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- A Stuijt
- Retired South African medical journalist, ex-Sunday Times of Johannesburg.
■ Adriana Stuijt - In a second sex-scandal within a year, the South African girls' school sponsored by TV talk-show hostess Oprah Winfrey, has suspended seven girls for alleged lesbian activities. Last year, a matron was also charged with alleged sexual abuse of six pupils.
The school at Henley-on-Klip near Vereeniging, South Africa was one of the two private schools for disadvantaged children which were founded with Winfrey's multi-million dollar donations. Ms Winfrey, who fought her way up from poverty to become the highest-paid TV personality and richest black woman in the world, vowed to provide poor South African girls with the very best education her money can buy. She also invests a great deal of her personal energy into these charity projects. see
She has often said that she feels very strongly about these pupils' wellbeing, and flies to these schools regularly in her private jet to supervise their activities at first hand.
The first alleged sex scandal to hit the school emerged early last year, when one of its boarding-school matrons, Virginia Tiny Makgobo, 27, was arrested and charged in a local law court for allegedly sexually abusing six pupils - a charge she denies. This trial has not yet been completed, but the matron has in the meantime, lost her job and is suing Oprah in a local labour court for reinstatement and financial damages.
In the latest scandal, seven girls had allegedly been 'involved in gay sexual activities' and were found guilty in an internal hearing at the school. This was claimed by parents and some of the girls in interviews with the reputable Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport, which also obtained documentation to back up the claims.
The incident has moreover, also been confirmed by Oprah Winfrey's spokeswoman in a telephone interview with Rapport.
Two of the suspended girls' guardians claimed that they didn't even know about any internal hearings being held about their daughters' and granddaughter's alleged lesbian behaviour until the girls were sent home for the holidays, and received a letter telling them that they didn't need to come back.
All the girls enrolled in this private, very luxuriously appointed school come from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds. The straight-talking US talk show hostess wants to give these girls a kickstart in life by providing them with the best education possible and has poured millions of dollars into this effort. see
Apparently the charges against the suspended girls involve them having tried to create sexual liaisons with other pupils and claims that they had also engaged in very specific groping offences.
In another bizarre complaint, one of the suspended girls, named as Lebohang Hinne, 15, of Soweto, also was accused of daring girls to engage in lesbian sexual liaisons with one another, Rapport writes.
- This suspended pupil's mother, Mrs Masechaba Hinne or Orlando-West, suburb of Soweto, told Rapport how shocked and dismayed she was about the suspension of two of her family members: her own daughter Lebohang, 15, and her granddaughter Palesa, also 15, who are both at the same school.
Daughter Lebohang told Rapport that she did not do any of the things she's been found guilty of during an internal hearing at the school.
On Thursday, as the school broke up for the holidays, according to Rapport, four girls were told that they did not need to return to school afterwards.
There had apparently been internal hearings about the alleged lesbian activities of seven girls, and four of these girls already were 'found guilty' of the alleged offences by this internal 'court', while three still were being heard. It's not known whether Ms Oprey was in personal attendance in this matter, but in view of her previous hands-on involvement with this school, it's not unlikely that she was kept fully up to date during every step of these procedures.
- The story was confirmed by Oprah Winfrey's spokeswoman Lisa Halliday, speaking from Chicago. However she was not very forthcoming about the details, even though Rapport had all the documentation in hand.
"The suspended girls disregarded the school's code of behaviour. We view this incident as a confidential matter.We will not provide any personal information about the suspensions,' she said.
However, Rapport also cited directly from the school's letter sent to Lebohang Hinne, which tells the girl of her suspension.
I don't have time for sexual affairs...'
Lebohang says she's disappointed in Oprah: "She listens to a group of trouble-makers who are jealous of me. I did not do anything wrong.' Among other charges against Palesa was that she brings her friends to her room, which she shares with a fellow-student - and sends her roommate packing.
"Tthat's just untrue. These are claims by jealous girls.When my friends heard of the suspension we all burst into tears. I don't have time for sexual affairs. My priority is my schooling.'
What her mother is angry about, the older woman said, is the fact that the school only contacted her three days after the girls were charged, and allegedly, then only to tell her that both my daughter and granddaughter had been suspended.'
- "I was angry because the incident was humiliating to me personally. However I also realised that the complaints were ridiculous.
"I suppose we have to thank Oprah for teaching my children enough self-confidence to handle this suspension with an open mind', she concluded.
Another girl, Taryn-Leigh (TJ) Jefferies of Cape Town, was also told that an internal hearing was being held about her.
Her aunt, Colleen Jefferies, reacted with outrage: "We wrote a letter on 13 January to the school, telling them that TJ was behaving strangely, that we were trying to reach out to her, to help her... We have proof of this. Yet now they want to suspend her. We will fight this.'see
Also looking for the remains of four men, including a South African, still missing after the burning Russian Ilyushin cargo plane crashed into Lake Victoria just after take-off from Entebbe airport in Uganda…
Picture: Nineteen of the 26-member U.S. Africom' and U.S. Navy’s military diving team trying to retrieve the crashed Russian cargo plane's flight recorders and human remains from the murky, crocodile-infested depths of Lake Victoria near Entebbe, Uganda. Picture by AFRICOM
March 29 2009 - Lake Victoria in Uganda: Some 250 feet deep, murky, dark, crocodile-infested -- for divers searching for the wreck of a large military cargo plane which burnt and crashed into the water on March 9 2009, it's rather similar to looking for a black cat inside a coal shed at midnight - without a flashlight. Without the Navy’s sophisticated sonar scanning equipment, it would take divers 275,000 hours to search this gigantic lake.
Its total surface of 26,830 square miles is the size of Ireland. With its length of 250 miles it's also the world's second largest freshwater lake after Lake Superior. And then there's those giant Nile crocodiles: due to overfishing, these reptiles' preferred food is human flesh...see
In fact, one man-eater croc dubbed Osama by terrified villagers, managed to consume 83 residents -- that they knew of -- before he was finally caught after a seven-day stakeout.
Ilyushin-76 burst into flames and crashed into the lake..
This then, is the inland sea where U.S. and Ugandan military divers are conducting a very careful search for the remains of four missing men. They also hope to find the crashed Russian Ilyushin-76 cargo plane's flight recorder amongst the scattered wreckage. It's a daunting task, because a lot of the wreckage is embedded deep into the silt, their sonar scans are showing. The plane had burst into flames and plunged into the water just minutes after takeoff from Entebbe airport on March 9 2009.
The remains of seven of the eleven people on board were recovered shortly after the crash, during which the plunging plane also just missed four Ugandan fishermen in two boats... The seven victims were identified and have already been buried.
One South African worker also still missing…
However, four more people from this chartered mercy flight enroute to Somalia are still missing: two Russian aviators and two employees of the U.S. company which had leased the plane, Dyncorp International of Virginia. The men have Indian and South African nationalities.
Africom scan of Lake Victoria: courtesy: Capt Corinna Jones
Picture: The US Navy's sonar scan of Lake Victoria has discovered the tail section of the crashed Ilyushin cargo plane sticking out of the deep mud. Diving teams now are trying to retrieve the black box and are also looking for human remains in the murky, deep African lake.
Capt Corinna Jones, the on-scene public affairs officer for the United States military's CJTF-HOA search and recovery mission, told Adriana Stuijt on Saturday that while their sonar scans have located the wreck, it's also 80 feet under water, with some pieces buried deep into the thick layer of silt on the lake floor.
Looking for data recorders
She says a team of skilled navy divers now is searching to retrieve the flight data recorders." If and when the flight data recorders are recovered, US service members will immediately hand it over to the Uganda authorities, who would try and determine the cause of the crash,' she says.
"The water is indeed very deep and muddy. This is the very reason the Government of Uganda requested US assistance in recovering the victims and retrieving the black box and flight data information. US military personnel brought additional skills and capabilities, that were readily available, to this multi-national effort...' Indeed: they flew with their equipment all the way from the U.S. to help with the recovery effort.
- Captain Jones says that 'thus far, they haven't had any trouble with the crocodiles...'
Takes 275,000 hours to search the lake without the sonar…
Left: Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Beauregard, a sonar technician stationed in Sigonella, Sicily, crouches next to side-scan sonar unmanned underwater vehicle. The Navy’s unmanned vehicles let technicians map the crash site, narrowing the search area for divers. Without such equipment, the technicians calculated it would take 275,000 hours to search the entire lake, said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Beauregard.
- "When a plane hits the water, it tends to break apart," he said.
Why are AFRICOM military men involved in Uganda?
Besides wanting to find out if the plane may have had any mechanical failures, there's another very good reason to thoroughly examine the cause of this crash, because Uganda has for years, been plagued by a particularly vicious, cult-like terrorist group, the Lord's Resistance Army.
- Obviously, there's an urgent need to find out whether the LRA could in any way have been responsible for this mysterious crash.
RLA wants Uganda under sole rule of the Ten Commandments...
An expert at AFRICOM, Vincent Crawley, says after recent attempts at a peace settlement between the Ugandan government and the rebel movement's leader, Joseph Kony, the LRA still seeks to overthrow the Ugandan Government and replace it with a government ruled solely by the Ten Commandments.
- However Kony also believes that he's a holy man, a semi-God, and to achieve his goal, he and his well-armed militia therefore feel justified to break every one of the Commandments in their terrorist campaign since 1986: during which more than 1,8-million people were forced to flee into secure camps to escape from the LRA's campaign of terrorising villagers, in which they hack off limbs, noses and ears, rape, murder; loot -- and the worst crime of all: their constant raids of villages to enslave kidnapped boys and girls.
Crawley says that while the LRA 'does not threaten the stability of the government, its violence at one time displaced up to 1.8 million people, creating a humanitarian catastrophe, particularly when they were forced into internally displaced persons camps for their protection."
And while there have been no recorded LRA attacks in northern Uganda itself since August 2006, their leader Kony is still very much at large and active in neighbouring countries such as the Congo. He's being sought by Interpol.
Atrocities conducted against Ugandan girls:
The atrocities the LRA and their 'holy leader' have committed against the population in three African countries are truly horrendous: noses and limbs are chopped off, boys kidnapped and forced into the militia and little girls kidnapped as 'wives', forced to live in the jungle and raise their children, born from rape.
Kony himself has been known to father more than 100 children from these child-rapes. On one day alone, he and his gang abducted 139 girls see from the St Mary's College girl's boarding school in the northerly town of Aboke.
The rebels stormed the school, broke into the dorms, bound these little girls up with ropes - and herded them away into the bush, to serve as their sex-slaves, described as 'wives'. Some of these girls were forced to stay in their jungle hideouts for years. One Italian nun, who was the deputy headmistress of this school, sister Rachele Fassera, went into the bush herself to try rescue these girls - unsuccessfully.
St Theresa's school for Ugandan girls was moved with US funds to a safer location away from the areas terrorised by attackers from the Lord's Resistance Army rebel groups. Now Ugandan girls can go to school in safe surroundings again.
Dramatic examples of female courage
"Sister Fassera even offered herself to be kidnapped, for the girls to be released, but her pleas were fruitless," some of the girls said later. The last of the Aboke girls to return home only this month was Catherine Ajok, a daughter of Dr Alfred Alyai and Licer Namataka - who managed to escape by trekking through the jungles of northeastern Congo, where she stumbled upon the Ugandan army, which reunited her with her parents... see
Operation Iron Fist
Crawley said: "The Uganda Peoples Defense Force launched "Operation Iron Fist" against LRA rebels in northern Uganda in 2002 and conducted operations against LRA sanctuaries in southern Sudan with the permission of the Sudanese Government. The Sudanese Government had previously supported the LRA." By 2005, the Uganda military had pushed the LRA out of northern Uganda altogether, and Kony and his men escaped to the Democratic Republic of the Congo - on the opposite shore of Lake Albert.
southern Sudan, Central African Republic, Congo...
Lord’s Resistance Army remains a growing threat
"The LRA still continues to operate (in the Congo), in southern Sudan, and occasionally also in the Central African Republic. The negotiated peace agreement of April 2008 failed: Kony refused to sign it, and continues to commit atrocities against local populations."
Yesterday, the LRA hacked another twelve people to death and kidnapped 40 more youngsters from the Congolese village of Yanguma, about 600km north of Kisangani. “They were armed with guns, but used machetes instead. They captured some people and killed others,” said Aruna Sambia, head of a civil society group in nearby Dungu.
Failed offensive to hunt down LRA
Human Rights Watch said that the LRA now is worse than ever because the 1,500 soldiers from the combined forces of Uganda, Congo and South Sudan which had been hunting them down, now are winding down their offensive, launched on December 14. HRW said this offensive has now created 'a violent backlash by fleeing rebel fighters who have killed around 1,000 civilians thus far.'
- “One member of my family is dead. He was my uncle. Young people were on their way to the market and were kidnapped. I know three who were taken,” local resident Bienvenu Akembano said. "With the soldiers now pulling out, the rebels attack and wreak their vengeance on all the villages which were left behind, undefended. "There are more and more deaths. More and more kidnappings. They are attacking the population even more now,” he said.
New oil fields:
That's why AFRICOM is also trying to help the Ugandan government. Because Kony clearly is still out there, on the opposite shore of Lake Albert - and he could return any time. ..
Uganda 's 1,4-million previously displaced people have now all returned home, and there's growing prosperity and peace in the country, also because of the recent oil-reserves recently discovered about 800 meters beneath Lake Albert. see
Those are all the reasons why it's important that U.S. navy divers are bringing their skills and specialised equipment to try and help clear up the mystery of this crashed Soviet-era cargo plane from the murky, crocodile-infested waters of Lake Victoria. see
A little-known discovery of new oil fields in the Ugandan rift-valley region of Africa has brought clean water, health clinics, paved roads and schools to thousands of poor villagers in the Hoima district.
And Ugandan universities are rushing to train more mining engineers...
Life is being transformed in one of the poorest regions of Africa in Uganda's Hoima district, right next to Lake Albert, ever since the oil-bearing sands deep below were first discovered in in 2006 by Scotland-based Tullow Oil company.
- The find is not being all that widely published in the Western world, so outside Uganda, it's relatively unknown that they are already pumping about 27,000 barrels of oil a day, and plan to go to fulltime production by 2011.
The rush now is on to complete the planned 350-km pipeline from Kenya's Mombasa harbour to Kampala and extend it to Lake Albert. And Mombasa is also expanding its oil-export terminal.see
Lives are transformed:
Picture: St Theresa's school for Ugandan girls was moved with US funds to a safer location away from the areas terrorised by attackers from the Lord's Resistance Army rebel groups. Now Ugandan girls can go to school in safe surroundings
The very first people to benefit from this new wealth derived from black gold, are the Boima region's villagers -- who have struggled all their lives just to survive each day. They say their lives are now being transformed practically overnight by the oil find, with Tullow OIl company spending a lot of money on improving their infrastructure, with new schools, fresh-water boreholes, new health clinics, lots of new nurses -- and even brand-new schools and uniforms.
Fisherman Charles Ojega says boreholes are a new experience for villagers in the Kyangwari sub-county, which had never had a clean water source before in their lives. After fishing all day on Lake Albert, he can now prepare his meal from fresh water from a borehole just five metres from his grass-thatched hut in Songa village in the Hoima district. “Our lives have been transformed. I can now spend more time fishing without worrying about where to find clean water. It is a new world for us,” Ojega says.
Songa, with a population of 10,000 people, is a fishing community in Buhuka parish right next to Lake Albert."This is the first ever borehole in our area - ever. It was drilled in November last year,” Ojega says. They used to just fetch water from the lake. And until last year, there were no paved roads in Buhuka - with vehicles a rare sight.
"We were poor. None of us could afford a car,” says William Kato, the LCI chairman for Songa. Indeed: until last year, none of the families in the parish lived on more than 1,000 Ugandan shillings ($0.50) a day, says Kato. llliteracy was high due to lack of schools. The only primary school in Buhuka had one teacher and stopped at Primary Four.
- Today, this misery has become history for Kyangwari residents, thanks to the ongoing oil exploration in the region, the local New Vision newspaper writes.
There are two oil companies exploring oil resources in this south-western part of Uganda — Heritage and Tullow Oil companies -- and both are creating new infrastructure and development projects in the area.
The US military is also wading in, with AFRICOM engaged in a massive livestock innoculation programme since 2008, building new schools and also helping the Ugandan military in its ongoing battle with a particularly vicious group of insurgent-rebels called the Lord's Resistance Army.
- Presently, they are also engaged in trying to retrieve human remains and the wreckage from the crashed Russian cargo plane from the bottom of Lake Victoria. see
The huge Russian Soviet-era Ilyushin-76 cargo plane was taking supplies to the African peacekeepers in Somalia when it burst into flames within minutes of takeoff from Uganda's Entebbe airport and landed in 25 metres of water, embedded beneath 10m of mud. see and also see
A US military transport plane landed at Entebbe airport this week, dispatched from Fleet Logistics Support in New Orleans, LA to help find human remains and the wreckage of a crashed US-leased cargo plane at the bottom of Lake Victoria near Entebbe, Uganda.
Tullow is a leading independent oil & gas, exploration and production group, quoted on the London and Irish Stock Exchanges (TLW) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. The Group has interests in over 85 exploration and production licences across 22 countries and focuses on four core areas: Africa, Europe, South Asia and South America. They confirm that they are investing heavily in upgrading the infrastructure of the new Ugandan oil-fields.
In an area where deadly-ill patients had to be carried on sacks to the nearest clinic 20km away, there are now new clinics and medical centres in every parish. “Today, women in Kyehoro can give birth from the Tullow maternity centre at no cost,” George Tinkamanyire, the district chairman.And already he can see the difference: health conditions in the district have improved.
Habib Kagumi, chairman of Tamoil Ltd., the company contracted to carry out extension work on Kenya's Mombasa-harbour’s 351-kilometer Eldoret oil pipeline, says that once their pipeline has been extended to Kampala in Uganda, there are plans to extend it further to the Albertine Rift -- so it can be used to transport oil for export when Uganda reaches full-scale production from 2011. The work starts in April 2009 and last for 15 months.
Kagimu said the pipeline would be extended from Kampala to landlocked Rwanda and Burundi. Since 2006, Heritage Oil and Tullow Oil have been carrying out extensive exploration activities on the Ugandan side of the Albertine Rift. Your image
Tullow Oil Company officials say that the Albertine rift "has enough reserves to justify an export-oriented project." They also are in talks with the (still rather nominal) Congolese government to also obtain more exploration rights on the Congolese side of Lake Albert.It already has an 100% operated interest in Block 2 in the Lake Albert Rift Basin and is the largest acreage holder in that area.
The company says that four oil discoveries were made in the Kaiso-Tonya region of the block during 2006 alone - proving up a 'working hydrocarbon system in the basin with good quality oil from highly productive reservoirs'. They said they had located 'substantial upside potential' in the block in the Kaiso-Tonya area, the Butiaba area to the north and beneath Lake Albert, where the larger prospects are located.
Because of easy access to the lake shore, they pinpoint this region as the likely hub any future development as a logical oil export route to the coast (i.e. via Kenya/Mombasa harbour). In 2007, Tullow launched a programme of 2D and 3D seismic scanning and drilling across the basin to establish the extent of the oil reserves.
The African Rift Valley is one the geologic wonders of the world, a place where the earth’s tectonic forces are creating new plates by splitting apart old ones. It's a fracture in the earth’s surface that widens over time and geologists say eventually, the plates wlll split apart, with the Ethiopia-Kenya-Uganda-Tanzania plate being given a new name: the Nubian Plate -- which makes up most of Africa.The smaller section splitting away from Africa is the Somalian Plate - steadily moving away from each other, and also from the Arabian plate to the north.
The point where these three plates meet in the Afar region of Ethiopia forms what is called a triple-junction. This rifting also extends into Kenya, Tanzania and the Great Lakes region of Africa – and that’s where the newly-discovered oil reserves are located.
sources:Tullow Oil, Angus McCoss:
(+44 20 8996 1000) firstname.lastname@example.org
US military presence in Uganda
- Retrieves crashed cargo plane from Lake Victoria, helps train military to fight against the vicious Lord’s Resistance Army insurgents: