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Ethnic conflict kills 11 people in Western DR Congo

Fighting between ethnic communities left 11 people dead in Western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday, a local authority and civil society leader said after their bodies were collected on Wednesday.

The conflict between Teke and Yaka communities that started in 2022 over a land dispute caused a deterioration in the humanitarian and security situation in several provinces near the capital Kinshasa.

At least 3,000 people have been killed and more than 150,000 displaced by the conflict, according to the United Nations.

The clashes in Mai-Ndombe Province killed 10 Mobondo militants, allied with the Yaka community, and one soldier, village chief Stany Libie and civil society leader Martin Suta told Reuters.

Both accused the government of failing to put an end to the conflict.

“People are dying, villages are emptying, soldiers are falling, and we wonder why the government has been unable to take effective measures to resolve this problem once and for all for the past two years,” Libie said.

Congo’s army did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Fighting between ethnic communities left 11 people dead in Western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday, a local authority and civil society leader said after their bodies were collected […]

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Uganda detaining homeless, razing kiosks for summits: opposition

Ugandan opposition parties on Tuesday said the government was detaining homeless people and razing thousands of roadside kiosks in a clean-up drive before hosting two global summits this month.

The country is currently hosting the Non-Aligned Movement summit, with heads of state expected to meet on Friday, followed by a gathering of the influential G77+China group, which represents 134 developing countries.

“All in the name of preparing for the summits, so many lives have been disrupted and some have been completely destroyed as (the) government tried to put up a fake image,” opposition leader Bobi Wine said.

“More than 3,000 business premises have been demolished in Makindye Division (the neighbourhood hosting the summits),” said the popstar-turned-politician.

“Many people especially the homeless have been detained and traffic flow has become a nightmare putting the lives of citizens at (a) standstill,” said the National Unity Platform (NUP) leader.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, challenged veteran President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda’s last election in 2021, calling for an end to his iron-fisted rule.

John Kikonyogo, spokesman for the Forum for Democratic Change opposition party, said small businesses were “forcibly closed by the regime purportedly to present a more favourable image to the summit visitors.”

A food vendor along the highway connecting Uganda’s capital Kampala to the main international airport said police ordered her to close her business for security reasons.

“When I reported to work the next day, the stall, the utensils, the fresh food I left the previous night, were gone and the place was flattened,” Stella Nakazzi, a single mother of five, told AFP.

The authorities have banned most motorcycle taxis from operating in Kampala for the duration of the summit, clearing them out of their traditional parking zones.

Hajjat Minsa Kabanda, the minister for Kampala, told AFP the government had warned people “that some of their businesses were illegal, the structures unplanned”.

“All that information was passed to the people and many understood and vacated peacefully,” she said.

According to Information Minister Chris Baryomunsi, about 4,000 visitors including over 50 heads of state have confirmed attendance at the two summits.

The Non-Aligned Movement was founded 63 years ago to give a greater voice to countries squeezed in the power struggle between the United States and Soviet Union.

Ugandan opposition parties on Tuesday said the government was detaining homeless people and razing thousands of roadside kiosks in a clean-up drive before hosting two global summits this month. The […]

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Did Ugandan watchdog go soft on Eacop?

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) will cross four major rivers and several wetlands in Uganda, while in Tanzania, river crossings will avoid contact with the main water systems, with the pipeline passing underground using horizontal directional drilling.

Sources say that despite approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (Esia) for the project, the choice of the least cost open-cut trenching method for river crossings in Uganda remains controversial, even among experts within government agencies that oversee wetlands.

Eacop officials say that long stretches of swamps in Uganda, which the pipeline will cross, dictated the use of open-cut trenching instead of horizontal directional drilling (HDD), with the contractor expected to trench the wetlands during the dry season to avoid construction-related pollution.

“HDD has its limitations,” said Joseph Mukasa Ngubwagye, Eacop’s environment and biodiversity field coordinator. “Of course, water courses are critical sites that the pipeline must avoid, but in this case, the risk is low.”

The pipeline will be buried 1.6-1.8 metres below the surface for open-cut trenching and 10 metres below the surface at two water crossings in Tanzania, where HDD is deployed, while for national roads and rail infrastructure, the project will use auger boring technique, at 2.5 metres below the surface, Lawrence Ssempagi, Eacop project compliance lead said.

The water course crossings in Uganda include the Kafu River between the Hoima and Kakumiro districts, the Nabakazi River between the Mubende and Gomba districts, the Katonga River between the Gomba and Ssembabule districts, and the Kibale and Jemakunya Rivers in Kyotera district, all draining into Lake Victoria.

The Eacop Esia says Nabakazi and Katonga are legally protected areas of high sensitivity that support species of conservation importance, for which industry standards recommend the use of harm-mitigating horizontal directional drilling to cross the water courses.

Mitigating risks

But Mr Ngubwagye said that the open-cut option will adequately mitigate the risks in these sites.

“If you are drilling a distance of more than one kilometre in a wetland, HDD gets more challenging,” he says. “What we will do with open-cut, is to make sure we do it in the dry season, string the pipes together on the ground, bury them, and cover the trench. Crossing works should take not more than one week.”

In Tanzania, however, the environmental watchdog insisted contractors use horizontal directional drilling to cross the Kagera and Sigi Rivers after oil spill simulations that were done showed that Lake Victoria is more likely to be polluted if there is a leak at the Kagera River crossing, experts told The EastAfrican.

“Perhaps Uganda wasn’t very strong on demanding that HDD be used. Experts advised Nema to ask the Eacop developers to use HDD in Uganda but because the open cut is the least cost, that option was chosen,” said Africa Institute for Energy Governance’s Diana Nabiruma.

“It could also be that the river crossings in Tanzania are considered more sensitive,” she added.

The Esia for Tanzania notes that the impact on sensitive water bodies includes aquatic habitat loss and disturbance to fish and aquatic macro-invertebrate species of conservation importance inhabiting the Kagera, Pangani, and Sigi Rivers, Lake Victoria and Wembere Wetlands, and ephemeral water courses.

An audit of the Eacop Esia in 2021 by a coalition of civil society organisations discovered that the developers preferred open-cut trenching because of its simplicity and low cost, warning that deploying this method did not equate to international best practices for these crossings.

“Choosing the open-cut method had been made by oil companies based on cost as opposed to environmental protection. Thus, a more environmentally friendly method, notably, HDD was proposed by the coalition,” reads the audit submitted to Nema.

In response, the Eacop developers made assurances that the appropriate technique would be based on a systematic assessment of each site based on its ecological value, including presence of species of conservation concern, protected and iconic species.

The developers also said they would review site-specific water course and wetland crossing methods based on their social attributes like community water use, wetland resource utilisation, and commercial use like fishing activities. However, the Esia notes that generally, the rivers within the Uganda section of the pipeline are so narrow that an oil spill would cover the entire river surface, and the pour point temperature of 40°C means the oil will solidify in the water, hence minimise the spreading of oil. Uganda’s low sulphur crude will require 40°C-50°C heating in the pipeline to flow.

“The oil will quickly become extremely sticky and would therefore — in solid form— either adhere to the riverbanks or the vegetation. In this solid state, the oil will quickly introduce a “barrage effect” that will further reduce drift and spreading, particularly in narrow areas of the rivers. The narrowness and curvature of the rivers and the small discharge contribute to the high retention of oil near the spill” the Esia shows.

This modeling suggests that at four of the five crossing locations, the modeled length of the river affected ranges between 0.6km and 3.0km. The relatively short transport distances are attributable to the high viscosity of the oil and the curvature of most of the rivers.

The other sensitive ecosystem that the pipeline route crosses is Taala Forest Reserve in Kyankwanzi district. Taala is a legally protected and nationally recognised area, and officials say part of the section that would be impacted is already degraded but will be restored after pipe laying.

Eacop also changed the course of the pipeline route by 200 metres, to avoid Wambabya Forest Reserve in Hoima and Kikuube districts, after environmentalists criticised the project for traversing and impacting this protected area.

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) will cross four major rivers and several wetlands in Uganda, while in Tanzania, river crossings will avoid contact with the main water systems, […]

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Kenya ready to privatise 35 state companies, President Ruto says

Kenya’s President William Ruto said Thursday that his government was ready to privatise 35 state companies “trapped in government bureaucracy” in a bid to boost productivity following a change to laws.

Last month, Ruto’s government signed a revised privatisation bill into law that makes it easier to sell state enterprises to private companies.

The revised law aims to push up the private sector’s participation in the economy, the presidency said at the time of the signing.

“We have identified the first 35 companies that we are going to offer to the private sector,” Ruto told a gathering of African stock market officials in Nairobi.

He added that the government was also exploring options regarding some 100 state-owned firms, saying that many “would-be lucrative companies… are trapped in government bureaucracy, when the services they are offering can be better offered by the private sector.”

“We will make this opportunity available.”

East Africa’s economic powerhouse is facing a host of challenges, including depleted government coffers, skyrocketing inflation and a plunging currency that has led to soaring debt repayment costs.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said this month that it had agreed to a $938-million loan for Kenya, which also has a $2-billion-eurobond repayment due next year.

The IMF also urged Ruto’s government to reform public sector firms, particularly the national electricity supplier — Kenya Power and the national carrier Kenya Airways — which suffered record losses in 2022.

The World Bank said on Monday that it expects to provide the country of 53 million people with $12 billion in support over the next three years.

Kenya had accumulated more than $66 billion (Ksh10.1 trillion) in debt by the end of June — according to Treasury figures — equivalent to around two-thirds of gross domestic product.

Kenya’s President William Ruto said Thursday that his government was ready to privatise 35 state companies “trapped in government bureaucracy” in a bid to boost productivity following a change to […]

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For ‘unsafe’ Eastern regions in DRC, voting remains a distant dream

Congolese authorities have admitted difficulties in preparing the eastern parts of the country for elections because of the new violence.

President Felix Tshisekedi on Friday said the immediate priority was to resettle displaced people. This too has faced a challenge from renewed violence.

“I accept it, albeit with difficulty, but I accept.

“We are continuing to make efforts to bring our people back to their homes, to their villages,” the president said in an interview recorded earlier but only publicised on Friday by Radio France International and France 24 TV.

Electoral managers in the Democratic Republic of Congo had increasingly resigned to the fact that parts of the country in the east where violence has resurfaced would be excluded from the elections due on December 20.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) chair Denis Kadima had earlier assured the public that the elections would be on schedule.

It is now clear that eastern regions like Masisi, Rutshuru and parts of Nyirangongo, in North Kivu will be excluded. There is a fresh war in this Kivu region which has prevented many Congolese from registering on the electoral roll. Ceni admitted that there was a huge backlog.

Mr Kadima’s fears, first expressed at the very beginning of his mandate, have been confirmed. When he took up the position, he often cited security constraints as a major obstacle to successful elections.

Far from the troubled provinces of Kivu, Kwamouth, in Kwango province, and the surrounding area, some 100 kilometres from the city of Kinshasa, are also likely to miss the election. In these territories, a dispute over agricultural royalties has led to a bloody conflict between the communities, causing militia incursions as far as the outskirts of Kinshasa. The fighting has resulted in nearly 300 deaths over the past year, according to Congolese officials.

According to Mr Kadima, Ceni is ready to carry out voter registration in 10 days if the situation improves.

No one is hiding their doubts about the participation in the elections of the Congolese from Masisi, Rutshuru, Nyirangongo and Kwamouth. The First Vice-Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Bienvenu Ilanga, publicly expressed his doubts this week.

“For Masisi and Rutshuru, everything will depend on developments in the security situation in our country. So, we’re going to wait until the conditions are right for us to get moving, if need be”, said Jules Mugiraneza, an MP in the outgoing National Assembly.

Mugiraneza expressed the willingness of the local people to participate in the elections.

The people, he added, had a “deep and legitimate desire” to be registered like other compatriots.

The government in Kinshasa, however, remains optimistic.

“Every effort is being made to ensure that Congolese living in the territories controlled by the M23 rebels (Masisi and Rutshuru) and the Mobondo Kwamouth militia (Mai Ndombe) can take part in the electoral cycle,” said Patrick Muyaya, the government spokesman.

Last month, at a meeting of members of the government, President Félix Tshisekedi gave instructions to the government, in particular to Prime Minister Sama Lukonde and the Ministers of the Interior and Defence, to ensure the security of electoral operations in the territories of Kwamouth, Masisi and Rutshuru.

But, with just one day to go before the start of the electoral campaign, virtually all the people displaced by war are not going to elect their candidates.

There are now nearly 7 million people who have fled the violence in their villages, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration.

A record 6.9 million people have been forced to leave their homes inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” said the United Nations Migration Agency on October 30.

Meanwhile, the DRC is also struggling to find an international partner who will help pin down the rebels.

President Tshisekedi, having grown frustrated with the East African Community Regional Force now wants the mission to leave by December 8.

Instead, he is banking on 500 troops the Southern Africa Development Cooperation recently pledged to deploy.

The southern Africa bloc has, however, not announced definite dates for the deployment.

The dilemma comes as the UN mission, known as Monusco, prepares to begin departure from the country starting December.

Congolese authorities have admitted difficulties in preparing the eastern parts of the country for elections because of the new violence. President Felix Tshisekedi on Friday said the immediate priority was […]

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Outrage as Kenya tax officials accused of harassing tourists at airport

Lawmakers have joined Kenyans in protesting a directive by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) seeking to tax personal or household items worth $500 (Ksh75,000) and above, whether new or used by tourists visiting the country.

The National Assembly Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations said some KRA officials have been taking advantage of the directive to harass tourists, hence giving the country bad publicity. The committee chairman Nelson Koech said Kenya instead be working on how to grow the number of tourists visiting the country.

“We are entering the peak tourism season and His Majesty’s visit to Kenya is poised to give our tourism a very big boost. The KRA’s passenger Terminal Guidelines could not have come at a worse time. This is not the time to be threatening those coming to Kenya,” Mr Koech said.

“We agree, the laws around the world impose limitations on the amount of goods but that should not be an excuse to threaten passengers, harass travellers or infringe on the privacy of tourists. KRA should make it easy for passengers and travellers coming to Kenya to declare their luggage and where necessary pay duty before landing,” he added.

The Belgut MP pointed out that there is a need to clarify which goods are affected and ensure personal effects and electronics are left out.

“There appears to be mischievous characters at Times Tower who are bent on sustaining negative publicity on taxes. We appreciate that the only way we are going to achieve sustainable development as a country is by paying taxes and becoming dependent on our own resources as a country,” Mr Koech said.

“But even then, there is a need for all agencies of government to go easy on Kenyans and as far as possible avoid coming across as insensitive in making their public announcements,” he said.

“Why would KRA choose when we are preparing for the Royal Visit to remind Kenyans of these new Passenger Rules? Where have they been all along?”

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua termed the KRA move as one of the reasons the number of tourists visiting the country has been declining.

“You go to Rwanda, they don’t harass you. Does Rwanda not collect taxes? You go to South Africa, and they don’t harass you. In Dubai, they don’t harass you. So, why do our visitors face such challenges in Kenya? And we wonder why people are not coming to Kenya,” Mutua asked.

Senate majority leader Aaron Cheruiyot said on his X account that “the National Assembly finance committee holds the key to alleviating national shame that is the KRA searches at JKIA. By providing the necessary clarity needed to distinguish goods for a commercial venture and personal items”.

Lawmakers have joined Kenyans in protesting a directive by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) seeking to tax personal or household items worth $500 (Ksh75,000) and above, whether new or used […]

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