 13 on the African continent.

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Kenya must make additional progress in controlling corruption before it can be deemed eligible for an MCC compact, Mr Cairncross noted. The country’s standing in that regard is determined by assessments on the part of the World Bank and other “third-party data sources,” the MCC director said.

Corruption does not have to be eradicated in order for Kenya to qualify for an MCC compact, Mr Cairncross told reporters. Eligibility is assessed on the basis of a “trend toward dealing with that corruption and a willingness to engage government resources and political will to take those issues on,” he said.

This is not the first threshold programme for which Kenya has been chosen.

It entered into an initiative of that type in 2007 that was aimed at reforming the country’s public procurement systems, improving health service and delivery, and enhancing the monitoring capacity of government and civil-society organisations.

Despite some progress on each of those fronts, Kenya was still falling short of MCC eligibility standards when the first threshold programme concluded in 2010.

“Kenya is an important partner in East Africa,” the MCC said in December in announcing the country’s approval for a second threshold programme.

That MCC move likely reflects Washington’s aim of countering the influence China has gained in Kenya through its large-scale infrastructure investments in recent years.

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Form One admission extended to January 24

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OUMA WANZALA

By OUMA WANZALA
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The Ministry of Education has extended admission of Form One students to January 24.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang in a circular to regional and county directors of Education dated January 17, said the exercise has been extended to ensure that no learner is locked out of secondary school.

The exercise was to end on January 17 and the extension is a relief to parents, who were struggling to raise fees.

“Schools should use the extension to trace their learners who have not reported and at the same time capture all reported learners in NEMIS,” said Dr Kipsang.

He also directed primary school head teachers to use their 2019 candidates’ list to ensure that they have been placed in secondary schools.

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Dr Kipsang directed the head teachers to report any child, who is out of school for any reason to respective Education officials.

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The government introduced 100 percent transition to secondary school three years ago.

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Police seize illegal gambling machines in Runda

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SARAH NANJALA

By SARAH NANJALA
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More than 1,200 gambling machines were Friday seized by detectives at a private residence in Nairobi’s Runda estate.

Confirming the incident, Gigiri Sub-County Commanding Police Officer Richard Muguai said officers received a tip-off from members of the public.

“A tip to the police station on Thursday led us to begin our investigations and send officers to check the house.

“At the house we found a green tent outside that was well covered and after opening we found more than 1,200 slot coin machines,” he said.

Mr Muguai further said that the house was unoccupied, save for a gardener at the compound who opened the premises for the police.

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“There is no one currently at the house and we are doing investigations to find the owners and tenants of the house. The gardener could not tell us much about who lived there and only told us that the machines were brought to the house in 2018,” he added.

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Preliminary investigation according to the police boss show that the slot machines were brought to the house by three foreigners. The foreigners were of Chinese, Tanzanian and Zambian nationalities.

The police boss said no arrests have been made yet.

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