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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US President Biden to strike Uganda, Gabon off Agoa access

US President Joe Biden signaled further trouble for Uganda, listing the East African country alongside Gabon, Niger and the Central African Republic (CAR) as countries he intends to strike off them the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), starting with January 1, 2024.

Former US president Bill Clinton introduced the Agoa, as a special vehicle to promote the US-Africa trade on October 2, 2000, and designated many Sub–saharan countries eligible to benefit from duty free access to US markets for more than 1,800 products from Africa.

Twenty three years later, Biden says some countries in Africa do not qualify on account of their human rights records.

“I am taking this step because I have determined that the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda do not meet the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the Agoa,” Biden said.

“Despite intensive engagement between the US and the CAR, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda, these countries have failed to address United States’ concerns about their non-compliance with the Agoa eligibility criteria,” Biden also said in a letter addressed to the speaker of the US House of Representatives.

While Niger and Gabon are accused of violating human rights and democratic principles because of the coups that have taken place in the countries, Uganda is accused of a controversial anti-homosexuality law, which was passed in May this year.

After the passing of the law by parliament in May, Biden called for its immediate repeal.

“The enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights. No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or be subjected to violence and discrimination. It is wrong,” Biden said, adding that the law would affect Uganda-US relations. 

Biden also announced that his administration would consider slapping sanctions on Uganda and restricting the entry into the US of people engaging in human rights abuses or corruption.

Uganda officials brushed off the threats with President Yoweri Museveni saying the law was needed to prevent LGBTQ community members from recruiting others.

“The signing is finished, nobody will move us,” Museveni told lawmakers from his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party in June.

Museveni has repeatedly told the US to stop the intimidation and respect Uganda’s sovereignty.

However, in a show of determination to punish the country over the law, the US has issued two advisories in the last four months, the recent one being a warning to businesspeople and US companies working or dealing with Uganda.

Uganda’s export to the US under Agoa has been growing over the years, growing to about $180 million in 2021. Uganda exports Coffee, Vanilla, mushroom spawn and other crops to the US.

US President Joe Biden signaled further trouble for Uganda, listing the East African country alongside Gabon, Niger and the Central African Republic (CAR) as countries he intends to strike off them […]

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Burundi arrests head of opposition party

The head of a small opposition party in Burundi was detained on Tuesday after it criticised the government on social media, a judicial source and party official said.

Kefa Nibizi, president of the Council for Democracy and Sustainable Development in Burundi (Codebu), was being held in Bujumbura’s central prison accused of “undermining the internal security of the state”.

On Friday, the party posted a critical comment about the government on X, formerly Twitter, to mark the 62nd anniversary of the assassination of Burundian independence hero Prince Louis Rwagasore.

“At a time when Burundi is languishing in unprecedented misery because of the failing leadership, the Codebu party invites the population not to give in to resignation and to follow the example of Prince Louis Rwagasore, to redress the situation which is only getting worse,” it said.

In a series of posts on Tuesday, the party voiced “regret” that its comment had not been understood as intended and sought to clarify the message.

Codebu Deputy President Jacqueline Hatungimana called for Nibizi’s release, saying the comments did not justify his incarceration.

“We are surprised, we don’t understand how he was imprisoned just after being questioned for saying that there are some shortcomings at the current level of leadership,” Hatungimana told reporters.

Nibizi’s arrest comes as Burundi’s sacked former prime minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni is on trial accused of undermining national security and insulting the president, although the two cases are not linked.

On Monday, prosecutors also laid another charge against Bunyoni of “attempting to assassinate the head of state” as they opposed his bid for bail, according to sources close to the case.

Since coming to power in 2020, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye has been hailed for gradually ending years of isolation under his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza’s chaotic and bloody rule.

But he has failed to improve a dire record on human rights and political freedoms, and Burundi also remains one of the vulnerable countries on the planet.

Last week, the UN Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of a special rapporteur on Burundi’s rights situation for another year and urged the government to fully cooperate with him.ADVERTISEMENT

The head of a small opposition party in Burundi was detained on Tuesday after it criticised the government on social media, a judicial source and party official said. Kefa Nibizi, […]

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VPN users in Tanzania could face up to 12 months in prison, here is why

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has implemented a stringent ban on the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in the country. This, according to a report. is in consonance with Regulation 16(2) of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations of 2020.

This move, while officially aimed at preventing Tanzanians from accessing content deemed illegal, has raised a multitude of implications and concerns, provoking strong reactions from citizens and digital activists alike.

In another report, the TCRA has mandated that both individuals and businesses that depend on VPNs for their daily operations must disclose their VPN usage and furnish all pertinent details to the regulatory authority by the end of this month. This must also include their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

The penalties for non-compliance with the Virtual Private Networks ban are severe. Violators may face a hefty fine of TSh 5 million (approximately USD 1,997) or a minimum prison sentence of 12 months.

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What are the implications?

There are serious ramifications to the TCRA’s decision to crack down on Virtual Private Networks. VPNs are used extensively around the world to protect internet security and privacy, making it more difficult for unfriendly entities to keep an eye on users’ online activities.

By asking Tanzanians to obtain Virtual Private Network permits, the TCRA is essentially jeopardizing its residents’ internet privacy. Furthermore, because it allows authorities to closely monitor individuals’ and businesses’ internet activity, this step could pave the way for further government monitoring and restrictions on freedom of information.

This raises questions about the country’s freedoms being restricted in addition to discouraging the usage of Virtual Private Networks. With this, Tanzanians may soon find themselves in legal hot water for something that was formerly a tool for internet freedom.

Why are these new laws coming into place?

The reasons for this law are unclear, except for what the regulator has stated clearly. The government may want to restrict the flow of information which could be one rationale for the VPN ban. With the use of VPNs, people can access content that is restricted by the government and get around censorship, which could constitute a danger to the establishment.

Also, the government may aim to collect data on Virtual Private Network users to monitor their online activities more closely. This could be part of a broader strategy to curb dissent or maintain political control. In essence, the ban on VPNs could be a means to enhance governmental authority over online communication and content.

The ban on VPNs has sparked widespread condemnation among digital activists and civil societies. It is seen as a clear act of censorship that infringes on Tanzanians’ right to information and online privacy.

Individuals and businesses that use Virtual Private Networks for legal purposes must now deal with the difficult permit application process, which may harm their online security and privacy.

Tanzania is not the only country

Tanzania is not the only country in the region with VPN restrictions. In a 2011 report, Uganda, a neighbouring country, imposed a Social Media Tax. However, according to the Ugandan Communications Commission (UCC), VPNs were being used to avoid paying the tax.

But how can the government tell when someone uses a VPN? In the report, the Ugandan government further explained that while it might be a hard situation, there are technologies in place that block these VPN technologies.

The ban on VPNs in Tanzania raises questions about the growing trend of governments imposing restrictions on internet access. Tanzania’s ban on VPNs carries significant implications for its citizens and raises concerns about internet freedom and privacy.

While the regulator cites regulations as the basis for this move, the underlying motivations might appear to be rooted in maintaining control over online activities and information flow.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has implemented a stringent ban on the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in the country. This, according to a report. is in consonance with Regulation […]

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Fears over Uganda anti-gay law threaten HIV progress

At a mostly empty clinic catering to HIV patients, staff monitor CCTV footage for potential spies, reflecting the fear among Ugandan health workers following the adoption of a controversial anti-gay law.

“People have to trust their healthcare workers, the health workers have to trust their clients but under the current circumstances, it has created a situation where everyone is scared of each other,” said the clinic’s founder, Brian.

During the three hours spent by AFP inside the clinic, no patients walked in — a worrying sign of the law’s impact on efforts to combat HIV in the nation, said Brian, who asked not to share his last name, citing safety concerns.

The legislation adopted in May contains provisions making “aggravated homosexuality” a capital offence and imposes penalties for consensual same-sex relations of up to life in prison.

It has also sparked fears that patients or healthcare providers could be reported to police, with anyone who “knowingly promotes homosexuality” facing up to 20 years in jail, while organisations found guilty of encouraging same-sex activity could be banned for a decade.

When parliament began debating the legislation in March — a discussion laced with homophobic slurs — “we had a lot of calls from people pleading (that) we delete them from our systems,” said Brian.

Attendance has been falling ever since.

Around 35 percent of people accessing HIV prevention services have stopped visiting his facility, while another 10 percent of those requiring antiretroviral medication have also cut off contact, he said.

“We have lost three health workers who said they can’t work in such kind of environment for their own safety, career and families, slashing their staff capacity by more than a quarter,” he added.

“Furthermore, as patients stop taking antiretroviral drugs, their viral load spikes, raising the risk of them transmitting HIV to others,” he said.

‘Fear and paranoia’ 

Uganda’s Health Ministry has ordered health providers to ensure that no one is discriminated against or denied medical services, but the advisory has done little to reassure those working on the ground.

“We have seen people being arrested if they are found with lubricants or condoms,” said Richard Lusimbo, director general of Uganda Key Populations Consortium, which works on healthcare advocacy.

Even as the law was being debated, police arrested six men in the eastern city of Jinja in March after finding 192 sachets of lubricants, a rainbow flag, T-shirts and pamphlets about the LGBTQ community in their possession.

All six were released on bail after spending more than three months behind bars and face multiple charges including “recruiting male adults into gay practices.”

“The law has created… a lot of fear and paranoia,” Lusimbo told AFP.

“There is no clarity on how you are speaking about (HIV) prevention without being looked at as one who is promoting LGBTQ,” he said.

“If nothing is done to annul the law, we are going to see an increase in HIV infections.”

UNAids, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) have warned that Uganda’s progress in fighting HIV “is now in grave jeopardy” because of the anti-gay law.

But Uganda’s Director General of Health Services Henry Mwebesa told AFP that the country was “on course to ending AIDS as a public health challenge by 2030.”

“Contrary to some exaggerated allegations, services are being provided without discrimination to those seeking them,” he said, dismissing concerns that the law threatened to reverse the gains made by Uganda.

‘Expect the worst’ 

At his third-floor clinic, Brian and other staff are searching for ways to reach patients without compromising their safety.

Telemedicine consultations and delivery services — which took off during the Covid-19 pandemic — have proved a boon, he said.

“We have introduced a WhatsApp line, gone on social media so that we reach the clients directly (to) close up the gaps,” he said.

Packages are not labelled to avoid the risk of recipients being identified and targeted.

Yet these stopgap measures do little to ease the anxiety felt by him and his coworkers.

“When we come to work, we expect the worst to happen,” he said.

The implications for his patients are even more devastating.

“Even if this law is struck down, our people have been radicalised,” he said, adding that the legislation had “heightened homophobia.”

“It will take us many years to undo the damage because people who have been lost to healthcare (will) not just come back,” he said.

“It will take a lot of time to rebuild the trust.”

At a mostly empty clinic catering to HIV patients, staff monitor CCTV footage for potential spies, reflecting the fear among Ugandan health workers following the adoption of a controversial anti-gay […]

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Human Rights Watch accuses Rwanda of violations

The Human Rights Watch is accusing Rwanda of surveillance on political dissidents abroad, including threatening their relatives back home to force loyalty and support for the government.

In a new report, the US-based rights lobby alleges that Kigali has used various tactics, including threats, kidnaps and assassinations to silence critics or force others to turnover their support for the government.

The document, ‘Join Us or Die’: Rwanda’s Extraterritorial Repression, says critics are targeted wherever they are in the world and face physical violence, enforced disappearances, surveillance, misuse of law enforcement and online trolls targeted at perceived critics.

Rwanda rejected HRW’s assertions, with Government Spokesperson Yolande Makolo, saying the lobby has been consistent in an anti-Rwanda campaign. “Human Rights Watch continues to present a distorted picture of Rwanda that only exists in their imagination,” she said.

“Any balanced assessment of Rwanda’s record in advancing the rights, well-being, and dignity of Rwandans over the past 29 years would recognise remarkable, transformational progress. Rwanda will not be deterred from this work by bad-faith actors advancing a politicised agenda.”

The report is asking Rwanda’s global partners, including the UK, to rethink collaboration with Kigali.

“Rwanda’s partners should open their eyes and see Kigali’s wide-reaching effort for what it is: the consequence of three decades of impunity for the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front,” said Tirana Hassan, HRW executive director.

HRW specifically asks the UK to “rescind the agreement to transfer to Rwanda asylum seekers arriving ‘irregularly’ in the UK, in light of the real risks to their safety in Rwanda and inadequate safeguards to guarantee their international protection.”

Since Rwanda signed the deal with the UK to host the immigrants arriving irregularly on its shores, the deal has been subjected to legal challenges, stopping its implementation at least until the UK Supreme Court decides its validity.

The HRW report came as the hearing began in the UK Supreme Court after activists challenged the legality of the deal, and alleging that Rwanda’s human rights record was poor. HRW said the report was a result of interviews of 150 people across the globe, who discussed Rwanda’s silencing tactics against Rwandans abroad.

It says abuses by Rwandan agents was observed in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as within Rwanda targeting relatives of dissidents.

The lobby also says it had documented more than a dozen killings, kidnappings, enforced disappearances and physical attacks on dissidents since 2017.

Besides Rwandan intelligence agents, Kigali has also used its diplomatic missions abroad, diaspora association and inter-governmental cooperation including use of Interpol red notices and extradition requests to get hold of critics, HRW charges.

One such incident involved Hotel Rwanda “hero” Paul Rusesabagina, who thought his flight was heading to Bujumbura but landed in Kigali in August 2020. 

He would then be tried and jailed a year later for 25 years, having been found guilty of murder, membership in a terrorist group and other charges, only to be freed later in March this year after a diplomatic back channel involving Qatar and the US.

The Human Rights Watch is accusing Rwanda of surveillance on political dissidents abroad, including threatening their relatives back home to force loyalty and support for the government. In a new […]

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Kenyan court dismisses challenge over GM crops

A Kenyan court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a government decision to allow the importation and cultivation of genetically modified crops to help combat its food crisis.

In October last year, the government lifted a decade-old ban on GM crops in response to dwindling food security following the worst drought to ravage the Horn of Africa region in 40 years.

The Kenya Law Society swiftly launched a court challenge, arguing the decision was unconstitutional as there were concerns over the safety of the crops. 

But environment court Judge Oscar Angote ruled on Thursday that there was no evidence to show any harm to nature or human health.

“As a country, we need to trust the institutions that we have in place and call them to order when they breach the law,” Angote said, making reference to government bodies that regulate GM foods.

A Kenyan court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a government decision to allow the importation and cultivation of genetically modified crops to help combat its food crisis. In October […]

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Battle for heart and soul of once popular Uganda opposition party

The battle for the heart and soul of Uganda’s opposition parties, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), is on after a chaotic two months of accusations of betrayal and infiltration by President Yoweri Museveni.

The bitter power struggle is pitting former party leader Dr Kizza Besigye against his successor Patrick Oboi Amuriat.

The squabbles culminated in the election of a caretaker leadership faction led by former deputy president for central Uganda and Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago in an election termed as fraudulent, unconstitutional, and comic by the Mr Amuriat group after police were deployed to block the meeting planned at Busabala, south of Kampala, only to realise it was being held at Katonga Road offices, in the heart of Kampala, about 15km from the pre-arranged venue.

Mr Lukwago unveiled an eight-point plan to revive the once Uganda’s leading opposition political party, starting with elections for which an interim Electoral Commission has been appointed after the previous one was suspended together with senior party leaders; the president Mr Amuriat, the secretary general, Nandala Mafabi and treasurer Geoffrey Ekanya.

“We are reaching out to various stakeholders in active politics, including those who had become despondent, to pick their opinions.

The most important thing is getting the party back on track and realigning it to its original mission and vision,” he said, asking the suspended leaders to respect the constitution which states in Article 28(1) b that the national chairman enjoys exclusive powers to convene and preside over the National Council and National Delegates Conference.

Party Chairman Wasswa Biriggwa presided over the extra-ordinary delegate’s conference. As the new leader settles in the seat, announcing his first task in the six-month tenure he has been given, the suspended leaders were nominated for the election scheduled for October 6.

The sharp divide in the party pits the FDC-Katonga Road led by Lukwago (President), Biriggwa (Chairman), and Dr Besigye (Founder president) on one side against the FDC-Najjanankumbi faction headed by Patrick Oboi Amuriat, Nathan Nandala Mafabi, and Ekanya, all who have been ‘suspended’ by the Katonga group.

“Today, the FDC finds itself having two centres of power, one residing in Katonga and the other in Najjanankumbi,” Mr Amuriat said recently.

“Both centres of power are fighting for the same political space. Unless we narrow the gap between the two, we will not work in harmony,” he added, pointing a finger at Mr Besigye, although the latter denies any influence on the party since he holds no position in leadership.

On Thursday, Mr Amuriat was nominated to vie for the position of president, while Mafabi was nominated for the position of secretary-general in an election scheduled for October 6, which the rival group has termed illegal since the meeting has not been convened by the party chairman. The party constitution gives exclusive powers to the chairman to organize a delegate’s conference in which national leaders can be elected.

When Uganda’s main opposition political parties were dying, each at its own pace and time, many people did not realize the invisible hand that was holding the parties by the neck. The story was always that they had internal wrangles, disagreements, and infighting for power.

The government of Yoweri Museveni, in power for nearly four decades, accused the parties of being “disorganized, ideologically bankrupt, and unable to take the country forward” if they were given power for even a day.

However, the wrangles in one of Uganda’s most formidable political parties seem to stem from an invisible hand. Dr Besigye took a swipe at the current party leaders, accusing them of receiving money from President Museveni to kill the party. He says he got a credible source from the State House that the officials received dirty money to kill the party.

“Large sums of money have been coming into our party at every election, both internal and external. Delegates from upcountry are always accommodated in expensive hotels, not by the party but by the candidates. And when I questioned the source of this money, I was told I had no locus standi to ask,” Dr Besigye said.

To Ugandans, that would not be surprising because after successfully defeating his former ‘super minister’ and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi in the 2016 elections, President Museveni said he would work hard to ensure there is no opposition in Uganda.

He went ahead to sponsor a political grouping Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) and through that, he has been on a charm offensive, signing cooperation agreements with friendly opposition parties like the Democratic Party, Uganda People’s Congress, and Federal Alliance Party, whose leaders are either given ministerial posts or other jobs in government in return for ‘keeping quiet’.

The FDC and Robert Kyagulanyi’s National Unity Platform have stayed away from this grouping terming it as unholy and intended to muzzle them, although they continue to get funding from the government. The government gives operational money to political parties that have members in Parliament.

“We are not going to allow Mr Amuriat and Mr Nandala to hand over our party to Museveni that simply. That is why after a long time of mostly internal discussions, we have come out to talk about this publicly,” Mr Ssemujju said in July when he unveiled the fault lines in the party, after which Mr Amuriat said they could not reveal the source of money they had received ahead of the 2021 elections in which Mr Amuriat came behind President Museveni and Mr Kyagulanyi with 3 percent of the total vote.

“We are not going to the marketplaces to betray people who have supported us financially. Some of them are in business; some of them work in government, but do not believe in the government of the day,” he said.

The battle for the heart and soul of Uganda’s opposition parties, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), is on after a chaotic two months of accusations of betrayal and infiltration […]

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Boost for terror fight as US, Kenya sign pact

Kenya’s fight against the terrorist group Al Shabaab received a major boost on Monday with the signing of a cooperation agreement with the United States that will see Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers trained and provided with financial and technical assistance over the next five years.

“The agreement will also see the two countries collaborate on peace and security efforts within the country and in the region, including the planned deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti,” US Secretary of Defence Lloyd James Austin III said at a press briefing in Nairobi yesterday.

“The US government deeply values our partnership with Kenya in countering Al Shabaab and is grateful to Kenya for its leadership in addressing security challenges in the region and around the world. I also want to thank the minister today for Kenya’s willingness to consider leading a multinational security assistance mission in Haiti,” he said.

Austin, who was welcomed in the country by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale and Chief of Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla, announced that the US is prepared to provide up to Ksh14.8 billion ($100.3 million) in addition to technical assistance to the mission in Haiti once it is approved by the UN Security Council.

Following parliamentary approval, Kenyan police officers from specialised units of the Administrative Police will leave for the Caribbean country in the next few months to tackle armed gangs that control areas in the capital and provincial towns.

Duale noted that the Al Shabaab is currently the largest terrorist group in East Africa.

“They are recruiting and radicalising young people for their own terrorist operations and within this framework we are working on the whole area of counterterrorism, our maritime security, peace and security in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region and how we can benefit from US defence technology and innovation,” he said.

He also noted that the cooperation will see Kenya’s contribution to peacekeeping missions globally supported by the US, aside from receiving training, technology and innovation to enhance KDF’s capabilities.

“The framework places special emphasis on interoperability between our two militaries in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Our ability to work together seamlessly is paramount and this cooperation will enable us to respond effectively to the ever-evolving security challenges in our region and beyond,” Duale said.

“Together, we are charting a course for a more secure and prosperous future for our nations and the world,” he added.

This is Austin’s first trip to Africa since taking up his post in January 2021. Before coming to Kenya, he visited Djibouti. He is expected to meet with President William Ruto before visiting the US Manda Bay camp in Lamu before departing for Angola.

Austin noted that Somalia has made remarkable progress in the past year in the fight against Al Shabaab by recapturing more territory from the group.

“But we know that progress is not always a straight line, and we can see significant improvement one day and challenges the next. Our approach across the continent has always been a combination of defence capabilities, development and diplomacy, and I think that is the right combination to ensure that you make a lasting impact,” he said.

While in Djibouti, Austin met with Somali President Hassan Mohamud who explained why he had called for a 90-day halt to the second phase of the drawdown of the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (Atmis) troops.

Kenya’s fight against the terrorist group Al Shabaab received a major boost on Monday with the signing of a cooperation agreement with the United States that will see Kenya Defence […]

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Disappointments, high living cost cloud Ruto’s 1 year in office

Kenya’s President William Ruto flew to the US Wednesday to attend the 78th United Nations General Assembly session in New York, in week he marked his administration’s first anniversary.

His delegation has also used the trip to court American companies to invest in the East African country, with trade and investment roadshows between Thursday and Friday in Chicago and San Fransisco, including a tour of the Silicon Valley, the world’s technology and innovation centre.

US ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman, a familiar face in the Silicon Valley from her days as chief executive of eBay and Hewlett Packard (HP), in a video posted on her X, formerly Twitter, handle, described the Chicago leg of the road shows as “a big success”.

“It has been great. We had hundreds of people; investors, American companies, Kenyan companies, all of whom got a chance to hear why they should do more business in Africa and more specifically why they should do business in Kenya… We had very good conversations on what we can do together,” Ms Whitman said.

But back home any positive vibes his spin doctors had hoped the US visit would arouse have faded away after the energy regulator on Thursday night announced record-high fuel prices in its latest monthly review.

The new fuel prices are expected to trigger increases in the cost of basic goods and services — from food to public transport — souring the public mood further, a day after the Treasury published its latest medium-term revenue strategy showing more taxes are on the way starting next year.

High cost of living and punitive taxes were among the grievances that fuelled the disruptive opposition-led anti-government protests that intermittently shutdown the economy in Nairobi and some major towns in the country between March and July.

Amnesty International Kenya said police killed at least 30 people during the protests.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority attributed the massive increases in the prices of petrol and diesel mainly to rallying global crude prices, which saw the landed cost of diesel, for example, rise nearly 20 percent.

But for all his rhetorical skills, President Ruto could still struggle to explain the oil market dynamics to a distrusting public that is used to him making many promises that are never delivered.

He won the August 9, 2022 election after campaigning on a populist platform to reduce the cost of living within the first 100 days in office and frequently criticised the previous administration of Uhuru Kenyatta, in which he served as a renegade Deputy President, for raising fuel prices and burdening Kenyans with taxes.

His scorecard after the first year in office hasn’t looked any better though, with the latest survey by pollster Infotrak showing that a majority of Kenyans believe the country is going in the wrong direction on his watch.

A report by Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), a non-profit organisation that documents cases of police brutality, torture, violence and discrimination, shows that Kenya’s human rights record has got worse in the past year.

The report released on Thursday shows that the country recorded 482 cases of torture and related violations between October 2022 and August 2023, more than double the 232 cases during a similar period previously.

Of the 482 cases, 351 were torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, 128 were extrajudicial executions and three were enforced disappearances.

On Friday, the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) said the disruption in policies and taxes mean that employers are no longer able to plan their costs and inputs. The National Treasury through the Finance Act, 2023 introduced a myriad of tax changes including doubling value added tax (VAT) on fuel to 16 percent and introducing a 1.5 percent housing levy deducted from the gross pay of workers and matched by their employers.

“Tax increases brought about by the Finance Act, 2023 coupled with the already high electricity tariffs and tight monetary policy have slowed consumption which is the main driver of domestic demand in Kenya,” said FKE national president Habil Olaka.

FKE said Kenya had lost over Ksh50.69 billion ($345 million) in foreign direct investment (FDI) and other investment inflows in three months as economic growth plummeted over high taxation and an unpredictable business environment. “Employers are appealing to the government to provide a stable and less costly business operating environment. The government needs to commit to a long-term development plan and give enough lead time for businesses to adjust their budgets before making far reaching policy changes,” said Mr Olaka.

At the same time, Matatu Owners Association (MOA) announced public service vehicle (PSV) operators will increase fare prices by 20 percent immediately along all the routes following the increase in fuel prices.

Kenya’s President William Ruto flew to the US Wednesday to attend the 78th United Nations General Assembly session in New York, in week he marked his administration’s first anniversary. His […]

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Ruto signs $59m deal with US aid agency to acquire electric buses

Kenya’s President William Ruto has signed a Ksh8.7 billion ($59.2 million) deal with US foreign aid agency Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) for the acquisition of electric buses to ease traffic congestion in Nairobi Metro Area.

The buses will operate on Line 2 of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

“The Blended Finance for BRT Project aims to catalyse private financing to support the acquisition of electric (or other low emission) buses to operate one or more lines of the BRT system, currently being prepared for the Nairobi metropolitan area,” MCC said on its website.

“The project aims to facilitate the timely operation of BRT lines and contribute to Kenya’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to urban transportation.”

Kenya’s President William Ruto has signed a Ksh8.7 billion ($59.2 million) deal with US foreign aid agency Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) for the acquisition of electric buses to ease traffic congestion […]

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Kagame prepares list of achievements ahead of polls

As Rwanda prepares to hold presidential elections next year, the dominant ruling party — Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) is expected to front President Paul Kagame as its flag bearer.

The party held its internal elections on April 2 and re-elected him as chairman for the next five years alongside a new youthful executive team.

President Kagame was seconded as a candidate for re-election by Senator Marie-Rose Mureshyankwano, who said he has proven himself as a selfless leader who has already delivered positive results to the party.

“As Rwandans, we cannot do things as everybody else in the usual way. The challenges they face and those that we confront are different. The one thing that you can do, and everyone starts saying ‘Rwanda did this, Rwanda did that!’ Others would do things a hundred times worse, but no one will ever talk about them. For us to live well, we need to do things in a unique way so that even those who want to accuse us of all evils can hardly find any wrongs about us,” said President Kagame in his acceptance speech after being re-elected as chairman of the RPF-Inkotanyi.

While the National Electoral Commission is yet to release the official calendar, parliament recently approved the merger of the parliamentary election originally scheduled for September this year with presidential elections happening next year. The merger gave current Members of Parliament one extra year in office.

Now Kagame, 65, may have little competition when it comes to elections. But that doesn’t stop him from pitching his long list of achievements to the electorate.

Once in a while, he tours the country, reminding Rwandans to work hard, but also revealing what he has achieved and where he plans to improve. That may inform his continuous reforms of the public sector, including purging officials deemed to undermine the national goal of development.

Ismael Buchanan, a senior lecturer of Political Science at the University of Rwanda told The EastAfrican that President Kagame has been largely successful in instilling good governance under RPF.

“The way RPF has promoted good governance and the rule of law, unity among Rwandans and gender equality has stood out. Women’s empowerment has been a major achievement…,” he said, adding that it has also delivered peace and security to Rwanda.

On August 18, 2017, shortly after securing a new seven-year third term with 98.7 per cent of the votes, President Kagame pledged to “continue transforming Rwanda and ensuring a dignified life for every citizen.”

But he has faced criticism too including charges that he has turned authoritarian and limited political dissent.

Human Rights Watch, for example, says press freedom, human rights, and opposition suppression have featured this term.

“The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) continued to stifle dissenting and critical voices and to target those perceived as a threat to the government and their family members,” Human Rights Watch argues in a bulletin.

“The space for political opposition, civil society, and media remained closed. Several high-profile critics, including opposition members and commentators using social media or YouTube to express themselves, went missing, were arrested or threatened,” Human Rights Watch said in its annual report 2022.”

Since 2017, his administration has focused on promoting investment, infrastructure development, and private sector growth. This has led to improvements in areas like healthcare, education, and technology, positioning Rwanda as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. One area that seems to keep giving is meetings and international conferences and exhibitions (MICE) which Rwanda has banked on to boost its tourism.

President Kagame is credited with positioning Rwanda as a hub for diplomacy and regional cooperation. He has made the country a major player in peacekeeping across the world currently ranked the 4th largest blue helmets contributor to the UN with 5,931 troops as of February, after India (6090), Nepal (6264), and Bangladesh (7269). He also entered bilateral deals with Mozambique to help them beat down insurgencies there.

Analysts say the challenge for the Kagame government over the past six years has been keeping peace with its neighbours, however. Until last year in January, Rwanda was at loggerheads with Uganda and Burundi and common land borders between these countries were closed almost three years. The closure of the major regional transport corridor border between Rwanda and Uganda- Gatuna/ Katuna in February 2019 significantly obstructed trade not only to Rwanda but also to Burundi and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Relations between Rwanda Burundi, and with Uganda have been restored but tensions remain high between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kagame’s government also continues to grapple with job creation and enabling inclusive growth. The youth unemployment rate remains high. It decreased to 20.40 percent in the first quartre of 2023 from 29.70 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2022 according to figures by the National Institute of Statistics (NISR).

NISR figures show that Rwanda has been generating around 140,000 jobs per year since 2019 which is well below the target of 240,00 jobs annually set in the seven-year Government Programme: National Strategy for Transformation (NST1 2017 – 2024).

What are your thoughts about the achievements ?

As Rwanda prepares to hold presidential elections next year, the dominant ruling party — Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) is expected to front President Paul Kagame as its flag bearer. The […]

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Ugandan farmers fed ARVs to animals, official reveals

A top official of Uganda’s National Drug Authority (NDA) on Wednesday stunned MPs on the House Committee of HIV/Aids when he confessed that they knew of, but initially did nothing about potentially deadly abuse of antiretroviral drugs to fatten farm animals.

The legislators were dismayed that the regulator of such a sensitive docket opted to remain silent, yet the shocking practice may result in harmful, and even life-threatening, side effects to humans.

The bizarre confession was contained in a submission made by NDA Senior Inspector of Drugs Amos Atumanya who said the authority learnt about the dangerous malpractice 10 years ago and conducted an investigation in 2014 to verify the claims.

“In 2013, the NDA received reports of the misuse of ARVs in pigs and chicken through the pharmacovigilance system,” Atumanya said.

“Unlike the media reports that focused on fattening pigs, we found out that ARVs were mainly used to treat African Swine Fever, also known as pig Ebola. The disease currently has no remedy. In addition, there were reports of the use of ARVs against New Castle Disease in chicken,” he added.

House Committee members were left almost speechless when Atumanya indicated that NDA did not come out on the issue for fear that this would have an adverse effect on the country’s economy.

“We have known about them and we are trying to do something about it. But there are some concerns that if we blow it out of proportion, what does it mean for the economy if you are going to export food? So, we are trying to find means in which to manage that situation,” he said.

“It is in that context that you find that whereas we have known about that issue for some time, we are taking some measures without necessarily having to alarm the whole country,” he added.

The NDA leadership had appeared to respond to information that was last Wednesday submitted to MPs by researchers from Makerere University College of Health Sciences. 

The researchers revealed that their scientific inquiries had confirmed the presence of antiretroviral therapy medicines in farm chicken consumed in Uganda.

“There were traces of efavirenz in chicken tissue and chicken feed samples in Wakiso District hence potential exposure [of humans] to sub-therapeutic concentrations of the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) medicines,” the researchers’ reported.

“The community is aware of the misuses of ART commodities in farm animals. This requires urgent mitigation strategies to control misuse of these essential commodities in HIV/Aids treatment.”

Efavirenz is a powerful anti-HIV drug that is taken in combination with other antiretroviral drugs. It works by decreasing the amount of HIV in human blood.

Also contained in the information before the committee, the Makerere University scientists reported that “the main reason for ARV usage in farm chicken is mainly economic; quick profit gains arising from anticipated early growth and fattening of chicken.”

Finer details before the same committee show that the farmers and/or other abusers of the ARV medicines are irregularly acquiring them from public health facilities and some persons living with HIV/Aids. It was reported that some individuals allegedly engage in multiple registration of persons living with HIV/Aids at health facilities which creates room for double access to the ordinarily heavily restricted medicines.

Terego West representative Joel Leku joined Polycarp Ogwari of Agule County in bitterly criticising NDA for concealing such disturbing information for a decade.

“It is a disappointment when you discovered early enough that we are here discussing the same thing. We believe you should have informed the country. The country should have been aware of this and of people who misuse drugs. I think we are on the wrong way. To be honest, it is countrywide; it isn’t only one region, these drugs are used in animals,” Ogwari said.

Deadly side effects

MPs were left even more alarmed when Atumanya revealed that consumption of chicken fattened using ARVs may not only make HIV/Aids negative persons resistant to the life-saving medicine — in the event that they contract the virus — but could also lead to hypertension, which is itself a life-threatening heart condition.

“Misuse of antiretroviral drugs might contribute to the development of resistant viral strains in ART negative persons due to exposure to suboptimal doses of ARVs in food,”  Atumanya said.

“Use of ARVs in animals may lead to the unintended consumption of these drugs which may have unforeseen health consequences for humans such as adverse drug reactions including hypersensitivity,” he further said.

He also indicated that this could compromise the government’s dedicated and well-documented efforts to combat the spread of the deadly disease in Uganda. 

“ARVs are expensive and vital for treating individuals with HIV/Aids. Their diversion from human use could negatively impact public health efforts to curb HIV/Aids as it denies other patients access to these life-saving drugs,” Atumanya said.

Although, the possibility was not raised in the committee yesterday, the revelations will probably call for the need to verify whether perennial ARV drug stock-outs countrywide could partly be linked to the theft and diversion of the medicines for such mercenary purposes.

What is being done?

Based on the information that the government has so far gathered, Atumanya indicated they are now carrying out sensitisation campaigns about the dangers of using ARVs in poultry and other farmed animals.

“As a result of these findings, NDA subsequently instituted sensitisation programmes targeting both the public and farmers. Farmers and veterinary professionals were engaged at the sub-county level while the public was [engaged] through radio and TV talk shows,” Mr Atumanya said.

The official said that “through her market surveillance and enforcement system, NDA conducted enforcement activities in different parts of the country to curb the unauthorised possession and use of drugs, including ARVs.” 

A top official of Uganda’s National Drug Authority (NDA) on Wednesday stunned MPs on the House Committee of HIV/Aids when he confessed that they knew of, but initially did nothing […]

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How new technologies are driving financial inclusion in Kenya

Inclusivity in the financial system is desired by all nations. It enhances economic efficiency, stabilizes the financial system, and protects vulnerable citizens. In Kenya, a developing economy, the government is exploring various measures to ensure everyone participates in its financial system.

New technologies like USSD, SRL, and cryptocurrency can potentially include all Kenyans in the financial system.

Mobile payment offers accessibility for all

In developing countries, mobile payments such as Bangladesh’s bKash, Cambodia’s Wing, and Tanzania’s M-PESA are important in financial inclusion. These services use Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to connect with customers.

USSD is vital in financial inclusion. It has become a vital tool for offering mobile financial services to low-income individuals. By dialing numbers starting with * and ending with #, users already engage with USSD.

According to 2016 data, 96 percent of households in Kenya used mobile money M-PESA. The growth in mobile phone penetration contributes to Kenyans’ use of mobile-based payment methods. This method is considered more straightforward than others.ADVERTISEMENT

Despite that, the adoption of mobile payment still meets some challenges. Certain groups — usually impoverished, have lower educational attainment and are predominantly female — have limited access to mobile phones and data.

Past research also revealed that phone owners with higher education may not use their privilege to exercise the so-called savvy money management methods, such as savings. They have the means to do it, but for some reason, they don’t.

These findings challenge the commonly optimistic view of mobile money as a key avenue for financial inclusion. It aligns with qualitative research suggesting that Kenyans have diverse needs and prefer to have their money circulate actively.

Furthermore, potential issues arise when mobile network operators (MNOs) control financial services and essential communication infrastructure like USSD. This can hinder competition and impact benefits like lower costs and improved services for customers.

Entertainment sector boosts inclusion

Entertainment avenues like Simulated Reality League (SRL) are also transforming how people use their money by engaging in virtual sports simulations and digital entertainment. They are designed to mimic real-world sports such as cricket.

SRL today  still follows the same basic formats: Test, One-day Internationals (ODI), and Twenty20 (T20). Unlike real matches that can extend for hours due to various factors, games last for two hours without interruptions.

In a computer-generated Twenty20 match, there are 20 overs, each with six balls, and betting options for every over and special bet for the beginning and end of the game, making it more streamlined without delays caused by penalties or injuries.

SRL cricket offers similar betting markets as official matches, including options like match winners, coin toss winners, ties, and predictions for top batters and bowlers.

Authorities remain cautious about crypto

As digital currencies gain traction, traditional banks remain cautious due to perceived risks that outweigh potential benefits. In 2015, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) warned about the risks of cryptocurrencies due to their unstable nature and lack of rules. While they suggested people avoid trading, they didn’t ban it.

Kenyans can legally buy and sell cryptocurrencies. In fact, Kenya holds over $1.5 billion in Bitcoin, about 2.3 percent of the country’s total value. This doesn’t even count other tokens, like Ethereum or Dogecoin. This shows that Kenyans still embrace cryptocurrencies despite the CBK’s advice.

While concerns about digital currencies often revolve around risk and complexity, they can benefit banks and customers. Cryptocurrencies are alternatives to conventional banking. They operate without intermediaries and beyond the control of single entities. Instead, crypto transactions rely on the blockchain’s code and a decentralized structure.

However, the central bank’s control of crypto could lessen the asset’s appeal and challenge banks’ entry into the field. The decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies raises questions about the central bank’s control if digital assets gain widespread adoption.

Inclusivity in the financial system is desired by all nations. It enhances economic efficiency, stabilizes the financial system, and protects vulnerable citizens. In Kenya, a developing economy, the government is […]

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Growing influence of Brics in East Africa through arms race

The Brics arms race, it turns out, is already playing out in eastern Africa as new data indicates that in 2021 and 2022, Uganda and Rwanda were the biggest importers of Russian arms, while Ethiopia and Tanzania sourced their military firepower from China.

This is according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) arms transfer database.

In its August update — dated just before the August 22-24 Brics Summit in South Africa — Sipri, showed that Russia and China dominate supplies while India is the bloc’s and the world’s biggest arms importer. Sipri often research and maps conflicts, arms control and purchases.

The update studied arms transfers for the period 2008 — 2022, to see whether the trend of trading between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — which until the formal admission of six new members constituted the Brics group — is also reflected in arms trade between themselves.

According to Sipri, the Brics is an important economic bloc and trade between its members is growing. Data shows that Russia has remained the top supplier of arms to India in the last 14 years, while the Asian nation was also the number one export market for Russian arms exports.

“However, Russia’s share fell from 78 percent in 2008-12 to 45 percent in 2018-22, while France, Israel and USA all gained ground,” the think tank explains.

According to Sipri, China receives most of its major arms imports from Russia and was ranked the number two market for Russian arms exports in 2008-2022, but the Asian giant is becoming less reliant on arms imports, including from Russia as its domestic arms industry grows rapidly.

While India was the world’s number one importer of major arms from 2008 – 2022, China ranked third while other Brics members imported much smaller volumes, ranking 36th, 55th and 63rd for Brazil, South Africa and Russia respectively, according to Sipri.

In terms of exports, Russia, ranked number two globally after the US, while China was number five, with India, Brazil and South Africa having relatively small domestic arms industries but keen to increase their exports.

In East Africa, Uganda was ranked Russia’s biggest market in 2022, importing weapons worth $48 million out of a total import bill of $55 million, according to Sipri’s trend indicator values. Its other sources were Czechia ($4 million), Israel ($2 million), China ($1 million) and South Africa ($1 million).

In 2021, Rwanda imported arms worth $46 million from Russia, $10 million from turkey and $2 million from the US.

In 2022, Ethiopia imported weapons valued at $35 million from China, while the previous year, its arms were sourced from Turkey ($5 million) and $6 million worth of weapons from unknown sources.

In 2021, Tanzania imported arms worth $29 million from China and also sourced weapons worth $24 million from France.

Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo sourced their arms from South Africa; Kenya and South Sudan are the only countries from region whose military supplies are not sourced from a Brics member during this period.

In 2009, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa formed the bloc to counter western dominance in geopolitics, and to promote peace, security, development and cooperation; the inclusion of new members Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is meant to share these goals wider.

Scholars view the Brics emergence as critical to establishing a new world order to bridge the widening gap between the actual role of emerging markets in the global system and their ability to participate in the decision-making process of global institutions.

The Brics arms race, it turns out, is already playing out in eastern Africa as new data indicates that in 2021 and 2022, Uganda and Rwanda were the biggest importers […]

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Kenya President Ruto decries ‘unfair’ debt policies

Kenya’s President William Ruto has decried what he termed as an “unfair” framework in the administration of the global financial system, saying the global West continues to disenfranchise Africans by imposing unjust debt repayment policies that are almost unmanageable.

Speaking at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on Tuesday in a speech to delegates at the ongoing Africa Climate Summit, Ruto waded into the often-murky terrain of foreign debt to African nations, saying that a conversation on the punitive policies of the West and its institutions towards Africa “is not an unfair” debate.

His remarks were received with applause from the thousands, including African heads of states, who were gathered at the Tsavo amphitheatre on the second day of the Africa Climate Summit. Also in attendance were leaders from the global North, among them the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerr

Ruto appeared pained in his remarks, cutting his written speech for a few minutes to embark on a short anecdote about how Africa has been hurt by the unfair debt programmes of the West, and how climate change is exacerbating an already bad situation.

While Africa’s debt debate has become a touchy issue in recent years, it is becoming even louder in the wake of the debilitating effects of climate change.

Spend fortunes

African governments are routinely being forced to spend fortunes of small budgets to fund adaptation projects, and Ruto said the government had been forced to add an additional three million pupils to the national feeding programme, up from one million last year. The holes they burn in their treasuries are often plugged using expensive domestic and foreign borrowing, and African leaders have in recent years decried what they deem as exploitative policies by Western financiers.

“This is the continent with the highest investment potential,” said President Ruto, who went ahead to note that the high potential is hampered by “high interest rates for development capital.

“As a result, nine countries in Africa are already in debt distress, 13 are at high risk and 17 are at medium risk, and African continent is bearing the brunt of the global climate crisis because an unjust financial architecture views African nations as risky borrowers,” he added.

“How do we get Africa to pay five times more (than the rest)?” he wondered. “We are not asking to be favoured or treated differently; we just need a conversation.”

Kenya’s President William Ruto has decried what he termed as an “unfair” framework in the administration of the global financial system, saying the global West continues to disenfranchise Africans by […]

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President Ruto urges global financial institutions to be fair to Africa

Africa is calling for a fair financial system that treats all nations equally, according to Kenya’s President William Ruto, who also chairs the Heads of State Committee on Climate Change.

Speaking on the second day of the Africa Climate Summit, President Ruto said it was not too much to ask as many African nations were facing debt distress due to climate change.

“This is the continent with the highest investment potential. We are only limited by two things: high interest rates for development capital,” President Ruto said, adding that nine countries in Africa are already in debt distress, 13 are at high risk and 17 are at medium risk.

He argued that the suffering was global but the African continent was bearing the brunt and that the financial architecture is such that African nations are seen as risky borrowers.

“How do we get Africa to pay five times more?” The president wondered. “We are not asking to be favoured [or] treated differently… We need a conversation.”

“Climate change was destroying the economies of African nations and forcing affected countries to divert their budgets and resources meant for economic growth to dealing with the effects of climate change,” Dr Ruto said.

“Africa had lost 2.5 million head of livestock, among other things, due to climate change,” he said.

He said the summit was both Africa’s climate summit and a global pre-COp28 meeting where Africa would speak, and the world would listen.

“The ACS is an orientation to familiarise us with our journey into the future, driven by African solutions,” he explained. “We have gathered here to consult, deliberate, collaborate and share the future of climate action globally and for Africa. This summit is about turning ideas into action and forging transformative partnerships to bring our planet back from the brink of climate change.”

Acknowledging that there was still a long way to go to achieve Africa’s aspirations, he urged all stakeholders to keep their promises, even in difficult times.

Nevertheless, he said, there was a need to move fast because climate change was an emergency that required a commitment to climate action and green growth.

“This African moment is a global moment, we are there in word and deed. I urge everyone at this summit to show bold leadership in support of African aspirations. We have a long way to go and no time to lose. We have the permission of our ancestors to innovate a way, not only to go fast, but to go together,” said Dr Ruto.

Even in the face of adversity, the summit host said, there is opportunity. Climate change and the crisis it brings is Africa’s opportunity to unlock the vast resources we have for a green energy transition, he said.

President Ruto said Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to turn away from the well-trodden unsustainable path.

Speaking at the Youth Summit on Sunday, President Ruto said the world had witnessed the immense potential that African youth could unleash.

He added that this underscored the importance of the Youth Commission. Potential and opportunity are all futuristic.

African countries face unique, disproportionate and structural disadvantages that can help them achieve prosperity. And the tragedy of climate change is “relentlessly eating away at this progress”, President Ruto lamented, while declaring that the continent will use its capacity to limit its own emissions as a clear pathway to net zero by 2050.

“Furthermore, to achieve green growth, Africa has committed to move quickly to develop the necessary instruments and institutions, with Kenya, as an outcome of the summit, offering to host the Global Centre for Adaptation (GCA),” President Ruto said.

“We have been negatively profiled, the continent of disease, war and poverty, but we are stepping out to say that Africa is home to 60 percent of the world’s renewable energy assets,” he said.

Standing in for US President Joe Biden, US special climate envoy John Kerry said, “My sense is that after this speech, we have no choice but to act.”

“Africa has the greatest opportunity in the world to win this (climate change) dialogue,” he added.

“I feel that Africa at this moment offers an enormous opportunity. This problem that we face is man-made. Humanity is being threatened by humanity. We need the Loss and Damage Fund in one year, this year, in Dubai. We can win this battle, but we can only win it if we make fundamental choices,” he further said.

Africa is calling for a fair financial system that treats all nations equally, according to Kenya’s President William Ruto, who also chairs the Heads of State Committee on Climate Change. […]

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UK Minister for Africa Mitchell in Kigali to launch development projects

Mr Andrew Mitchell, UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister for Africa, has arrived in Rwanda on a three-day as bilateral relations between the UK and Rwanda remain strong due to the existing controversial migration partnership that will see the transfer of illegal immigrants deported to Rwanda which is still subject to a court verdict.

Both countries await a decision by the Supreme Court after the UK High Court of Appeal ruled that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers and the deficiencies in its asylum processes must be corrected for the country to receive asylum-seekers under its migration deal with the UK reversing an earlier decision that had deemed it safe.  

During his visit, he is expected to launch projects to support girls’ and children’s education worth approximately £72.3 million ($91.7 million) including Girls in Rwanda Learn (GIRL), a £60 million ($76.1 million) FCDO-funded programme that will run from 2023 to 2030 which is targeting to improve learning outcomes for at least 700,000 children. 

This is in addition to a £12.3 million ($15.6 million) partnership with Unicef that will last for seven years.

“Our two countries continue to work together on a range of issues important to both nations and the region, including climate change and women’s and girls’ education. The long-term partnership between the UK and Rwanda is underpinned by our support to help eradicate poverty, educate children, especially girls, and provide British expertise to improve the delivery of public services for all,” Mitchell said in a press statement released on Thursday. 

High-level discussions will also take place with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, focusing on bilateral relations and regional issues. 

Minister Mitchell will also attend Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony, Kwita Izina, which aims to highlight conservation efforts to protect these endangered species.

Booming relations between the two countries have since trade, business and tourism expanded between the two countries.

RwandAir, the national is set to launch daily flights between Kigali and London Heathrow on October 29 this year, a few months after it increased the frequency on the same route to four times a week.  

“Having first launched flights to the British capital in 2017, we have continued to build our presence following strong demand from customers here in the UK and Africa.

“We know these new daily direct flights will offer customers the convenience and connectivity which they have long asked for and look forward to welcoming more visitors to Rwanda,” RwandAir CEO Yvonne Makolo said in a statement.

The airline has flown between London and Kigali since May 2017 via an indirect service through Brussels, having launched flights from London Gatwick on 26 May 2017.

In 2020, RwandAir decided to switch flights to the UK’s busiest airport London Heathrow, helping to improve connections for those travelling from further afield.

Meanwhile, Rwanda continues to receive duty-free and quota-free trade and access to UK markets for all products except arms and ammunition under the UK’s new post-Brexit Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS) – which came into force in June, 2023.

DCTS, which covers 37 countries in Africa, 26 in Asia/Oceania/Middle East and 2 in the Americas, removes or reduces tariffs and simplifies trading rules so that more products qualify for the scheme, making it more generous than the EU scheme the UK was previously a member of, according to UK officials.  

“It will benefit developing countries looking to diversify and increase exports, driving their prosperity and reducing their need for aid.”

The scheme was announced last year, and legislation has since been finalized to bring it into force.

Rwanda’s imports from the United Kingdom, mainly road vehicles other than cars, telecoms and sound equipment, scientific instruments steadily increased over the last five years while exports to the UK – mainly coffee, tea, spices, minerals and apparel.

The country is now among Rwanda’s top five export destinations alongside the United Arab Emirates, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and Switzerland.

Mr Andrew Mitchell, UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister for Africa, has arrived in Rwanda on a three-day as bilateral relations between the UK and Rwanda remain strong due […]

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Tshisekedi pegs longer stay of EACRF on M23 respecting ceasefire

The Democratic Republic of Congo has signaled it will be amenable for the longer stay of East African Community Regional Forces (EACRF) as long as they can force armed groups to respect the ceasefire.

The apparent climb-down emerged on Monday as President Felix Tshisekedi hosted his Burundian counterpart Evariste Ndiyishimiye, the current Chair of the East African Community.

And the meeting saw Tshisekedi, once a bitter critic of EACRF say there has been some positive engagements with regional leaders who now see the need for permanent ceasefire as a requirement for any peace talks with armed groups.

The Congolese leader did not expressly mention the end of the EACRF’s mandate, which is supposed to expire at early September. But he did say that there is now a better response from the troop contributing countries.

“It’s true that some days back, I expressed my certain annoyance at the behaviour of the East African regional force. But time has passed and the meetings have started being much tougher on the armed groups, just like the last one (on 24 August with the Defence ministers in Nairobi) in which our Deputy Prime Minister of Defence, Jean-Pierre Bemba, took part. “That meeting was much tougher on respecting the terms of the agreements reached through the Nairobi process, which is enriched by the Luanda roadmap

Nairobi and Luanda processes are part of a regional project to force the parties involved in the Congolese conflict to observe a ceasefire, before embarking on the road to peace.

“Time will tell if those talks can be transformed into action because decisions have been taken and these decisions apply immediately. We need to commit the M23 to respecting the terms of these processes,” said Félix Tshisekedi.

Ndayishimiye said a Summit of the heads of state will be held soon to examine DRC’s demands.

The Congolese president said his country will use that meeting to express its views on the basis of the findings, namely whether the M23 would finally be allowed to go into cantonment. 

The Congolese government has always taken the view that since March this year, the M23 has not really withdrawn from the conquered areas, even though there has been no fighting with the Congolese army for nearly six months. In Kinshasa, in the final joint communiqué signed by the DRC and Burundi, the two heads of state say that they “note and deplore the fact that the M23 does not have the will to disengage and go to the cantonment centres.”

Ndayishimiye and Tshisekedi “appealed to the region to assume its responsibilities and force the M23 to go into cantonment”.

Although the Congolese president was less vehement about the EACRF, he nevertheless continued to deplore the “laxity” he felt was being shown by the Eastern bloc contingents, with the exception of the Burundian troops, who he felt were more active in Kivu.  Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan are the other troop contributors to the EACRF.

“We are asking the EACRF to be more active, like the Burundian contingent, because in some places we continue to observe laxity on the part of the other contingents, who authorise the collection of taxes by the M23, which is totally illegal and unacceptable,” they said.

The two leaders said that, in addition to defence and security issues, on which they committed their two countries to work together more closely, the Burundian leader had visited Kinshasa to strengthen ties of cooperation.

They agreed to speed up an integration project, namely the construction of a bridge linking the Cibitoke  Province in Burundi with  South Kivu in the DRC. A railway is also to be built, linking Tanzania, Burundi and the DRC. Infrastructure projects should also include a road linking Bujumbura to Uvira and then Bukavu. In the commercial sphere, the two presidents have agreed to set up banking branches in Burundi and the DRC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has signaled it will be amenable for the longer stay of East African Community Regional Forces (EACRF) as long as they can force armed groups […]

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Ugandan charged under anti-gay law faces possible death penalty

Ugandan prosecutors have charged a man with “aggravated homosexuality”, potentially a capital offence under controversial anti-gay legislation introduced by the country this year, an official said Monday.

The law — considered one of the harshest of its kind in the world — contains provisions that make “aggravated homosexuality” an offence punishable by death and includes penalties for consensual same-sex relations of up to life in prison.

“The suspect was charged in Soroti (in eastern Uganda), and he is on remand in prison. He will be appearing in court for mention of the case,” said Jacquelyn Okui, spokeswoman for Uganda’s directorate of public prosecutions.

According to the charge sheet, the 20-year-old suspect was charged on August 18 and is accused of “unlawful sexual intercourse with… (a) male adult aged 41”. 

“Statement of offence: aggravated homosexuality contrary to… Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023”, the charge sheet stated. 

Okui said she was not sure whether this was the first time that a Ugandan has been charged with “aggravated homosexuality” under the new law.

The draconian legislation, which was signed into law in May, has been condemned by the United Nations, foreign governments including the United States, and global rights groups.

This month the World Bank announced it was suspending new loans to the nation, saying the law “fundamentally contradicts” the values espoused by the US-based lender.

In May, US President Joe Biden called for the immediate repeal of the measures he branded “a tragic violation of universal human rights” and threatened to cut aid and investment in Uganda.

But the government has remained defiant and the legislation has broad support in the conservative, predominantly Christian country, where lawmakers have defended the measures as a necessary bulwark against perceived Western immorality.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has accused the World Bank of using money to try to “coerce” the government to drop the controversial legislation.

Adrian Jjuuko, Executive Director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, said his organisation had “documented 17 arrests” in June and July following the adoption of the law.

Earlier this month, police arrested four people including two women at a massage parlour in the eastern district of Buikwe for allegedly engaging in same-sex activity following a tip-off.  

Ugandan prosecutors have charged a man with “aggravated homosexuality”, potentially a capital offence under controversial anti-gay legislation introduced by the country this year, an official said Monday. The law — considered one […]

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It is hypocrisy: Uganda responds to World Bank funding freeze

Ugandan officials on Wednesday lampooned the World Bank and Western countries for ‘hypocrisy’, after the global lender suspended lending for projects in Uganda in what it cited as a violation of its values in Kampala’s new anti-homosexuality law.

Uganda’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem said the move by the World Bank was hypocritical. He accused the Western entities of being quick to lecture vulnerable countries about democracy, only to turn around and punish them when they do what doesn’t suit the interests of Western powers and allied institutions.

“Stop this hypocrisy,” he said. “The law was passed by Uganda Parliament; these are representatives of the people. That’s democracy.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the Bank said that further funding will be frozen until authorities in Uganda provide adequate policy to protect minorities, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other groups commonly categorised as LGBTQ+.

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a liveable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality,” the Bank said on Tuesday.

The World Bank’s decision comes after the lender sent a fact-finding mission to Uganda to engage with government officials and stakeholders to verify reports of discrimination of LGBTQ+ persons, following the passing of the controversial law in May.

The Bank’s decision to freeze funding is based on the mission’s report, which revealed that gay persons and others in the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda continued to be harassed, attacked and discriminated against in both public and private institutions, due to their sexual orientation.

Ugandan government officials, though, have issued statements to dispel reports of real or perceived discrimination against sexual minority groups. 

For instance, within hours of the World Bank announcement to suspend new lending, the Ministry of Health in Uganda issued a statement to clarify that the anti-gay law does not target LGBTQ+ persons for discrimination when they seek medical services.

“This is to reiterate that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 does not forbid any person from seeking medical services from a health facility or hospital. Furthermore, all services should be provided in a manner that ensures safety, privacy and confidentiality to all clients that see health services in public and private health facilities,” wrote Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director General of Health Services, in a statement. 

Dr Mwebesa highlighted the principle that health workers should not discriminate or stigmatise any individual who seeks healthcare for any reason – gender, religion, tribe, economic or social status or sexual orientation.

But Ugandan human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo says all government agencies need to fall in line.  

“Uganda’s ministry of health press statement is a statement of principle but the actions of other agencies of the state betrays a different intention from these words about non-discrimination.

“All Ugandans matter & deserve the protection of the law. Simply repeal the law & stop tying yourselves in knots,” he said on his Twitter (X) page.

Uganda’s Health Ministry is a key recipient of donor funding and aid from western powers, led by the US, which also threatened to halt aid, including the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) programme which suspended meetings with Uganda government officials to discuss the new round of aid.

Pepfar spends about $400 million annually to support access to anti-retroviral therapy for over 1.3 million people out of 1.5 million people living with HIV/Aids in Uganda.

Officials admit that losing Pepfar first, and now World Bank’s funding, will stretch the country’s purse to finance its priorities, which include infrastructure, health, education, energy and security among others.

According to Mr Okello Oryem, to the extent that the West does not treat all countries in the world the same, these aid cuts and freeze on lending targeting Uganda are unfair, unjust and uncalled for. 

“Since the passing of this law, we have not had an LGBT person here persecuted, but there are countries in the Middle East that hang homosexuals. What are they not talking about these countries? This contradiction shows injustice,” he said.

Uganda’s obsession for criminalising same sex relations has seen it spar with western donors and allied lenders led by the World Bank, which first suspended a $90 million loan in 2014 when the country enacted its first law strengthened sentences for LGBTQ-related offences.  

Former World Bank president Jim Yong Kim warned that such legislation restricting sexual rights can hurt a country’s competitiveness by discouraging multinational companies from investing or locating their activities in those nations.

Over this potential relocation of multinationals from Uganda, in addition to diplomatic relations with the west becoming strained, Okello Oryem says Kampala will continue to engage donors to find common ground.

Ugandan officials on Wednesday lampooned the World Bank and Western countries for ‘hypocrisy’, after the global lender suspended lending for projects in Uganda in what it cited as a violation of its […]

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US vetoes compensation of embassy blast victims

Victims of the August 7, 1998, terrorist attack in Nairobi are unlikely to get any compensation after the US government insisted it already paid them and put in place measures to combat terrorism in Kenya.

This comes amid a renewed push by the Senate to have Kenyan victims of the attack compensated. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the attack in which over 200 people were killed and close to 5,000 others injured.

The attack resulted in 12 American deaths while the embassy building was badly damaged.

“The terrorist attacks against our embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania claimed 224 innocent victims and injured more than 4,500 others,” said the US Embassy-Nairobi Spokesperson in an interview with Nation.

 “In the years immediately following the blast, the United States government provided support and assistance to help Kenyans affected by the bombing to recover from the attacks and resume their lives.

“This support included: medical care, counselling, school fees, rehabilitation therapy, vocational training, and recovery assistance to businesses.”

In 2020, former US President Donald Trump told Sudan that it would only come off a list of state sponsors of terror if it pays $335m (Ksh46.9 billion) in compensation. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok responded by saying the funds had been transferred, a decision that the US confirmed a year later.

“Sudan has paid $335m to compensate victims of past attacks against the United States as part of an agreement that removed the struggling country from Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism — also known as its ‘terror blacklist’,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in April 2021.

Khartoum’s then transitional, civilian-backed government provided the funds for survivors and victims’ families from attacks including the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by Al Qaeda, which was backed by Sudan’s then-leader, Omar al-Bashir.

Sudan had been listed since 1993 when Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden lived there as a guest of the government. However, it is not clear whether the money has been released to survivors and victims’ families from the twin 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Instead, the US government reiterated its commitment to seeking justice as it intensifies the war against terrorism.

“In the aftermath of this attack, the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments, along with countless other international partners, helped us move forward in the face of these heinous acts,” said the spokesperson.

“Today, the United States and our African partners remain committed to pursuing justice, and together we remain steadfast in our efforts to root out violent extremism.”

However, the Kenyan Senate was not happy with the US move, which only saw it compensate its nationals and part of her Kenyan staff. This week, the Senate formed a nine-member ad-hoc committee to follow up on the matter with the US. The committee will be chaired by Machakos Senator Agnes Kavindu.

The Senate wants the committee to engage Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry to engage with the US government to pursue and secure the compensation of the Kenyan victims and their families. The US has not made it clear whether or not there will be any payments in future.

“Since 2015, the United States has invested nearly $85 million (Ksh12 billion) in assistance to work in partnership with Kenya to combat terrorism and help ensure the Kenyan people remain safe,” said the spokesperson.

“For example, the United States is working with Kenya’s Border Police Unit to counter violent extremism by delivering vital medical services to susceptible and disenfranchised communities along the border region.”

“The United States has also partnered with the Kenyan Coast Guard since its inception in 2018 and together we are beginning a multi-year project to increase their maritime security in the western Indian Ocean, an area known for illicit trafficking and transnational organized crime activity,” said the US Embassy-Nairobi spokesperson.

“The United States and Kenya are working in partnership to strengthen Kenyan military and law enforcement capabilities to address domestic and regional challenges, including countering terrorism, improving maritime security, and securing Kenya’s borders,” said the US-Embassy-Nairobi spokesperson.

“We will continue to conduct joint exercises and training with the Kenyan Defence Forces and the National Police Service to increase our coordination and capacity to deal with threats to regional peace and security.”

Victims of the August 7, 1998, terrorist attack in Nairobi are unlikely to get any compensation after the US government insisted it already paid them and put in place measures […]

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World Bank suspends funding to Uganda over anti-gay law

The World Bank has suspended any future funding for projects in Uganda, citing human rights violations from the recent enactment of the anti-homosexuality law.

A statement from the Bank says further funding is being frozen until authorities in Uganda provide adequate policy to protect minorities, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other groups commonly categorised as LGBTQ+.

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a liveable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality,” the Bank said on Tuesday.

“This law undermines those efforts. Inclusion and non-discrimination sit at the heart of our work around the world.”

In May, President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act, providing penalties as high as a death sentence for “aggravated homosexuality.” It drew condemnations from rights groups and Western countries such as the US who threatened sanctions. The US is a key shareholder in the World Bank and has almost always produced its president.

The World Bank said it has been prevailing upon Kampala to reconsider the law.

A team from the Bank, it said, have been speaking with Ugandan officials on “additional measures that are necessary to ensure projects are implemented in alignment with our environmental and social standards.”

“Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance. These measures are currently under discussion with the authorities.  No new public financing to Uganda will be presented to our Board of Executive Directors until the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested.

Same sex relations had been illegal in Uganda, even before this law, under the old penal code.

But critics charged the new law seals any possible protections for minorities who may now not be able to rent property as the new law promises punishments to those who conceal homosexuals.

It also provides for capital punishment for serial offenders against the law including those who transmit terminal illness like HIV/AIDs through gay sex. Promoters of homosexuality can be jailed for up to 20 years.

The World Bank has suspended any future funding for projects in Uganda, citing human rights violations from the recent enactment of the anti-homosexuality law. A statement from the Bank says […]

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Families face starvation over insecurity in DRC-Uganda border

Several residents near the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border in the Kasese District face starvation due to insecurity caused by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels.

According to the residents, many of them abandoned their gardens in the DRC, fearing for their safety after the June 16 attack on Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Secondary School where more than 40 people lost their lives including 38 children.

However, this has exposed them to hunger. We were not able to establish how many residents are affected.

Previously, the residents would cross to the DRC using porous borders and rivers to cultivate their gardens.

However, due to the prevailing insecurity, Ugandan security forces have tightened control of the borders. Anyone crossing to the Congo is required to use only recognised crossing points.

Ms Rebecca Kyakimwa, 50, says her two-acre garden is in Domena Village, DRC.

She said the crops in the garden, which include cassava, sweet potatoes, and yams, are ready for harvest but she is unable to access the garden.

 “Since the ADF rebels incident happened in Kasese, I cannot access my garden anymore because of the insecurity in Congo,” she said.

Mr Manasi Kakuhi had to abandon his garden near the border for fear of being caught in attacks by the rebels.

His family of 10 now faces starvation as their primary source of food is lost.

“When you want to cross to DRC using the main channel, you are required pay Ush10,000 ($2.78) at the border and the many of us don’t have that money. We also fear losing our lives,” he said.

“We sometimes hear gunshots at night, and I fear risking my life going to harvest crops from my gardens. We have nothing to eat at home and we are only living at the mercy of God,” he added.

The insecurity in the DRC has also affected the business community.

Mr Daniel Bwambale used to deal in shoes from DRC but with the ongoing insecurity in the country, his business has come to a halt.

Several residents near the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border in the Kasese District face starvation due to insecurity caused by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels. According to the residents, […]

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UN warns of disastrous humanitarian situation in east DRC

The United Nations expressed alarm on Tuesday over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in three eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly 3.3 million people have been displaced since March 2022.

Militias and rebel groups have plagued much of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s. 

One particular armed group, the M23, has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu since taking up arms again in late 2021 after years of dormancy.

The UN warned on Thursday that to meet the needs of the people affected by violence in the region, humanitarian workers need more than $1.5 billion in funding.

“The humanitarian situation in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, already catastrophic, has deteriorated in recent months, and it has been essential to increase the scale of our operation,” said Suzanna Tkalec, UN coordinator for interim humanitarian aid in the DRC.

Humanitarian organisations have distributed aid and assistance to more than 910,000 people in those three provinces in the last six weeks, the UN office said.

“But by the end of the year the UN, the Red Cross and NGOs will need to be providing emergency aid to nearly 5.5 million people,” the UN said. 

Independent UN experts, the DRC government and several Western nations including the United States and France accuse Rwanda of actively backing the M23, despite denials from Kigali.

The United Nations expressed alarm on Tuesday over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in three eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly 3.3 million people have […]

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Rwanda allocates over 7000 hectares of state forests to investors

In a move to boost the forestry sector and promote sustainable management practices, the government has authorized the allocation of 7,716 hectares of state forests to private investors for responsible harvesting and oversight.

The decision, approved by the cabinet, aims to enhance the country’s forest management while driving economic growth through strategic partnerships with selected companies.

The four companies chosen for the management and harvesting responsibilities are Ecopen Ituze Ltd, Kayonza Distributors Company, Ekaterra Tea Rwanda Ltd, and Ikizere Silviculture Limited.

The ambitious target set by the government is to privatize the management of 80 percent of state forests by 2024, amounting to 49,188 hectares. Notably, progress has been made, with 63 percent already achieved, a significant increase from 38 percent recorded last year.

There are currently ongoing negotiations covering an additional 15,198 hectares with potential investors awaiting cabinet approval. The negotiation process includes field visits, vetting, due diligence, and assessment of technical proposals before finalizing agreements under the supervision of the Prime Minister.

World Nature Conservation Day, celebrated on July 28, served as a backdrop to unveil the developments in state forests’ management privatization. This annual event seeks to raise awareness about the crucial need to preserve the environment and natural resources for the betterment of the world.

Forestry sector revenues have seen remarkable growth, surging from Rwf 164 billion in 2007 to Rwf 649 billion in 2021. With the privatization of all state-owned forests, the estimated annual revenue is projected to surpass Rwf 200 billion.

Rwanda currently possesses approximately 27 percent of the nation’s total forests, equivalent to 61,485 hectares, excluding national parks. The total forest cover across the country stands at 30.4 percent, encompassing 724,662 hectares. These forests are primarily 53 percent plantations, 21 percent wooded savannas in the east, 19 percent natural mountain rainforests, and 6.2 percent shrubs.

The Forest Sector Strategic Plan, executed between 2018 and 2024, has been a significant investment for Rwanda, amounting to Rwf 82.2 billion. Private investors have been required to engage in reforestation efforts following the harvesting of mature trees. To bolster the wood industry and ensure long-term sustainability, the Rwanda Forestry Authority (RFA) has designated five tree species with high economic value for reforestation purposes.

These species include Pinus spp, Eucalyptus spp, Podocarpus falcatus (Umufu), Cedrela odorata, and Entandrophragma excelsum (Umuyove or Libuyu). Notably, Umuyove was chosen due to its status as the only premium timber that naturally grows in Rwanda, making it highly sought-after in the local timber market.

As Rwanda continues to promote reforestation and sustainable forest management practices, there is a strong focus on native tree species to preserve the ecological balance. The timber industry has already contributed to the livelihoods of over 75,000 individuals, primarily in rural areas, with employment opportunities stemming from charcoal production, wood production, distribution, and selling.

A recent study revealed a substantial increase in employment within the wood processing and trade sector, growing from 12,000 jobs in 2017 to 23,000 jobs in 2019.

The trade of Rwandan forest timber is estimated to range from 215,000 to 235,000 cubic meters per year, with an approximate total value of $76 million annually.

In a move to boost the forestry sector and promote sustainable management practices, the government has authorized the allocation of 7,716 hectares of state forests to private investors for responsible […]

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Kenya expands storage capacity for fuel, gas to serve EA region

Kenya is upping the ante against Tanzania in the race to supply petroleum products in the region after the Cabinet this week approved takeover of assets belonging to the defunct Kenya Petroleum Refineries Ltd (KPRL) by the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC).

KPC is taking over KPRL’s 45 storage tanks with a capacity of 484 million litres, out of which 254 million litres is reserved for refined products while the remaining 233 million litres will be used for crude oil.

The acquisition means Kenya will have unlimited space to store petroleum products, taking advantage of the new Kipevu Oil Terminal 2.

With the new Kipevu facility, Kenya seeks to double the capacity of handling transit petroleum products from the current 35,000 tonnes and entice Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to start due considering Mombasa as their petroleum products source since it will be cheaper than Dar es Salaam.

Kenya’s petroleum products have been among the most expensive in the region as ship waiting time and demurrage charges are factored in along the supply chain.

Targeting Uganda

Kenya transports about 900 million litres of petroleum products per month and is banking on Tanzania’s inadequate fuel transport infrastructure to retain the Ugandan petroleum transshipment business. Kenya is also using the newly constructed $170 million fuel jetty in Kisumu to woo Uganda, its main transit market, to start importing fuel from Mombasa.

Kenyan President William Ruto has directed the scaling up of LPG coverage in the country and in the region and KPC will use part of the land owned by KPRL to build additional storage tanks for LPG.

Already, KPC has contracted Pakistani firm Petrochem Engineering Services to design LPG import and storage facility in Changamwe, Mombasa. Five private companies have applied to tap into the new Kipevu terminal, seeking easier loading of cooking gas for distribution by trucks which will help to cut demurrage costs.

The KPRL storage facility was previously owned by Shell and the British Petroleum Company (BP), which sold it to Indian investor Essar Energy Overseas Ltd at $5 million in 2016. Six months later, Essar Ltd relinquished its shares to the government.

KPRL, which was set up to refine crude oil, stopped operations in 2013 after the government started importing refined oil.

“This additional storage of about 200 million litres of petroleum products would unlock supply chain bottlenecks in Mombasa and ensure steady supply of the commodity in the country and neighbouring countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo” said Energy Cabinet Secretary Davies Chirchir.

Uganda receives over 185 million litres of petroleum products, mostly channeled through the Kisumu port and the Eldoret depot.

This month, Nairobi has shipped an estimated 27 million litres of fuel to Uganda through the Kisumu oil jetty.

Once licensed, they will cater for the untapped LPG market with the increasing population and demand in the country and in the East African region.

“KPC proposes to install, commission and operate a 500 tonnes per day LPG truck loading facility which will enhance product evacuation and as such ease ullage constraints and subsequently reduce demurrage costs. Current LPG storage capacity in Mombasa is limited and huge demurrage is incurred by LPG ships thus affecting the final consumer price of bottled gas,” read part of KPC in tender documents.

Limited LPG storage capacity in Mombasa means that ships stay longer at the port, leading to higher demurrage costs which are then transferred to consumers thus paying high prices of bottled gas.

KPC currently receives imported LPG from ships berthed at the Shimanzi Oil Terminal and puts it into its tanks – T610 and T611 located within its Changamwe facility the product is then evacuated to local terminals through inter-connecting pipelines for truck loading and bottling respectively.

The lack of loading gantries for truck loading has been a challenge to gas companies and the facility once complete will allow companies to ferry gas in trucks which has proved to be economically viable.

Kenya is upping the ante against Tanzania in the race to supply petroleum products in the region after the Cabinet this week approved takeover of assets belonging to the defunct […]

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Maritime dispute: Somalia rejects mediation ‘offer’

Somalia says it will not accept mediation over a maritime dispute with Kenya, which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided in October 2021.

Somalia’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali Mohamed Omar told a committee of MPs that Somalia was not in any talks with Kenya to resolve the dispute.

The issue had been raised on Saturday by a member of the parliamentary committee who sought clarification from State the Federal Government following reports that Kenya’s President William Ruto had asked the Djiboutian counterpart Omar Ismael Guelleh to help broker the deal.

The minister, instead, says Somalia will abide by the Court’s ruling which mostly re-demarcated the sea border between the two countries.

“Regarding the remarks made by Ruto, the maritime dispute was settled by the ICJ and there is no turning point on that. The court verdict favoured Somalia’s sovereignty,” Omar stated.

“Perhaps the (discussion on the) implementation on the court ruling is possible, but the ownership (of the sea) isn’t anything on the table.”

The minister further dismissed that such mediation is to be performed by Djibouti and there was nothing to talk about.

“It came as a surprise to us, and I don’t think there is any dispute between Kenya and Somalia that Djibouti is involved in resolving. I believe the court ruling is final,” the state minister further stated.

According to Somalia, Djibouti has not approached Somalia on this issue yet, but that Mogadishu will decline any such overtures in future.

Neither Kenya nor Djibouti have publicly commented on the claims.

Somalia had sued Kenya at the ICJ back in 2014 seeking to reclaim a part of Kenya’s waters in the Indian Ocean.

In October 2021, the Court agreed with most of the claims and dropped others.

The ICJ decisions are binding to the parties and have no option for appeal. However, the two countries will need to actually re-demarcate the boundaries as decided by the Court.

ICJ Ruling in Summary

-The case concerned 100,000 sq km triangle in the Indian Ocean that is thought to be rich in oil and gas. Further studies to some of the identified blocks however showed the oil was not viable

-Kenya argued the maritime border runs in a line due east from where the two countries meet at the coast.

-Somalia, however, argued in court that tit should follow on in the same direction as their land border.

-Judges rejected Somalia’s demand for reparations after accusing Kenya of violating its territorial integrity

-The 14 Judges sitting at the Hague redrew the boundary, establishing a new demarcation line between the disputed territory. They rejected Kenya’s claim that Somalia had previously agreed to a demarcation.

Somalia says it will not accept mediation over a maritime dispute with Kenya, which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided in October 2021. Somalia’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs […]

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Kenya Azimio demonstrations: Schools shut as police battle protesters

Kenya has closed schools in the country’s two main cities as a three-day opposition protest kicks off with demonstrators confronting police.

Tear gas has been fired in the capital, Nairobi, and the coastal city of Mombasa at those protesting over the high cost of living.

Many businesses have remained shut over fears of looting, with people scared of getting caught in violent clashes.

Last week, at least 14 people died in protests – 10 were shot dead by police.

Human rights organisations have strongly criticised the police for what they call their excessive use of force last Wednesday. More than 50 children were admitted to hospital after tear gas was fired into their classroom in Nairobi.

The opposition called for a series of protests after tax hikes were introduced last month by the government of President William Ruto

The police chief has said the protests are a threat to national security and has deployed riot officers across the country.

In some towns, including Nairobi and Nakuru in the Rift Valley, protesters have barricaded roads and been hurling stones at police.

There are reports of several people being injured in such confrontations in Migori, a county in the west of the country.

Christine Wema, the director of Migori’s Oruba nursing home, told the BBC that two men had been brought into the facility with leg injuries, probably caused by rubber bullets used by the police

Another person had been admitted with breathing problems after a tear-gas canister was lobbed in his house, she said.

Rights groups and diplomats have expressed deep concerns about the situation in Kenya, urging the government and opposition to resolve their differences peacefully.

The two sides had agreed to hold talks earlier in the year, but the opposition said Mr Ruto’s team was not committed to resolving their complaints.

These include the soaring cost of living as well as the conduct of the elections last year, narrowly won by President Ruto, who promised to champion the interests of the poor.

However, since taking office, he has done little to tackle inflation and his government has raised taxes – doubling the VAT on fuel.

Tensions are likely to be fuelled further by reports in the local media that the security details for opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka were removed ahead of this week’s protests.

Security officers assigned to Ngina Kenyatta, widow of Kenya’s first president, have also been reportedly withdrawn. She is also the mother of ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is an ally of Mr Odinga and who has been accused by th government of funding the protests.

Kenya has closed schools in the country’s two main cities as a three-day opposition protest kicks off with demonstrators confronting police. Tear gas has been fired in the capital, Nairobi, […]

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40 civilians killed over 3 days in DRC’s Ituri Province, UN says

At least 40 civilians died in attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province over the course of three days last week, the UN said Tuesday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said it was “sounding the alarm on a significant escalation of violence” in the area.

Armed groups have terrorized civilians in the former Zaire’s eastern region, where Ituri is located, for decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.

“In the past week, at least 40 civilians were killed in the span of three days in attacks by armed groups near the city of Bunia,” Ocha said.

“Overall, more than 600 civilians have been killed in Ituri this year, while some 345,000 have been displaced,” it said.

“We strongly condemn this violence and call on all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights principles,” Ocha said.

In the first quarter of 2023, the UN and its partners supported 460,000 people in Ituri, but a representative said the UN humanitarian response plan for the DRC is only 30 percent funded.

“We urge the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of the DRC and provide the support needed to address this spiraling humanitarian crisis,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general.

At least 40 civilians died in attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province over the course of three days last week, the UN said Tuesday. […]

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Region worries as Sudan rivals harden positions, sinking deeper into civil war

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a new probe into alleged war crimes in Sudan, its chief prosecutor said Thursday, expressing major concerns over the escalating violence.

Karim Khan made the announcement in a report to the UN Security Council, after three months of war between feuding generals have plunged the country back into chaos.

The ICC has been investigating crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region since 2005 after a referral by the UN Security Council, and the Hague-based court has charged former leader Omar al-Bashir with offences, including genocide.

Allegations of atrocities have mounted during the recent fighting, with the top UN official in Sudan calling for the warring sides to face accountability.

About 3,000 people have been killed and three million displaced since violence erupted between Sudan army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group.

Darfur massacres again?

The UN has warned of possible new massacres in Darfur, saying Thursday that the bodies of at least 87 people allegedly killed last month by the RSF and their allies had been buried in a mass grave in Darfur.

“The simple truth is that we are… in peril of allowing history to repeat itself — the same miserable history,” Mr Khan told the UNSC
“If this oft-repeated phrase of ‘never again’ is to mean anything, it must mean something here and now to the people of Darfur that have lived with this uncertainty and pain and the scars of conflict for almost two decades.”

He said there have been a “wide range of communications” about alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity since fighting broke out in April, while the risk of further offenses was “deepened by the clear and long-standing disregard demonstrated by relevant actors, including the government of Sudan, for their obligations.”

The US State Department welcomed the new probe.

“Let this be a message to all who commit atrocities, in Sudan and elsewhere, that such crimes are an affront to humanity,” spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Even before the recent fighting broke out, Mr Khan said in the report, there was a deterioration of Sudan’s cooperation with UN investigators.

Sudan’s UN ambassador denied this.

“The government of Sudan has constantly cooperated with the ICC,” ambassador Al-Harith Idriss Al-Harith Mohamed said.

The lack of justice for crimes in Darfur in the early 2000s, when Bashir set his Janjaweed militia upon non-Arab minorities, had “sown the seeds for this latest cycle of violence and suffering,” he added.

Bashir was charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture and the court has been demanding his extradition to The Hague ever since, without success.

After Bashir was toppled in 2019, Sudan pledged to hand him over to the court for prosecution, but this never happened.

Even before the recent fighting there was a “further deterioration in cooperation from Sudanese authorities,” Khan said.

Bashir, 79, and Ahmad Harun and Abdel Raheem Hussein, two leading figures in the former dictator’s government who are also wanted by the ICC, are still at large. So far, the only suspect to face trial for violence committed in Sudan is senior Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman, also known by the nom de guerre Ali Kushayb. Rahman’s defence lawyers are expected to open their case next month, and Khan said the latest Sudan fighting “cannot be permitted to jeopardise” the trial.

The United Nations says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million people displaced in the 2003-4 Darfur conflict.

A summit of leaders from Sudan’s neighbours met in Cairo Thursday, urging an end to the fighting, but gun battles, explosions and the roar of fighter jets continued in the capital Khartoum.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres early in the week expressed concern that the skirmishes had pushed the country to the brink of a full-scale civil war, potentially destabilising the region.

This warning came as the fighting in the capital Khartoum escalated, with air strikes reported on July 9 near the presidential palace and in Omdurman, as well as machine gun and artillery fire in the city’s south.

Mr Guterres condemned the air strike, which a spokesman said killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens.

Peace efforts were stepped up as the war entered its third month and took an ethnic turn.

But the battle to save Sudan is turning into a toxic mix of suspicions, political self-serving and uncertainty.

And as violence spread across the country, including Kordofan, Darfur and Blue Nile, displacing three million people, 800,000 of them beyond the country’s borders, mediators are struggling to have adversaries cease fire.

Contest for legitimacy

One problem, that came out this week, is the struggle for General Burhan to present himself as the bona fide leader of Sudan. His side has thus refused a portrayal by mediators that he is equal to his rival Daglo.

Al-Burhan rejected — once again — a quartet of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) led by Kenya President William Ruto. His problem with Dr Ruto is that the Kenyan leader is allegedly close to Daglo, with whom he did business in the past under the regime of Omar al-Bashir. Dr Ruto, however, has stated that the Sudan protagonists must stop fighting.

“The situation in Sudan is dire: Millions of people have been displaced while lives lost has hit more than 2,000,” Dr Ruto said.

“The intensity and scale of humanitarian crisis is a harrowing tragedy that calls for a bold and an all-inclusive peace dialogue,” Dr Ruto said in Addis Ababa on July 10, where he met with Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and representatives from South Sudan and Djibouti, who form the Igad Quartet on Sudan.

“The Igad Quartet implores the parties to this conflict to declare and observe an unconditional ceasefire and establish a humanitarian zone — spanning a radius of 30km in Khartoum — to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

President Ruto, who leads the quartet, thinks this can help resume the final phase of the political process, paving the way for the formation of an inclusive transitional process. Except Burhan wants him out, and Khartoum has warned it could leave the bloc if Ruto continues to impose himself on it.

Igad is chaired by Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti, but Dr Ruto has been seen to take a leading role in pushing its role in peacekeeping in the Horn of Africa. But that has not gone down well with Gen Burhan, who also lay into Dr Abiy, accusing him of suggesting there is a leadership vacuum in Khartoum.

Gen Burhan led a coup, cooperating with Daglo, on October 25, 2021 and toppled the transitional government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Hamdok’s shadow has lingered on, however, and sources told The EastAfrican, the Igad Quartet wants him to be a part of the inclusive political process that could bring together other players beyond the SAF and RSF.

After the meeting in which representatives of SAF and RSF were invited, the Quartet suggested a non-fly zone on Sudan, a 30km-radius humanitarian corridor in Khartoum, a possible deployment of the now dormant East African Standby Force as well as awithdrawal of heavy artillery from the warfront.

All these were rejected by Khartoum — or Burhan.

The Sudan Foreign ministry dismissed the Addis meeting as an imposition.

“The disrespect of Igad towards the opinions of its member states will cause the Sudanese government to rethink the utility of its membership in the organisation,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We denounce his (Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s) call for an air embargo and disarmament of heavy artillery, contrary to his existing direct positions and understandings with the President of the Transitional Sovereignty Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The Government of Sudan considers the above statements as an unacceptable infringement on the sovereignty of the Sudanese state.”

Igad’s efforts are not isolated.

This week, Egypt also attempted another go at solving the conflict, where regional leaders of South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti tried, in vain, earlier, to pull off a face-to-face meeting between the two protagonists. Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi gathered counterparts from Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Chad and Libya under the Sudan Neighbouring Summit and there was no concrete solution on whether there will be a face-to-face meeting between SAF and RSF.

Acknowledgement

“The summit is concerned by the escalation of the conflict, repeated violations of the various ceasefire agreements and the spread of violence outside of Khartoum to the other parts of Sudan particularly in Darfur as well as Kordofan where it is assuming ethnic and religious dimensions,” the leaders said.

The Egypt summit chaired by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi agreed to establish a ministerial mechanism that will convene its first meeting in Chad to set an executive action plan to stop the fighting and to reach a comprehensive settlement to the crisis in Sudan.
But at least the warring generals acknowledged the Cairo process.

RSF has in the past seen Egypt as leaning towards Burhan, as shown in the early days of the war, when they briefly detained Egyptian troops caught in up the war on Sudan soil, where they had been training local soldiers under Ssf.

There may be another problem, however. When the violence erupted on April 15, the contest was mainly between Saf and RSF. Now, even the main protagonists cannot control its spread.

Last month, South Darfur, for example, saw its biggest eruption of violence causing at least 30 deaths between June 23 and 27, humanitarian agencies reported.

First it was RSF versus Saf in Nyala town, then in West Darfur, a situational report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said there had been executions as well as roadside assassinations of travellers.

In the Blue Nile, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North al-Hilu faced up with Saf, according to a statement by the local UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (Unitams).

For Egypt and Ethiopia, however, their involvement may be involuntary: They have received a combined 500,000 refugees since the war, making it a new burden on their soil. The two also share the Nile with Sudan, and this sharing has been a subject of long running row.

Sudan remains the biggest headache in Africa, however, and what is complicating the conflict there is the disparate interests in the region and beyond due to security and economic interests.

It does not help matters that some key players, such as South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, CAR, Egypt, Chad, and Eritrea, are also struggling with their own internal conflicts and political crises.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who had taken the initiative to use his past association with the two Sudan generals to bring them together, appears to be taking a backseat. President Kiir and Djibouti’s Guelleh did not attend the July 10 Igad summit in Addis Ababa.

The African Union, Igad, the Jeddah process led by the US and Saudi Arabia, and the League of Arab Nations scrambled without success to come up with a solution. Mediators in Jeddah accused parties of not being serious with the search for peace.

Egypt, a former colonial co-ruler of Sudan, has immense vested interests, including long running military cooperation, and the fact that Sudan is an ally on Cairo’s position on the use of the Nile.

Mohamed Anis Salem, a member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Relations, says Egypt must assume a leading role in diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the war, given the magnitude of its interests in Sudan, especially now that others already have tried and failed.

But, then, Cairo’s decision in June that requires all Sudanese to obtain visas to enter Egypt has, according to Human Rights Watch, drastically reduced access to safety for women, children, and older people fleeing the ongoing conflict. Egypt has to date received more than 250,000 refugees from Sudan.

Sudan, Africa’s third-largest country in land area, remains a key pillar of stability in the continent, especially the Eastern African region.

Case for sanctions

In the meantime, the United Kingdom on July 12 imposed sanctions on six companies considered to be supporting or benefiting from the conflict in Sudan.

The businesses are three each associated with the leadership of Saf and RSF. The sanctions will ensure that any assets held in the UK by these conglomerates and companies will be frozen.

The UK government announced that the strict measures will cut funding sources and pressure the warring parties to engage in the peace process, allow access to humanitarian aid, and end atrocities against the Sudanese people.

According to the UK, the companies associated with the RSF are Al-Junaid, a conglomerate set up by the paramilitary leader Gen Daglo, which has provided tens of millions of dollars in financial backing for the militia, enabling it to sustain the fight.

The other is GSK Advance Company Ltd, a key front owned by the RSF, providing some funding to the militia to support the purchase of war materials, and Tradive General Trading Co, a company supplying RSF with funds and materiel, including vehicles retrofitted with machineguns for patrolling the streets.

Associated with Saf is Defence Industries Systems (DIS), a conglomerate that provides finances for Gen Burhan DIS has more than 200 companies and makes a profit of $2 billion per annum.

Others are Sudan Master Technology, a company involved in the sale of arms with close commercial ties to DIS, the economic and manufacturing arm of the Sudan Armed Forces, which supplies it with funds and equipment, and Zadna International Company for Investment Ltd, another DIS subsidiary reported to be one of its top three “major earners.” The US had imposed similar sanctions a month ago, seeking to curtail a supply of weapons and money to the parties.

“The Government of Sudan welcomes the outcomes of the summit of Sudan’s neighbouring countries… We also extend our thanks to the neighbouring countries of Sudan that have expressed positions supportive of the security and stability of Sudan,” said a statement.

The RSF also welcomed the outcome of the meeting.

“We welcome the Sudanese neighbouring countries summit, calling for the integration of all international and regional efforts to unify the proposed initiatives to facilitate and expedite the comprehensive resolution, particularly with the Jeddah platform and the Igad initiative,” RSF said a statement.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a new probe into alleged war crimes in Sudan, its chief prosecutor said Thursday, expressing major concerns over the escalating violence. Karim Khan made the […]

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‘Maandamano’: Chaos, rebellion as Kenyans protest over high cost of living

Chaos. Anarchy. Disarray. Unruliness. Mutiny. Rebellion. Six words that define the scenes witnessed across the country on Wednesday as thousands protested against the high cost of living and the Finance Act 2023. But six words that, in the context of the civil unrest, are scant definitions or descriptions of the wave of violence that engulfed the country on a day that President William Ruto was hosting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and on the day that Azimio leader Raila Odinga vowed to lead the nation in a protest movement against the ruling Kenya Kwanza’s policies.

In the end, Mr Odinga did not need to physically lead the demonstrations. He did not even need to make his signature appearance at Kamukunji Grounds in the city atop his car. For in the six-or-so-hours between sunrise and the time he called a press briefing to announce the cancellation of the Kamukunji rally, parts of the country had already ground to a halt. Mobs of rioters had disobeyed a police directive not to venture out and protest, and they had been met with brute police force. There were reports of seven deaths as scores were injured.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the boom-boom of gun salutes had echoed from the lawns of State House in Nairobi as President Ruto welcomed Mr Raisi. Barely a kilometre away on Ngong Road, a bunch of young men had sneaked out of Kibra and were heading towards the city for a face-off with the police. In Kisii, rioters were already on the streets, as they were in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nyeri, Murang’a and Nakuru.

These contrasting images were a remarkable commentary of the two worlds in Kenya; one where the rule of law and order carried the day, and the other where civil disobedience brought economies, livelihoods, and even lives, to a violent end. One where the President was unperturbed by the disorder outside the gate to his office and was in fact on a diplomatic foray, and one where thousands poured to the streets, burning tyres, ejecting passengers from matatus, chanting anti-government slogans and engaging police officers in day-long running battles.

If Kisii was the poster child of a region engulfed in total chaos and pandemonium, the small settlement of Mlolongo on the outskirts of the city was the epicentre of riots that disrupted transport, vandalised the Nairobi Expressway, and generally caused mayhem. So bad was the violence in Mlolongo that the ‘Nation’ team there reported the deployment of what appeared to be Recce Squad officers, the special, highly trained police unit from Ruiru that has in recent days only been deployed on VIP protection assignments and anti-terror operations.

Video footage from the scene showed the burnt shells of a pick-up truck and what appeared to be a small truck upturned in the middle of the road. In the far distance, the dividing wall of the expressway had been vandalised, the iron fence looted and the thousands of flowers lining it crashed onto the scorched tarmac.

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Chaos. Anarchy. Disarray. Unruliness. Mutiny. Rebellion. Six words that define the scenes witnessed across the country on Wednesday as thousands protested against the high cost of living and the Finance Act 2023. […]

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Iran President Raisi attacks West on LGBTQ rights in Uganda visit

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday launched into a condemnation of Western attitudes on homosexuality during a visit to Uganda which has just introduced some of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world.

Raisi, on a mission to strengthen ties with the first trip by an Iranian leader to Africa in 11 years, called out the West at a press conference with President Yoweri Museveni after talks with the veteran Ugandan leader.

“The West today is trying to promote the idea of homosexuality and by promoting homosexuality they are trying to end the generation of human beings,” Raisi announced.

Museveni signed the bill into law on May 29, triggering outrage among human rights groups, the United Nations and LGBTQ activists as well as Western powers.

The new law makes “aggravated homosexuality” a capital offence and penalties for consensual same-sex relations of up to life in prison.

Raisi told the press conference the West was “acting against inheritance and culture of nations”.

The Iranian leader also offered Museveni support for the major project to build a domestic oil refinery and pipeline that has been opposed by environmental groups and faced legal action in France and criticism in the European Parliament.

Raisi said Tehran was ready to share its oil industry experience, while the West was “not generally interested to see countries who enjoy great resources and national reserves to be independent”.

The visit comes as the Islamic Republic tries to shore up diplomatic support to ease its international isolation, with Raisi due to travel to Zimbabwe on Thursday.

He had met Kenyan President William Ruto early Wednesday in Nairobi, describing his visit to the East African powerhouse as “a turning point in the development of relations” between the two countries.

He then flew to the Ugandan city of Entebbe, where he was welcomed with a gun salute and military parade, public broadcaster UBC showed.

He is due to meet with his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday. 

Africa has emerged as a diplomatic battleground in recent months, with Russia and the West vying for support over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which has had a devastating impact on the continent, sending food prices soaring.

Western powers have also sought to deepen trade ties with the continent, along with India and China, which have been on an infrastructure spending spree in Africa.

Raisi said his talks with Ruto reflected “the determination and resolve of both countries for expansion of economic and trade cooperation, political cooperation, cultural cooperation”.

Ruto described Iran as “a critical strategic partner” and said the two sides had signed five memoranda of understanding covering information technology, investment, fisheries and other areas.

“These memoranda will enhance and further deepen our bilateral relations for sustainable growth and development,” he said.

Ruto told reporters that Raisi had also shared plans for Iran to set up a plant in the port city of Mombasa “to manufacture an indigenous Iranian vehicle that has now been given the Kiswahili name, ‘Kifaru’, meaning rhino.”

‘Common political views’

Iran’s official IRNA news agency said Raisi’s delegation includes the foreign minister as well as senior businesspeople. 

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani had expressed optimism that the trip could help bolster economic and trade ties with African nations. 

He also said on Monday that Tehran and the African continent share “common political views”, without elaborating.

Iran has stepped up its diplomacy in recent months to reduce its isolation and offset the impact of crippling sanctions reimposed since the 2018 withdrawal of the United States from a painstakingly negotiated nuclear deal.

On Saturday, Raisi welcomed Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf in a bid to boost ties with Algiers.

Last week, Iran became a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which includes Russia, China and India. 

In March, Tehran agreed to restore ties with regional rival Saudi Arabia under a China-mediated deal. It has since been looking to re-establish relations with other countries in the region including Egypt and Morocco. 

In June, Raisi undertook a Latin American tour that included Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba before a trip to Indonesia.         

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday launched into a condemnation of Western attitudes on homosexuality during a visit to Uganda which has just introduced some of the harshest anti-gay laws in […]

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Let’s support young people doing small businesses

I recently met a girl called ‘Zai’. She has a fascinating story of resilience. But the greatest lesson in her story is that our young people must never give up, no matter the challenges they come across with.

Zai was a Form Four leaver. Unfortunately, she failed her Form Four National exams. One day, Zai’s father, a stern man with high expectations, confronted her with disappointment in his eyes. “There is nothing else I can do for you since you have failed Form Four exams,” he said in a sordid tone. Those words struck Zai’s heart like a dagger, leaving her feeling lost and defeated. Note ‘Zai’ is not a real name but a hypothetical one.

Being determined to change her circumstances, Zai made a bold decision. She would venture to Dar es Salaam city, where opportunities seemed abundant.

With hope in her eyes and a heavy heart, she bid farewell to her beloved village and embarked on a journey to the big city. It was her grandma who provided the fare.

However, life in the city was not easy. It turned out to be harsh and unforgiving for young Zai. She found herself as a house helper in the rules of an unkind employer. To her dismay, an entire year went by without being paid. That is a story for many girls employed as house helper.

Feeling trapped and exploited, Zai confided in a kind neighbour who lived nearby.

The neighbour, moved by her plight, decided to take her in and offer her sanctuary from the hardships she faced. Little did Zai know that that act of kindness would be a turning point in her life!

Her neighbour was a compassionate and wise person. She introduced her to Mwenge Market, a vibrant part of Dar es Salaam city. Zai took a leap of faith and borrowed Sh20,000 to buy a small assortment of second-hand clothes.

When I met Zai, it had been a month since her business had started flourishing. With each sale she made, she diligently set aside a portion of her earnings to repay the money she had borrowed. After four months, I met Zai again, and said she was struggling to settle and support her parents in the village.

“One of the difficult moments in Dar was when some girls approached me to engage in prostitution” narrated Zai. However, she firmly stated that she held dear to her values and refused to compromise. Zai’s story is a testament that girls should not forsake their morals and dignity for a living.

Parents influence their children’s lives, and their decisions can profoundly impact their children’s future.

Unfortunately, there are instances where parents make choices that go against the best interests of their children. Zai’s story is a painful reminder that this can happen to other children.

Every person engaged in business has a unique story to narrate. Society needs to support business individuals by purchasing their products and contribute to their success. Zai’s journey is about resilience, hard work, and an absence of bitterness despite the many challenges encountered.

Parents should be the pillars of all support and guidance to their children, offering encouragement and understanding during difficult times.

Contrary, Zai’s father responded with a harsh dismissal of her daughter. It’s a hard reality that sometimes even those expected to protect and nurture children fail to provide the support and understanding the children’s need.

We MUST never define our kids solely on their academic performance. Every child possesses talent, dreams, and potential. All these should not be overshadowed by a single setback. For instance, for Zai’s father, instead of abandoning her, he could have explored alternative paths and solutions to help her find a true calling and achieve her dreams.

I recently met a girl called ‘Zai’. She has a fascinating story of resilience. But the greatest lesson in her story is that our young people must never give up, […]

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Tear gas, arrests at Kenya protest over tax hike plans

Kenyan police fired tear gas on opposition leader Raila Odinga’s convoy on Friday as people joined anti-government protests in several cities over a harsh cost-of-living crisis and a raft of controversial tax hikes.

“Tear gas was fired on Odinga’s motorcade after he addressed a mass rally in the capital Nairobi,” AFP correspondents said, and police took similar action to break up protests in the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa as well as Kisumu, an opposition stronghold in the Lake Basin region.

Police were out in force for the protests, the latest called by Odinga this year over the policies made by President William Ruto’s government.

At a rally conducted on Friday, Odinga — who lost the close-fought August 2022 election to Ruto — announced plans to collect 10 million signatures in a bid to remove his arch-rival from office.

“Kenyans elected leaders to parliament and they have betrayed them,” he said to cheers.

“Ruto himself who took over power illegally has betrayed Kenyans,” he added.

Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja alliance had called for the protests over the impact of the new taxes on Kenyans already suffering economic hardship and soaring prices for basic necessities.

Last week, Ruto signed into law a finance bill which is expected to generate more than $2.1 billion (Ksh295.89 billion) for the government’s depleted coffers and help repair the heavily indebted economy. 

The Finance Act 2023 provides for new taxes or increases on a range of basic goods such as fuel and food and mobile money transfers, as well as a controversial levy on all taxpaying Kenyans to fund a housing scheme.

Court challenge

Critics accuse Ruto of rowing back on promises made during his election campaign, when he declared himself the champion of impoverished Kenyans and pledged to improve their economic fortunes.

However, he has defended the taxes, saying they will help create jobs and reduce public borrowing.

The high court in Nairobi last Friday suspended implementation of the legislation after a senator filed a case challenging its constitutional legality. 

Despite the ruling, Kenya’s energy regulator Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) later that day announced a hike in pump prices to take account of the doubling of VAT to 16 percent as stipulated in the law.

In Nairobi’s central business district, where main government buildings are located, police were patrolling on foot, in vehicles and on horseback, while several roads in the capital were closed.

“I hope this demo will make a difference,” Alex Dwisa, a 24-year-old manual worker, told AFP.

“The cost of living is too high, I don’t have Ksh10,000 ($70) to send my two kids to school.”

In Odinga’s bastion of Kisumu, a man in a vehicle mounted with a loudspeaker was mobilising residents to turn out.

“We must listen to Baba (as Raila is locally known). He said we have to demonstrate today. Come out and join us to liberate our country,” he said.

The protests have been dubbed “Saba Saba” (Seven Seven) as they are taking place on the seventh day of the seventh month, symbolising the day in 1990 that the opposition rose up to demand the return of multiparty democracy.

Kenyan police fired tear gas on opposition leader Raila Odinga’s convoy on Friday as people joined anti-government protests in several cities over a harsh cost-of-living crisis and a raft of […]

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South Sudan’s Kiir pledges country’s first election

South Sudan’s leader Salva Kiir on Tuesday pledged that delayed elections set for next year would go ahead as planned and that he would run for president. 

Kiir, a towering guerrilla commander, has been the nation’s only president since he led it to independence from Sudan in 2011. 

The world’s youngest nation has lurched from crisis to crisis during the tenure and is held together by a fragile unity government between Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar. 

It was meant to conclude a transition period with elections in February 2023, but the government has so far failed to meet key provisions of the agreement, including drafting a constitution.

“I welcome the endorsement to run for presidency in 2024,” Kiir told supporters of his governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, describing it as a “historic event”.

“We are committed to implement the chapters in the revitalised peace agreement as stated and the election will take place in 2024.” 

No other candidate has declared their candidacy, but historic foe Machar is expected to run. 

In August, the two leaders extended their transitional government by two years beyond the agreed deadline citing the need to address challenges that impeded the implementation of the peace agreement. 

Kiir said on Tuesday that those challenges would be addressed “before the elections” set for December next year. 

One of the poorest countries on the planet despite large oil reserves, South Sudan has spent almost half of its life as a nation at war. 

Almost 400,000 people died in a five-year civil war before Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in 2018 and formed the unity government.

Since then, the country has battled flooding, hunger, violence and political bickering as the promises of the peace agreement have failed to materialise.

The United Nations has repeatedly criticised South Sudan’s leadership for its role in stoking violence, cracking down on political freedoms and plundering public coffers.

The UN envoy to South Sudan Nicholas Haysom warned in March the country faced a “make or break” year in 2023, and its leaders must implement the peace agreement to hold “inclusive and credible” elections next year. 

Haysom stressed Juba had “stated clearly that there would be no more extensions of the timelines” for elections at the end of 2024.

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South Sudan’s leader Salva Kiir on Tuesday pledged that delayed elections set for next year would go ahead as planned and that he would run for president.  Kiir, a towering […]

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Kenya households, investors at crossroads over Treasury, CBK policy

Investors and households in Kenya are caught up in a divergence of policies between the National Treasury and the central bank as the new administration grapple with a wave of inflationary pressures, high debt servicing costs and a slowdown in economic growth.

But economists warn that the tightening of both fiscal and monetary policies concurrently by the National Treasury and CBK is a recipe for economic downturn, casting doubt on the government’s efforts to tame inflation, support local businesses and attract foreign direct investment.

Yvonne Mhango, Group Chief Economist and Director of Research at Equity Group Holdings, said that a tighter policy environment both on the fiscal and the monetary policy side implies downside risk to GDP growth.

“The Finance Bill proposes measures that reflect fiscal restraint, which will slow growth going forward. For businesses, it implies a slowdown in retained earnings available for re-investment, which undermines growth prospects,” she said.

The government, apparently dancing to the tune of the Bretton Woods institutions in economic management in efforts to seek debt relief and cheaper credit, is bracing to implement the controversial Finance Act 2023, which spells punitive taxation measures, including doubling of value added tax on fuel to 16 percent and a mandatory housing levy on salaried workers.

The proposed fiscal measures are aimed at boosting revenue collections and reducing budget deficit estimated at Ksh718 billion ($5.12 billion) in the 2023/24 financial year but lay the foundation for increased inflationary pressures triggered by high cost of production and transport.

This week, the Central Bank in a surprise move raised its benchmark rate by 100 basis points to 10.5 percent, arguing the policy shift is to anchor inflation expectations as a result of the tightened fiscal policies.

This was the first key policy action under the newly appointed governor Kamau Thugge, who assumed the office on June 19, replacing Patrick Njoroge after eight years in the role.

IMF Working Paper

This ushers in a high interest rate regime, where households and businesses will find it difficult to access bank loans for expansion and new investments.

According to Reginald Kadzutu, chief executive at the asset management firm Amana Capital Ltd, inflation caused by rising prices of goods and services cannot be controlled by increasing interest rates.

“Taxes affect both owners of capital and labour, but the rate hike will benefit only the owners, creating an even more unequal society,” he said.

The high interest rate will also increase the cost of government borrowing in the domestic market through treasury bills and bonds, making the cost of servicing government debt expensive.

“In terms of the implications of the policy trajectory we are seeing in the economy, it implies that the tightening on the fiscal side, added to the tightening on the monetary policy, we will see some softening of growth going forward,” Ms Mhango said.

According to her, a higher tax burden means that households have less disposable income and hence a slowdown in spending and consumption in the economy, which has implications on GDP growth.

Kenya is under immense pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to raise taxes and remove subsidies, particularly on fuel, to deal with persistent budget deficit and to maintain a tight monetary policy regime.

Yet, the IMF Working Paper dated 1998 on ‘Coordination of Monetary and Fiscal Policies’ said a balanced monetary and fiscal policy mix is conducive to maintain an economy on its equilibrium path by controlling inflation and promoting financial conditions for sustainable growth.

In effect, setting a restrictive monetary policy to offset a lax fiscal policy may crowd out private investment and significantly increase the borrowing costs for the government.

“The establishment and development of domestic capital markets require an even greater degree of monetary and fiscal policy coordination,” said the IMF.

In 2016, a dispute erupted between the National Treasury and the Central Bank over who was to blame for the rising cost of living after inflation spilled out of the government upper limit of 7.5 per cent. While the Treasury argued that CBK should be vigilant over all aspects of inflation that caused the cost of living to rise by 8.01 per cent in December 2015, the regulator said it could only police risks arising from excess money supply in the market.

The overall inflation for May 2023 rose to eight percent from 7.9 percent in April as a result of high food and energy prices.

Ken Gichinga, chief economist at Mentoria Consulting, says lack of coordination between monetary and fiscal policies and the resultant double tightening on both ends will see a slowdown in business performance.

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Investors and households in Kenya are caught up in a divergence of policies between the National Treasury and the central bank as the new administration grapple with a wave of […]

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The double-edged sword of Africa’s rising petrol price

Several African countries will in July be grappling with increased fuel prices as governments impose more taxes and drop subsidies, moves which, players in the industry argue, present both risks and benefits for the continent’s development.

As Kenya doubles the value-added tax on petroleum products to 16 percent from July 1, Tanzania is introducing excise duty of Tsh80 ($0.033) per litre and increasing the fuel levy by Tsh100 ($0.042). These are expected to significantly increase fuel prices in the two countries.

In Nigeria, petroleum prices have nearly doubled as citizens went into panic-buying after the new administration announced plans to scrap the fuel subsidy that has kept prices below half the real cost since the 1970s.

Coming against the backdrop of international oil market disruptions, experts argue these changes will not only exacerbate the high cost of living that Africans are already struggling with but will also impact the economies wholesomely.

Some players in the energy sector say the increased fuel prices will suppress demand for the products, shrink revenues and force them to lay off some of their staff.

The impact won’t stop in the oil sector, they warn.

“If demand reduces, the entire private sector will have to take measures to reduce their overhead costs, including reducing their workforce,” a senior executive in a regional energy company, who asked not to be named because his firm is still lobbying the government, told The EastAfrican.

According to him, the rise in fuel prices will curtail expenditure on most commodities, reducing the government’s revenue collection from value-added tax and eventually slow the entire economy.

“It’s a zero-sum game. If revenue is not met, government will take austerity measures, and if the state doesn’t spend as it should, it will depress the entire economy,” he said.

In Kenya and Tanzania, the new taxes come after the respective governments dropped fuel subsidies due to persistent calls by multilateral financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

While the lenders argued that the subsidies were unsustainable and put undue pressure on the countries’ budgets, they have also in the past discouraged the subsidisation of fossil fuels because they “encourage pollution, contributing to climate change and premature deaths from local air pollution,” a document on the IMF website says.

Clean energy bonanza

Some stakeholders in the energy sector contend that scrapping subsidies and imposing more taxes on petroleum products is the best way to discourage their consumption and accelerate transition into renewable energy sources to beat the 2030 net-zero emission deadline.

IMF’s principal environmental fiscal policy expert Ian Parry argues that levying more taxes on fossil fuels is the most effective way to disincentivise their continued use, in favour of clean energy sources, thereby limiting the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the energy sector.

“Other policies are less effective than carbon taxes,” Parry wrote in a column in the lender’s monthly publication Finance and Development.

“For example, incentives for renewable power generation do not promote switching from coal to gas or from these fuels to nuclear, do not reduce electricity demand, and, not least, do not promote emission reductions beyond the power-generation sector.”

Kenneth Oyakhire, managing director of GE Gas Power for Sub-Saharan Africa, says that although the increased fuel prices on the continent will indeed lead to increased inflation, they are for the greater good of the continent in the long run.

“In the short-term, it will stifle business activity for maybe 3 to 6 months, but there is a huge possibility that over the next one year, there will be a boom of opportunities to sell clean energy more,” he told The EastAfrican.

According to Mr Oyakhire, the increased taxation on petroleum products will not just discourage the consumption of these fossil fuels but will also show that African governments have the political will to lead transition into cleaner energy sources and to take meaningful action to tame fossil fuel use.

This, he said, will attract more investors willing to finance the continent’s renewable energy projects and in the end fast-track Africa’s transition from fossil fuels amidst increasing impacts of climate change-related calamities.

“What governments need to do [to avoid backlash from citizens] is to demonstrate that there is value from the additional taxes, or withdrawn subsidies,” he said.

Collective pain

“Everyone is going to feel the pain, in terms of inflation and higher oil prices, but it is only natural that if we all understand that there is going to be a better tomorrow, we can bear with the pain for a short while.”

The IMF says, mass protests resulting from withdrawal of subsidies or increment of taxes on fossil fuels are the primary reason governments across the globe have been reluctant to take such action, albeit the need for it.

They recommend that such reforms should be accompanied with – among other things – transparent and extensive communication with the citizenry on their impact and improving the efficiency of state-owned enterprises.

In Kenya, the government has admitted that, apart from looking to collect more revenue from the additional taxes, it is also meant to discourage fossil fuel use to reduce its impact on climate.

Kimani Kuria, chair of the Finance and Planning Committee in the National Assembly, told legislators that while the state has increased VAT on petroleum products, it has incentivised cleaner energy sources such as biofuels, which are now zero-rated.

“There is a global discussion on climate change and going green. Many countries around the world are moving away from fossil fuels to the consumption of clean energy,” Mr Kuria said.

“If we continue to incentivise use of clean energy, we are going to get away from these fossil fuels and reduce the pressure on our [oil] imports, leading to the stabilisation of our shilling and make the movement of particular sectors much cheaper.”

Several African countries will in July be grappling with increased fuel prices as governments impose more taxes and drop subsidies, moves which, players in the industry argue, present both risks […]

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Kenyans brace for tough July as President Ruto signs tax bill into law

Kenyan President William Ruto on Monday signed into law a Bill that raises taxes on a wide range of items, the presidency said, defying criticism that it will pile more economic hardship on citizens.

The new tax package was approved by parliament last week and will double tax on fuel to 16 percent and introduce a new housing levy, a move expected to have a ripple effect in a country hamstrung by high inflation.

“President Ruto has assented to the Finance Bill. Signed at State House,” the presidency said in a message to journalists, accompanied by pictures of him signing the document. Dr Ruto, who took office in September after a bitterly fought election, is seeking to fill the government’s depleted coffers and repair a heavily-indebted economy inherited from his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, who splurged on major infrastructure projects.

Kenya is now sitting on a public debt mountain of almost $70 billion or about 67 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and repayment costs have jumped as the shilling sinks to record lows of around 140 to the dollar.

The new law — expected to generate more than $2.1 billion — will hike taxes on basic goods and services including food and mobile money transfers. People who earn Ksh500,000 ($3,600) a month will now pay 32.5 percent in income taxes while those making Ksh800,000 ($5,700) will pay 35 percent, up from the current 30 percent. Sales tax for small businesses has also been tripled to three percent.

One of the most contentious provisions is a 1.5 percent levy on the salaries of all tax-paying Kenyans that will be matched by employers to fund an affordable housing programme.

A new five percent withholding tax for digital content creators has also been introduced.

‘Mistake and an experiment’ 

The opposition led by Ruto’s rival Raila Odinga has threatened fresh demonstrations over the tax package, saying it will strain already squeezed incomes. “Our position remains that the Bill is a mistake and an experiment Kenyans can ill afford,” Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango told AFP on Monday.

“We had hoped that Ruto could call for its review before signing it,” he said, adding that Odinga’s Azimio alliance will announce its next step at a rally on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the opposition staged several anti-government protests over the cost of living crisis which degenerated sometimes into deadly street clashes between police and demonstrators.

At least a dozen protesters were also arrested this month during a march against the tax proposals.

Critics accuse Ruto of rowing back on promises made during the August 2022 election campaign, when he declared himself the champion of poor Kenyans and pledged to improve their economic fortunes.

But the 56-year-old rags-to-riches businessman has defended the taxes, saying the housing fund will construct homes for the poor and create employment. Kenyans are already feeling the pinch from soaring prices for basic necessities, along with a sharp drop in the value of the local currency.

Economic growth slowed last year to 4.8 percent from 7.6 percent in 2021, reflecting the global fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the worst drought in four decades buffeting the vital agriculture sector.

The Law Society of Kenya has vowed to challenge the finance law in court this week.

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Kenyan President William Ruto on Monday signed into law a Bill that raises taxes on a wide range of items, the presidency said, defying criticism that it will pile more […]

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Hunger, disease stalk Sudan town crowded with displaced

In war-torn Sudan, a Blue Nile River town has become a relative sanctuary from the fighting, but survivors living there endure overcrowding, widespread disease and creeping hunger.

One of the internally displaced people who made it to Wad Madani, a 200-kilometre (125 miles) drive southeast of the embattled capital Khartoum, was mother-of-three Fatima Mohammed.

Then, 10 days ago, she succumbed to illness, leaving behind three children — Ithar, 11, Dalal, nine, and Ibrahim, seven — who now largely fend for themselves in the courtyard of the Al-Jeili Salah school.

They are among hundreds of thousands who have run for their lives since the war erupted in mid-April between two rival generals in the long unstable and poverty-stricken northeast African country.

More than 2,000 people have died in the conflict between the forces of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Many people have found refuge in makeshift camps set up in schools, university dormitories and other buildings in Wad Madani, nestled on a bend of the Blue Nile in a cotton farming region of Al-Jazirah state.

Another survivor, Soukaina Abdel Rahim, now lives with six of her family members in a room in the girls’ dormitory at Al-Jazirah University in the east of Wad Madani.

“For a family, the accommodation is uncomfortable, there is a lack of space and privacy,” she told AFP.

“We share the showers and toilets with 20 other rooms on the floor, each of which accommodates an entire family.”

Malaria rampant

Basic services are scarce in the region which is now sweltering in summer heat and frequent rainy season downpours.

“Often, there are long water and electricity cuts,” said Hanan Adam, who has been displaced with her husband and their four children.

“With the high temperatures and the proliferation of mosquitoes, all my children have contracted malaria,” she added about the disease that was a major killer in the country even before the war.

However, managing to see a doctor in Wad Madani today amounts to a minor miracle.

In one of the town’s camps, the aid group Doctors Without Borders has been able to dispatch just one medical doctor and four nurses for about 2,000 displaced people.

Humanitarian aid groups long active in Sudan have been overwhelmed, and at times targeted, in the war. Many of their Sudanese staff are exhausted or holed up in their homes, while foreign staff wait for visas.

For years millions of Sudanese relied on aid, and now food shortages are becoming ever more dire.

“We have received food parcels but there is no infant milk in them,” Soumaya Omar, a mother of five children aged six months to 10 years, told AFP.

However, she said, amid Sudan’s runaway inflation and massive shortages, “we do not have the means to buy it”.

Malnourished children

Sometimes it is neighbours who jump in and provide meals for those in desperate need, including at the Abdallah Moussa school in the west of Wad Madani.

A small team of young volunteers was distributing plates to families who are unable to cook because the building lacks kitchen facilities.

But such initiatives are not enough in a country where, even before the war, one in three people suffered from hunger.

A doctor who works across the town’s 13 displacement camps told AFP that “malnutrition is beginning to affect children”.

“We are already seeing worrying cases arrive in the clinics of the camps for the displaced,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security fears.

Sudan’s own capacity to produce food has deteriorated further, having already been impacted by water scarcity and decades of sanctions under former dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in 2019.

Unicef said one of Sudan’s many buildings destroyed in the war was Khartoum’s Samil factory which had previously met 60 percent of the nutritional needs for children in need.

According to the UN children’s agency, some 620,000 Sudanese children now suffer from acute malnutrition, and half of them could die if they do not receive help soon.

However, UN and non-government aid agencies are short of funds and, above all, unable to transport what relief goods they have as fighting rages in multiple hotspots across the country.

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In war-torn Sudan, a Blue Nile River town has become a relative sanctuary from the fighting, but survivors living there endure overcrowding, widespread disease and creeping hunger. One of the […]

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