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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Hard times lie ahead for EA citizens as states raise budgets to spur growth

East African governments this week presented their most expensive budgets yet, seeking to reinvigorate their economies, finance expanded government operations and repay ballooning debts.

Economists are warning the region’s citizens to brace for harder times as the fiscal measures proposed in the 2023/24 budgets are wont to further raise the cost of living, cause investor flight in some countries, and result in job losses.

Kenya, the region’s biggest economy, has proposed a $26.3 billion spending plan, while Tanzania has a $19.2 billion budget. The Democratic Repulic of Congo is planning to spend $16 billion, Uganda $13.9 billion, Rwanda $4.7 billion, Burundi $1.5 billion and South Sudan $1.4 billion.

The region’s taxpayers are facing more levies, with Kenya introducing measures to raid payslips of the working class to finance election promises President William Ruto made to his “hustlers,” to shore up forex reserves and spur growth.

In Uganda, the Museveni administration is seeking to borrow to finance some 18 big-ticket infrastructure projects while promising more on household incomes through the Ush1 trillion ($271.9 million) Parish Development Model, a programme the government launched in February 2022 to bring 39 percent of poor Ugandan households into the money economy.

Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu ’s regime has sought more cash to finance an economy shaking out of slumber, with Finance Minister Mwigulu Ncheba proposing to boost domestic revenue collection through a raft of measures while reducing domestic and external borrowing.

Reduced incomes

In Burundi, Finance Minister Audace Niyonzima presented a $1.4 billion budget against a struggling economy where spending will rise 65 percent and the budget deficit is expected to rise to BF728.9 billion ($258.3 million), from BF197.4 billion ($69.9 million) in the ending financial year.

South Sudan and DRC are yet to read their budgets but the estimates have already been made public.

In Kenya, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u, the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, on Thursday presented a Ksh3.68 trillion ($26.3 billion) budget whose implementation will involve raiding the wallets of salaried workers, increasing fuel costs and heavy borrowing.

Salaried employees will part with more to finance the National Health Insurance Fund (2.7 percent) and pay a 1.5 percent of gross salary to support the affordable housing programme in addition to a 35 percent income tax.

Prof Ndung’u proposed an amendment to the Income Tax Act to adjust Pay as Your Earn by introducing two additional tax bands: 32.5 percent for individuals earning monthly incomes between Ksh500,000-Ksh800,000 (($3,570- $5,712), and 35 percent for those earning more than Ksh800,000.

He said the two new bands will affect 26,676 employees, who constitute 0.8 percent of the employed workers.

“It remains to be seen how much additional tax revenue will be generated from the two new tax bands and whether the government will achieve its objective in making the tax system more progressive,” said Dr Benson Okundi, a partner at audit firm PwC.

Prof Ndung’u proposed to allocate Ksh35.3 billion ($252.3 million) to Dr Ruto’s pet project, the housing programme, to reduce mushrooming of slums and create more jobs for the youth.

He proposed to amend the Employment Act, 2007 to introduce a housing levy payable by employers and employees at 1.5 percent of an employee’s gross monthly.

Yet the minister hinted at a possible retrenchment of lower-cadre staff in state corporations. He said the State Corporations Advisory Committee will start “rationalising staff establishment to keep them lean.”

Kenya proposes an increase in VAT of petroleum products from eight percent to 16 percent; zero rating of liquified petroleum gas from VAT and increase of turnover tax from one percent to three percent, with the upper threshold lowered to 25 percent.

The doubling of VAT on fuel will see the cost-of-living skyrocket as fuel has a ripple effect on transport, infrastructure, energy, agriculture and food and housing.

PwC, in its budget review, observed that an increase on VAT on fuel will impact inflation.

“The inflation rate in Kenya rose to eight percent in May 2023, from a ten-month low of 7.9 percent in the prior month. Increase in VAT of petroleum products is likely to have far-reaching consequences,” PwC said.

Prof Ndung’u indicated that the National Assembly will formulate a county revenue bill to provide governance around revenue generation for counties.

The government is seeking to raise Ksh2.57 trillion ($18.4 billion) – the highest amount in its history – from ordinary revenue, amid opposition by lobbies and the opposition in parliament.

Investor concerns

Foreign businesses, through lobbies, have expressed their concerns. In a letter to the National Assembly, Maxwell Okello, CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce, asked legislators to remove several proposals deemed detrimental to business.

Foreign businesses have also taken issue with the digital content monetisation tax – which has now been reduced to five percent from the proposed 15 percent – saying it will put undue burden on digital service firms, which are mostly foreign multinationals.

“The additional administrative requirements and possible additional tax costs may discourage the use of content creators for advertisement and other digital campaigns and kill this budding industry in Kenya,” Okello said.

The proposal to raise income tax for those earning above Ksh500,000 ($3,575) may also discourage foreign investors and expatriates from working in Kenya due to the high taxes.

“We will lose business to other countries that position themselves as global business and lifestyle destinations. The founders of businesses and expatriates have the option of setting up in other markets such as Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa, and those currently in Kenya may relocate to these destinations,” he said.

A top executive in a regional petroleum company who asked not to be named told The EastAfrican the rise in VAT on petroleum products will depress demand, impacting the entire economy.

“In the end it’s a zero-sum game,” he said.

“If demand reduces, the private sector will have to take measures to reduce their overhead costs, including by reducing their workforce. On the other hand, 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.”

However, Prof Ndung’u said the move is meant to enable oil companies “recover the VAT credits that they have been carrying forward over the years.”

On the flip side, foreign businesses in Kenya will now pay a lower corporate income tax of 30 percent – like local firms – down from 37.5 percent, to eliminate ‘discrimination’ of non-resident businesses.

Uganda austerity measures

Uganda’s Ush52.7 trillion ($13.9 billion) is dedicated to poor Ugandans but does not address the high cost of living. Instead, Uganda will borrow more to finance infrastructure.

Finance Minister Matia Kasaija proposed austerity measures, including a freeze on new administrative units, domestic borrowing and rationalisation of agencies to save the government Ush1 trillion ($271.9million) annually.

The decision to look for more credit to fund 18 new infrastructure projects is raising fears of disrupting the country’s debt management, amid risks of aggressive behaviour by local lenders and the consequences of shor-term loans.

The 18 projects are valued at $3.344 billion and are scattered across transport, energy, agricultural, education and ICT sectors.

Uganda borrowed $1.26 billion in the 2021/22 financial year to finance nine projects in those sectors, according to the latest government report.

Some of the new projects are industrial parks, which require a $173.8 million loan, expected from the China Exim Bank; and an Industrial Transformation and Employment Project that bears a $150 million loan from the World Bank.

The Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area Project requires a $518 million loan expected from the World Bank, while the Climate Smart Agriculture Project also bears a $325 million World Bank loan request. In addition, upgrade of Kitgum-Kidepo road carries a loan financing burden of $117.7 million expected from Standard Chartered Bank.

Uganda’s overall public debt portfolio increased from Ush73.5 trillion ($19.6 billion) in June 2022 to Ush86 trillion ($22.8 billion) by end of March 2023, government data shows.

Its annual debt servicing bill is projected to expand from $500 million in 2022/23 to around $1 billion by close of 2024/25, with a debt servicing costs to revenue ratio increase from 25 percent in 2022/23 to 30 percent in 2024/25, according to Bank of Uganda (BoU) data. The debt servicing costs to GDP ratio is forecast to rise from 17 percent to 22 percent in the period.

“We are still examining the viability of all the selected projects together with different lenders but we are confident that all of them will receive funding in the next financial year,” said Patrick Ocailap, deputy secretary to the Treasury at Uganda’s Finance Ministry.

“We also expect debt servicing to GDP ratio to remain at less than 50 percent after absorption of the new projects in government’s infrastructure portfolio in line with strong economic growth patterns.”

Uganda’s top borrowing priority lies with concessional loans for certain projects in the education and health sectors, while commercial loans will be used for a few high-yielding projects, the Ministry of Finance said.

Massive government borrowing is blamed for aggressive investor behaviour in local debt markets and lukewarm short-term credit ratings.

“The government’s latest move appears very risky in the financial markets. Dollar borrowing is very costly today,” argued Allan Lwetabe, director for investment operations at the Deposit Protection Fund of Uganda.

A commercial dollar-denominated loan would cost eight percent per annum over a five-year period. It cost two percent per annum three years ago.

“Borrowing so much in US dollars would also require matching loan repayments with dollar supply flows anchored on export earnings from coffee, gold, tea and fish among others,” Lwetabe told The EastAfrican.

Uganda will need to manage the two issues, as it may require more dollars than the local market has.

Dar plans

Tanzania’s Tsh44.39 trillion ($19.13 billion) budget tabled by Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba is meant to boost domestic revenue collection through a raft of measures while reducing domestic and external borrowing.

Projected domestic revenue has been pegged at Tsh31.38 trillion ($13.52 billion), an increase of 12 percent from the 2022/2023 target of Tsh28.02 trillion ($12.07 billion). It will make up 70.7 percent of the total budget and includes Tsh26.73 trillion ($11.52 billion) from tax collection as new levies, which appeared to target middle-income earners , take effect.

Just Tsh7.57 trillion ($3.26 billion) is expected from external sources, including grants and concessional loans (Tsh5.47 trillion, $2.36 billion) and non-concessional loans (Tsh2.1 trillion, $905.17 million), according to Nchemba.

Concessional borrowing will provide Tsh2.22 trillion ($956.9 million) for key projects compared with Tsh1.65 trillion ($711.2 million) in 2022/2023, while external commercial loans will drop by 30.8 percent from Tsh3 trillion ($1.29 billion) to Tsh2.1 trillion ($905.17 million).

The government expects to borrow Tsh5.44 trillion ($2.34 billion) from the domestic market. Maturing government paper is projected to yield Tsh3.54 trillion ($1.52 billion) while the remaining Tsh1.9 trillion ($818.56 million) will be canvassed from locals to help finance development projects.

Tanzania’s private sector is set to be fully incorporated into this fund-raising drive under a new public-private partnership law passed by parliament on June 13.

Some Tsh6.3 trillion ($2.71 billion) will be spent on servicing national debt which, by April 2023, stood at Tsh79.1 trillion ($34.09 billion), up 13.9 percent from Tsh69.44 trillion ($29.93 billion) in April 2022.

External debt stood at Tsh51.16 trillion ($22.05 billion) against a domestic debt of Tsh27.94 trillion ($12.04 billion), with concessional loans standing at Tsh37.69 trillion ($16.24 billion).

At least Tsh4.13 trillion ($1.78 billion) will go to external debt repayments including principal payments and interest. Nchemba said the concessional loans component in the new budget has been increased by 22.8 percent and non-concessional loans cut down by 14.4 percent.

The government’s spending plan also includes Tsh1.14 trillion ($491.37 million) to cover government subsidies in education (free primary/secondary school education and higher education student loans), Tsh1.5 trillion ($646.55 million) to complete the Julius Nyerere Hydro Power Project and Tsh1.11 trillion ($478.45 million) to the standard gauge railway project.

Other priority areas will include Air Tanzania revival, developing a special economic zone at the coastal town of Bagamoyo, and developing a Rare Skills programme aimed at increasing youth’s capacity for self- employment.

In Rwanda, Finance Minister Uzziel Ndagijimana proposed increased spending by six percent to Rwf5.03 trillion ($4.4 billion), from Rwf4.7 trillion ($4.1 billion) in 2022/23.

The government plans to finance 63 percent of its budget with domestic revenues while external loans would constitute 24 percent and external grants 13 percent.

“The budget reflects the government’s economic resilience efforts in the face of global shocks.

The government will continue to prioritise fiscal consolidation, ease inflation and invest in agriculture, scale up social protection coverage; improve the quality of education, create employment opportunities and support micro, small, medium and large enterprises affected by Covid-19 through the enhanced Economic Recovery Fund and Manufacture and Build to Recover Programme,” Dr Ndagijimana said.

Rwanda announced a 10 percent increase in customs duty on imported construction materials, including metal tubes, doors, windows, and their frames. Wheelbarrows, plastic bags, and cloth bags will also face a 35 percent import duty.

Import duty for second-hand clothes will remain at $2.5 per kilogramme, while second-hand shoes will be taxed at $5 per kilo. Under the EAC Customs act, import duty on second-hand clothes and shoes is $0.4 per kilogramme.

The government will allocate Rwf2.8 trillion ($24.7 billion — 55.9 per cent of the budget) to the Economic Transformation Pillar.

These resources will scale up agricultural productivity, create jobs, support private sector development and strengthen climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

It will also increase access to electricity and clean water, support urbanisation and settlement, improve the national road network, scale up the adoption of ICT, and implement agriculture de-risking and financing facilities.

Under the Social Transformation Pillar, the government will allocate Rwf1.5 trillion ($1.3 billion — 30.4 per cent of the budget).

“Is government borrowing to invest or consume? And what is the actual return on investments on those projects?” pondered Paul Corti Lakuma, a senior research fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre based at Makerere University.

On stays of application of import duty rates per the East African Communty Common External Tariff. Prof Ndung’u said it will apply for one year on rice (35 percent), imported iron and steel products (35 percent), vegetable products (35 percent), baby diapers (35 percent), leather and footwear products (35 percent), paper and paper products (35 percent).

It will also apply to timber (plywood and particleboard $120/MT – $200/MT), furniture (45 percent), plastic and rubber (35 percent), smartphones (25 percent), and billets (10 percent).

“Interestingly, one of the reasons for the introduction of a four-band EAC CET (version 2022) was to minimise the request for stays by partner states, but it seems this trend persists,” PwC observed.

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East African governments this week presented their most expensive budgets yet, seeking to reinvigorate their economies, finance expanded government operations and repay ballooning debts. Economists are warning the region’s citizens […]

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US issues travel advisory against Uganda after anti-gay law adoption

The United States has updated its travel warning for Uganda following the adoption of anti-gay legislation last month, the US State Department said.

“Reconsider travel to Uganda due to crime, terrorism, and anti-LGBTQI+ legislation,” it said in a new advisory issued late Monday.

It said the Anti-Homosexuality Act “raises the risk that LGBTQI+ persons, and those perceived to be LGBTQI+, could be prosecuted and subjected to life imprisonment or death based on provisions in the law”.

President Yoweri 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.

It is considered one of the harshest such laws in the world, containing provisions making “aggravated homosexuality” a capital offence and penalties for consensual same-sex relations of up to life in prison.

“LGBTQI+ persons, or persons perceived to be LGBTQI+, could face harassment, imprisonment, blackmail, and violence,” the US State Department said, warning also of the risk of attacks by “vigilantes”.

“Be mindful that any public identification with the LGBTQI+ community, as either a member or supporter, could be grounds for prosecution, and that even private consensual same-sex relations are illegal.”

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

But earlier this month Museveni defied international calls to rescind the law, saying “no one will move us”.

The legislation has broad support in the conservative Christian country, where lawmakers have defended the measures as a necessary bulwark against Western immorality.

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The United States has updated its travel warning for Uganda following the adoption of anti-gay legislation last month, the US State Department said. “Reconsider travel to Uganda due to crime, […]

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CIVIC SPACE IN NUMBERS

The CIVICUS Monitor measures enabling conditions for civil society or civic space. We provide ratings for civic space in 197 countries and territories (all UN member states and Hong Kong, Kosovo, Palestine, and Taiwan). At CIVICUS, we see civic space as the respect in policy and practice for the freedoms of assembly, association and expression which are underpinned by the state’s duty to protect civil society.

We view civic space as a set of universally-accepted rules, which allow people to organise, participate and communicate with each other freely and without hindrance, and in doing so, influence the political, economic and social structures around them.

CIVIC SPACE IN 2022

Today, only 3.1% of the world’s population lives in countries with Open civic space. 

For better accuracy and comparison over time, this year we added a decimal point to the percentages.

GLOBAL CIVIC SPACE RESTRICTIONS 

Over the past year, civil society across the world has faced a variety legal and extra-legal restrictions. Below we document the top ten violations captured in the CIVICUS Monitor.

Top 10 Violations to Civic Freedoms

COUNTRY RATINGS

The CIVICUS Monitor currently rates 39 countries and territories as Open, 41 rated as Narrowed, 42 rated as Obstructed, 50 rated as Repressed and 25 rated as Closed.

REGIONAL BREAKDOWNS

 OpenNarrowedObstructedRepressedClosed
Africa2413246
Americas 109952
Asia and Pacific8710114
Europe and Central Asia1921644
Middle East and North Africa00469
This page was last updated on 22 June 2022

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The CIVICUS Monitor measures enabling conditions for civil society or civic space. We provide ratings for civic space in 197 countries and territories (all UN member states and Hong Kong, Kosovo, Palestine, and Taiwan). […]

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Africa getting little of $382bn renewable energy projects cash

Renewable energy projects attracted investments worth $382 billion globally in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency, but only $13 billion, or three percent of that, funded projects in Africa, highlighting a major funding gap foiling green transition and energy access on the continent.

With only 48 percent of African population having access to electricity, experts say investment in the continent’s renewable energy sector could both leapfrog the green transition efforts and connect more people to the grid.

Despite this, it has been established that investors with the capacity to invest in this sector shy away from the African market, a problem which brought together several stakeholders in the energy sector in Nairobi this week, attempting to change the narrative.

At a forum convened by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, participants drawn from the private sector, government, civil society organisations from Kenya and beyond deliberated on how investors can be mobilised to support Africa’s green transition through investments.

Reluctant to invest

Rebekah Shirley, WRI’s deputy regional director told the forum that private sector players are reluctant to invest in this sector, creating a funding gap of billions of dollars every year, despite the wide access gap.

“Even in other regions of the world where energy access is still a challenge like the Southeast Asia, we don’t see funding gaps of this magnitude, why Africa?” she posed.

Alex Wachira, principal secretary for the state department of energy, said that there is a list of challenges contributing to the energy gap, even in Kenya, which slow down economic growth in the country.

“We (the Ministry of Energy) are aware of the many challenges attributed to this, including limited incentives to attract private sector investors,” he said in a speech read by a representative.

Lack of political will

Another challenge identified is the lack of political will for appropriate legislation and implementation of policies to incentivise private sector investment in renewable energy projects, especially in rural areas.

For instance, only two of Kenya’s 47 counties have drafted energy plans that would give way to appropriate energy policies, deprioritising renewable energy projects at the local governments.

This, according to Eva Sawe – a senior programmes officer at the Council of Governors, is because lawmakers have not been sensitised on why renewable energy projects should be a priority.

But even with the right policies and incentives to support private sector investment in renewable energy on the continent, investors said there is a still a shortage of talent in Africa limiting the production capacity of companies investing in the sector.

“If an investor is coming into the country to do any renewable energy project, the first hurdle they will face is the lack of skilled people,” said Andrew Amadi, the chief executive of Kenya Renewable Energy Association.

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Renewable energy projects attracted investments worth $382 billion globally in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency, but only $13 billion, or three percent of that, funded projects in Africa, […]

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Capacitating Civil Society Actors to Advance Digital Rights in Africa

Internet freedom in Africa has been on the decline over the past years with several countries continually adopting repressive measures that curtail civil liberties. Many governments have embraced digital authoritarianism, which has resulted in criminalisation of speech online, internet disruptions, arrests and prosecution of social media users, and abuse of citizens’ data rights, thus undermining free expression and civic participation. 

Several governments have continually enhanced their technical capacity to intercept and monitor electronic communications, including through the installation of equipment and software or spyware that enable remote controlled hacking and eavesdropping, and deployment of video surveillance systems, some of which have facial recognition capabilities. These enhancements have been partly aided by introduction of regressive laws ostensibly to fight terrorism and to protect national order. 

Some control measures – such as trolling and cyberbullying – target critical democracy actors, including women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and journalists, and have far-reaching impacts on rights protection, including free expression, access to information and civic participation. Other measures, such as digital taxation, registration and licensing of online users, greatly undermine internet access and affordability and weaken the potential of digital technologies to catalyse free expression and civic participation.

These measures are worrying not only because they directly undermine citizens’ digital rights and their appetite for public participation but also because they endanger the safety of some critical democratic actors. Without adequate digital security capacity, activists and human rights defenders (HRDs) are not able to meaningfully undertake advocacy and engagements around human rights, transparent and accountable governance. Concerningly, digital security and safety skills are lacking among some of the most at-risk groups, yet trainers and support networks are in short supply. In this brief we review some key intervention measures necessary to  grow the capacity of  civil society actors to navigate the rising digital authoritarianism and highlight CIPESA’s work in this regard.

Shrinking Civic Space

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of reported incidents of governments in the region cracking down on civil society organisations, especially those addressing human rights and social justice issues. Various illegal means, including physical assaults, arbitrary detention, torture, killings, intimidation and surveillance by security agencies, have been adopted to limit the rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression, and access to information.

The situation was exacerbated by measures adopted by national governments to curb the spread and mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The different measures including the clamp down on media platforms, intimidation, arrests, detention and prosecution, affected the work and operations of HRDss and civil society organisations (CSOs) in many countries. The ability of citizens to participate in civic matters and the conduct of public affairs were also eroded. Meanwhile, HRDs, journalists, activists, the political opposition, and ordinary citizens have been forced to self-censor, disengage from participating in public affairs, and refrain from exercising their rights to participate.

Limited Capacity of Civil Society Actors

Although there has been a growing number of civil society and justice actors responding to, and challenging government excesses, some of them have been hampered by lack of requisite knowledge, skills, and tools to engage in meaningful policy advocacy. There is also limited understanding of the linkages between Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), human rights and democracy and how government control measures undermine democratic participation.

According to Ashnah Kalemera, Programme Manager at CIPESA, advancing digital rights is a new phenomenon for most of the traditional human rights organisations in Africa, “with many still trying to understand the relationship between ICT and human rights, on top of dealing with an already hostile environment.” 

Through various interventions, CIPESA is building the capacity of different social justice organisations and equipping them with the requisite skills, including research, communicating digital rights, designing evidence-based advocacy campaigns, as well as digital resilience, especially how to cope with the increasing cyber attacks.

Findings from a 2017 joint research study conducted by Small Media, DefendDefenders, the Centre For Intellectual Property And Information Technology Law (CIPIT), and CIPESA showed that in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, most CSOs failed to demonstrate a baseline of digital security knowledge and practices.

The study noted that although the internet and other ICT had empowered CSOs to engage with the public, share information, and advocate for citizens’ rights in sometimes challenging and closed political environments, it had also offered means and tools that regional state and non-state actors utilised to interfere with their work, surveil them, and censor their voices.

Similarly, an assessment CIPESA conducted in five countries during 2020 indicated a need to bolster capacity, organisational practices, and implementation of security and safety measures for social justice organisations and staff. It also found that skills and protections (software and hardware) were low and inadequate among many HRD organisations and individuals. 

Building Digital Resilience Among CSOs

In many countries in the region, skills in digital security and safety are lacking among some of the most at-risk groups, yet trainers and support networks are in short supply. Without adequate digital security capacity, activists and HRDs are not able to meaningfully continue advocacy and engagements around human rights, transparent and accountable governance.

For several years CIPESA has provided digital security resilience including conducted training for civil society groups, HRDs and other democracy actors. Through the Level-Up programme, CIPESA has provided security support to 16 HRD organisations in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Uganda. 

The initiative helped to strengthen the participating entities’ organisational and information systems security capacity, entailed a Training of Trainers (ToT) component – which benefitted 19 individuals – to grow the network of individuals and organisations that offer digital security training and support to journalists, activists, and HRDs, and organisational security assessments. The training and support were delivered through innovative approaches to geographically distributed individuals that could not meet physically due to Covid-19 social distancing and travel restrictions.

The individuals trained in turn conducted safety and security training sessions which benefitted 120 staff of HRD organisations. The Level Up programme also conducted an assessment of organisational digital security needs and practices which informed the provision of hardware, software and security equipment to nine beneficiary organisations in four countries, and the development of organisational digital security policies.

“Several justice actors, both individuals and organisations, have fallen victims to cyber attacks, hacking, and online harassment, with some reporting loss of  their brand assets. It is therefore important to bolster their capacity, enhance their organisational practices, especially the implementation of security and safety measures related to digital and social media platforms usage by the organisations and their staff,” says Brian Byaruhanga, Technology Officer at CIPESA.

Supporting Impactful Digital Rights Advocacy and Communication

Digital rights advocacy and communication has become crucial in promoting human rights in Africa. Accordingly, CIPESA has over the years supported capacity development for CSOs, HRDs particularly WHRDs, and key duty bearers, to cultivate cross-country and cross-sectoral partnerships, and promoted joint advocacy and communications campaigns. 

In June 2022, CIPESA convened a regional advocacy and engagement training workshop in Lusaka, Zambia that brought together media, civil society and technology policy actors from 10 African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The regional engagement equipped participants with a keen understanding of key digital rights trends in the region, alongside practical skills in impactful digital rights advocacy and communication.

Also in June 2022, CIPESA convened a digital rights policy advocacy webinar where participants shared their experiences, challenges and lessons learned in advocating for digital rights in Africa. Panelists were mainly drawn from the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF) beneficiaries, a grant facility managed by CIPESA whose main purpose is to offer flexible and rapid response grants to select initiatives in Africa to implement activities that advance digital rights, including advocacy, litigation, research, policy analysis, digital literacy and digital security skills building 

In July 2021, CIPESA in partnership with the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), conducted an intensive training course on Digital Rights and Impact Communication for grantees of the ADRF. The training was preceded by a capacity and training needs assessment. The ADRF was launched in April 2019 to offer funding and capacity development to expand the pool of actors that advance digital rights in Africa, amidst rising digital rights violations.

These capacity building efforts serve to equip civil society actors with skills, knowledge, and tools to effectively engage in evidence-based advocacy as well as communicating digital rights issues. They inspire these actors to approach advocacy and communication systematically in order to increase the visibility of digital rights issues in different media and to promote public discussion of digital rights issues.

Building Capacity and Collaborations for Digital Rights Research

Evidence-based digital rights advocacy has become particularly crucial in Africa as a growing number of governments and powerful private actors continue to undermine citizens’ online rights through legal and extra-legal means. However, as the need for internet policy advocacy that is informed by research grows, it is essential to increase the amount and depth of research originating from, and relevant to, Africa. 

Over the last few years, CIPESA has responded by building capacity and enhancing collaborations for digital rights research among academia and CSOs. During the 2019 Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica19) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, CIPESA organised a Digital Rights Research Methods Workshop as one of the pre-events. The workshop was attended by 58 participants who included university lecturers, staff of international human rights organisations, digital rights researchers, activists, technologists, and lawyers.

The Ethiopian training built on the foundations of a five-day intensive training on internet policy research methods co-organised with the Annenberg School for Communications Internet Policy Observatory in 2018, which aimed to train, connect, and build collaboration between researchers, activists, academics and internet freedom advocates, and brought together 40 participants from 17 countries.

CIPESA has continued to build this capacity through additional training, and providing research and grant opportunities through the CIPESA Academic and Media Fellowships, which seek to nurture university students’ and early career academics’ understanding of ICT for governance, human rights and development, as well as enhance the media’s understanding of and coverage of ICT, democracy and human rights issues, respectively.

Digital rights continue to evolve alongside technological changes and advancement. CIPESA will continue to tap into the opportunity of skilling civil society personnel to facilitate knowledge building and enhance their capacity to continually engage in digital rights proactively and securely.

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Internet freedom in Africa has been on the decline over the past years with several countries continually adopting repressive measures that curtail civil liberties. Many governments have embraced digital authoritarianism, which has resulted […]

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Botswana detects new Covid-19 Omicron sub-variants

Botswana has detected new sub-variants of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the government announced Friday, saying the sub-lineages have been dominant in other countries in Europe and Asia.

In a statement, the Botswana government also said that the sub-lineages of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have been detected following routine genome sequencing of Covid-19, adding that the impact of the observed changes remains to be established.

As at December 2, Botswana had recorded 326,633 coronavirus cases, 2,790 deaths and 323,747 recoveries.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Omicron variant is of concern and remains the dominant variant circulating globally.

“While we are looking at a vast genetic diversity of Omicron sub-lineages, they currently display similar clinical outcomes, but with differences in immune escape potential.”

BQ.1* is a sub-lineage of BA.5, which carries spike mutations in some key antigenic sites, including K444T and N460K, the WHO says.

In addition to these mutations, the sub-lineage BQ.1.1 carries an additional spike mutation in a key antigenic site (i.e. R346T).

 “based on currently available knowledge, protection by vaccines against infection may be reduced but no major impact on protection against severe disease is foreseen,” WHO said.

“The two (BQ.1 and BQ.1.1) are sub-lineages of the existing BA.5 Omicron variant that has been dominant in Botswana for the last few months and has additional changes to the virus,” Botswana Health Permanent Secretary Christopher Nyanga said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Health advises Botswana and all residents to remain vigilant and take precautionary measures of protection,” Dr Nyanga said.

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Botswana has detected new sub-variants of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the government announced Friday, saying the sub-lineages have been dominant in other countries in Europe and Asia. In a statement, […]

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Girls in sub-Saharan Africa 3 times more likely to get HIV: Report

More needs to be done for Tanzania and the rest of the world to end the Aids public health threat by 2030, a newly launched global HIV/Aids report shows.

Although Tanzania has had a positive impact in fighting HIV/Aids, the new report reveals that the key populations in the country still lag behind when it comes to testing and treatment.

Launched in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, the new report titled ‘Dangerous inequalities’ shows early testing, prevention and treatment measures have slowed down, hence Aids-related deaths and new HIV/Aids cases are rising.   

Available data shows there are over 4.9 million people living with HIV/Aids in Tanzania while only 1.3 million are on treatment.

According to UNAIDS data, Tanzania has over the past ten 10 years consistently reduced new HIV infections and reduced Aids-related deaths by 46.6 percent and 50 percent respectively.

Key populations left behind

Prof Tumaini Nagu, Tanzania’s Chief Medical Officer, noted that although the country has made progress, more needs to be done since with the new report findings, it is evident that some key populations — including adolescence girls — have been left behind.

“50 percent is a good progress but we haven’t really made progress when it comes to adolescent girls, which is actually what our strategic health plan requires us to do. That is why we are currently targeting them together with other groups such as migrants, fisheries, people living in rural areas for we cannot fight the epidemic disease with one-size-fits-all kind of solution,” she said.

On her part, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids, (UNAIDS), commended Dodoma’s efforts in the fight against HIV/Aids.

“Tanzania is the leader, a strong performer in the fight against this disease. The country has succeeded in reducing new infections by almost 50 percent and successful treatment scale up has led to over 50 percent reduction in the number of Aids-related deaths,” said Ms Byanyima.

New infections rising

“The world is not on track to end the Aids pandemic.  New infections are rising and Aids deaths are continuing in too many communities. Inequalities are holding us back,” added Ms Byabyima

The report shows that gender inequalities, inequalities faced by key populations and inequalities between children and adults have had negative impacts on Aids response by countries.

In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are three times more likely to get HIV than their male counterparts, according to the report.

“The world will not be able to defeat Aids while reinforcing patriarchy. We need to address the intersecting inequalities women face. The only effective route map to ending Aids, achieving the sustainable development goals and ensuring health, rights and shared prosperity, is a feminist route map. Women’s rights organisations and movements are already on the frontline doing this bold work. Leaders need to support them and learn from them,” added Ms Byabyima

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More needs to be done for Tanzania and the rest of the world to end the Aids public health threat by 2030, a newly launched global HIV/Aids report shows. Although […]

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Kenya Airways targets corporate travel in new Ghana-Senegal flights

Kenyan flag carrier Kenya Airways has announced a new service linking the capitals of Ghana and Senegal starting this December 11. This is the first sign that African governments are serious in implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

The twice weekly service that complements the airlines’ existing schedule to the two destinations will increase options between Nairobi and Accra to nine flights a week and four to Dakar.

This comes hot on the heels of a new Nairobi-Mombasa-Dubai service, also to be launched this December, reflecting KQ’s push to get its growth plans off the ground following the two-year Covid-19 pandemic disruption.

The ease with which the Kenyan carrier will be able to pick intermediate traffic between Accra and Dakar without a reciprocal service by a Ghanaian airline to Kenya signals the beginning of a long-awaited era of open skies in Africa.

Pilot scheme

Kenya and Ghana were among the 15 African states that last week in Dakar signed up to pilot a scheme to test operation of air services under SAATM. Under existing restrictions such flights would operate under fifth-freedom rights on terms agreed on in a bilateral air services agreement.

According to Julius Thairu, Kenya Airways chief commercial and customer officer, the new connection “will offer our guests more travel and connectivity options within West Africa. Strategically, the bigger picture is to support the Single African Air Transport Market and the African Continental Free Trade Area, which are key pillars for Africa’s growth, by growing and deepening our network connections within the continent.”

KQ hopes to tap into existing demand from corporate travellers, traders as well as leisure travellers between Ghana and Senegal to support the service, which will be the first direct connection between the two west African capitals.

The proposed flights will be available twice a week. The outbound leg (KQ514) will originate in Nairobi at 21.30 local time on Tuesdays and Sundays, arriving in Accra at 12.10 local time. The leg to Dakar will commence 01.10 arriving at 04.15. The return flight KQ 515 will depart Dakar at 05.15 local time, and make one-hour a stop in Accra.

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Kenyan flag carrier Kenya Airways has announced a new service linking the capitals of Ghana and Senegal starting this December 11. This is the first sign that African governments are […]

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Hopes for big finance at Cop27 fade in climate of war, high energy prices

Big business more than ever is under pressure to channel money into curbing climate change – and yet the chances of UN talks providing the necessary spur have slimmed as the Ukraine war, high energy prices and geopolitical tensions take precedence.

In interviews, more than a dozen US and European finance leaders were pessimistic the climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt starting November 6 can make clear progress.

What they want are signals on the pace of regulation that would allow company boards to plan their climate policy.

But as governments have lately been distracted by world events, they fear countries will fail to provide any major new commitments.

“Geopolitical relations going into COP27 are at one of the worst levels in recent history,” said Luke Sussams, head of ESG and Sustainable Finance, EMEA at Jefferies.

“The age-old dilemma of climate finance, facilitated between the developed and the developing world, will of course be critical. We, I don’t think, are too optimistic that many resolutions will be met in that regard.”

Emissions must drop

A UN report published in October underlined the urgency of the climate problem and that emissions must drop 43 percent by the end of the decade to prevent the worst impacts of a hotter planet.

The best hope could be to prevent the progress so far being undone.

“Avoiding a rollback of existing pledges and commitments… could probably be considered a success,” Benedict Buckley, research analyst at ClearBridge Investments, said.

Many companies made pledges to cut emissions last year, but like many governments, they have yet to work out how those will be implemented.

More than 550 financial firms are members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, aiming to cut their emissions and push companies in the real economy that rely on their financing to do the same, but the pace of action has been slow.

Not enough done

“The reality is that not enough has been done in the last 12 months – some would argue we have moved backwards,” said Hortense Bioy, Global Director of Sustainability Research at Morningstar.

The biggest disruption since last year’s Glasgow climate talks has been the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a major oil and gas exporter.

Europe in particular has been forced to rethink its previous reliance on Russian gas and to seek alternatives. In the short term that includes coal, undermining a deal the UN summit in Glasgow to phase out its use. However, as this year’s high oil and gas prices have rewarded those producing fossil fuels.

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Big business more than ever is under pressure to channel money into curbing climate change – and yet the chances of UN talks providing the necessary spur have slimmed as […]

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DR Congo army clashes with rebels as Angola pursues peace bid

M23 rebels and DR Congo troops clashed heavily in North Kivu province on Friday as Angola’s president pursued diplomatic efforts to bring peace between neighbours Kinshasa and Kigali.

Tensions between DR Congo and Rwanda are at their highest in years, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour of backing the M23, charges the Rwandan government denies.

In eastern DRC, locals reported hearing heavy artillery fire around Rugari, in Rutshuru territory, from early morning as the army targeted M23 combatants.

The DRC military had this week deployed Sukhoi-25 jets and Mi-24 helicopters against the M23, a mainly Tutsi Congolese militia.

People flee for safety

The clashes sent more people fleeing for safety, one witness told AFP by telephone from Rumangabo, 10 kilometres (six miles) from Rugari.

“We can hear the sound of the bombing,” he said.

Medical sources said at least five civilians, including two children, were killed and 11 wounded in Friday’s fighting.

The artillery fire was coming from Kibumba on a main road that runs to the regional capital Goma.

An AFP reporter on the edge of the city saw an army tank and lorry loaded with munitions heading towards the combat zone.

“Fighting continues at Rugari. We are making progress,” a security source said.

Power disruption

During the afternoon, power was disrupted in Goma after a transmission line from a hydroelectric plant was hit, Virunga Energies said.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) said gunmen had attacked UN-backed school canteens in the Rutshuru area, which is under M23 control.

“Six primary schools were targeted for now and food stocks taken forcibly,” a WFP statement said.

‘Regional efforts’

“Armed groups came with lorries and took the stocks that were at the schools in Kiwanja and Rutshuru,” said the WFP coordinator for the region.

“At the moment, in Rutshuru territory, it’s M23 who are active. Obviously we suspect them, because they control the two towns,” in North Kivu province, he added.

The M23 has won a string of victories against the DRC’s army in North Kivu province in recent weeks, dramatically increasing the territory under its control.

Mineral-rich DRC is struggling to contain dozens of armed militias including the M23, which rose to prominence in 2012, briefly occupying Goma.

Dormant for years

But after laying mostly dormant for years, it resumed fighting in 2021, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.

Eastern DRC has been plagued for nearly three decades by armed groups, many of them inherited from the wars that bloodied the region in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Angolan President Joao Lourenco was visiting Rwanda on Friday as part of diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute with the DRC and is due in Kinshasa Saturday.

Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador at the end of last month, while also recalling its envoy from Kigali.

Lourenco was to hold talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame “as part of the regional efforts to normalise relations between Rwanda and DR Congo”, the ruling party newspaper The New Times said.

The meeting comes on the heels of talks between the countries’ two foreign ministers who agreed on Saturday to accelerate efforts to resolve the diplomatic crisis.

Roadmap to end hostilities

A roadmap for ending hostilities had been reached at an Angola-brokered summit between Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi in July. 

On Wednesday, Kenya’s parliament approved the deployment of more than 900 troops to the DRC as part of a regional force established to try to restore security in the east.

Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community bloc’s mediator for the situation, will visit Kinshasa on Sunday for a 48-hour working visit, the DRC’s presidency said.

source

M23 rebels and DR Congo troops clashed heavily in North Kivu province on Friday as Angola’s president pursued diplomatic efforts to bring peace between neighbours Kinshasa and Kigali. Tensions between […]

Continue reading "DR Congo army clashes with rebels as Angola pursues peace bid"

Kenyans’ visa-free stay in S. Africa comes with costs if one overstays

Kenyans planning to travel to South Africa will from January next year enjoy a visa-free stay of up to 90 days per calendar year, but those who overstay their welcome, or enter illegally will pay a huge penalty.

On Wednesday, Kenyan President William Ruto and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa witnessed an agreement that could end decades of complaints from Nairobi on immigration policies by South Africa.

It means that Kenyans will no longer need to apply for e-visas or regular visas before travelling to South Africa for business or tourism. The tradition has been that Kenyans apply for a ‘free’ visa from an agent of the South African High Commission who charges an ‘application fee’ to handle the paperwork. The visa often comes out after four working days.

With the new agreement, all Kenyans will need is an invitation and return ticket, as well as proof of vaccination for yellow fever and Covid-19; and proof of financial ability to stay in South Africa during the intended duration for tourists.

“This has been a challenge that has been with us for many years. Under the new dispensation, we can build a greater relationship,” said President William Ruto at a joint press conference in Nairobi. His South African counterpart said the deal could take business and tourism “to greater heights.”

Deportation costs

But there is a catch: Each country will bear the cost of deporting their nationals caught overstaying. This means that a Kenyan overstaying in South Africa or caught entering illegally will be returned at the cost of Nairobi. In essence, officials said this will mean the travel filters between the two countries will be stringent, sieving out illegal immigrants, criminal suspects and all those with no paperwork taking advantage of the system.

“People who abuse the system…don’t deserve to be in South Africa, and they don’t deserve to be in Kenya,” President Ruto added.

“This agreement will be implemented to ensure the bad elements that try to infiltrate our countries are dealt with firmly and decisively.”

Age-old complaint

South Africa, by easing the visa rules on Kenya, is merely responding to an age-old complaint. And President Ramaphosa’s predecessors often dodged the bullet, accusing Kenya of being a conduit for illegal migrants, mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia. But Ramaphosa’s regime has tried to ease things, including allowing those on student visas to renew their stays while still in south Africa and ending the need to travel back home for the same.

Ramaphosa also allowed Kenyans to transit through South African airports without a transit visa, but as long as they do not leave the airport. In the past, one needed a transit visa regardless of whether he or she would leave the airport or not. Until January next year, however, Kenyans will still need transit visas if heading to neighbouring countries via South Africa by land.

President Ramaphosa described the new ties as based on a “wonderful foundation that exists” between Nairobi and Pretoria.

Implemented fully

“We are committed to ensure that the agreements that we have signed now and in the past will be implemented fully,” he said before describing the visa issues as “thorny”.

“Our officials will speed up the processes to implement it. This dispensation will be available to Kenyans over a 90-day period in a given year, meaning that, yes, you can use the 90 days, ten days, 20 days or whatever. Kenyans will have a full 90 days to be able to visit south Africa and we would be able to review this and get reports from our ministers within a year and see how this is functioning,” he explained.

It means Kenyans must ensure their stay in South Africa does not exceed 90 days per year, cumulatively, to qualify for visa free stay.

“This will also be underpinned by other processes that we have agreed can take place: closer monitoring of the implementation process and also be able to have a return policy of those elements that would be undesirable to be able to be returned to Kenya.

“We are going to be monitoring this much more closely and we are setting in place various mechanisms to make sure that what we have agreed to is adhered to and that no one takes advantage of the agreement.”

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Kenyans planning to travel to South Africa will from January next year enjoy a visa-free stay of up to 90 days per calendar year, but those who overstay their welcome, […]

Continue reading "Kenyans’ visa-free stay in S. Africa comes with costs if one overstays"

Africa has least default rate on infrastructure projects, say leaders

African leaders have said the continent’s investment risk has been exaggerated, making investors hesitant to put their money in its development projects.

Quoting a Moody’s Analytics report on defaults on infrastructure investments, African Development Bank (AfDB) president, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, noted that Africa has the lowest default rate on infrastructure projects in the world, at 5.5 per cent.

“Africa is not as risky as you think. Perception is not the same as reality,” Dr Adesina said at the opening of the Africa Investment Forum in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on November 2.

The biggest defaulter, according the Moody’s report, is Latin America at 12.9 per cent, followed by Asia at 8.8 per cent, Eastern Europe (8.6 per cent), North America (7.6 per cent), and Western Europe (5.9 per cent).

Recovery from Covid pandemic

“Africa has shown resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreign direct investment (FDI) declined from $47 billion in 2019 to $40 billion in 2020 because of Covid. Africa recovered in 2021, as FDI rose to $83 billion, doubling the flows in 2020,” he said.

Heads of state attending the forum amplified Dr Adesina’s sentiments. They included Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work Zewde and Ivorian Vice-President Tiemoko Koné.

The leaders said that having one of the world’s largest young populations, natural resources and renewable energy potential, the continent is the investment frontier in the world.

President Akufo-Addo said the African premium risk has become a huge obstacle to development as it hampers investment. Noting that the global investment environment is difficult, he said Africa has excellent returns on investment and urged businesses to take advantage of the continent’s demographic dividend to foster growth.

Electric cars

Dr Adesina said the future of electric cars in the world depends on Africa because it has the largest sources of cobalt in the world, with massive sources of lithium in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, Mali, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The African Continental Free Trade Area is the largest free-trade zone in the world, connecting economies worth $3.3 trillion,” he said.

The Africa Investment Forum — Africa’s premier investment marketplace now in its fourth year — helps to connect investors to Africa. The African Development Bank, the Africa Import-Export Bank, the Trade and Development Bank, the Africa Finance Corporation, the Development Bank of South Africa, the European Investment Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and Africa50 support it.

It is aimed at mobilising investments for Africa, and showcase the continent’s bankability to the world.

Investment interests

In four years, it has helped to mobilise $110 billion in investment interests to Africa, said Dr Adesina.

“The $600 million securitised finance to support the cocoa board of Ghana has helped Ghana to grow its cocoa production by one million tonnes, with infrastructure for warehousing and cocoa processing. The landmark $24 billion liquefied natural gas project of Mozambique, which was structured and closed at the Africa Investment Forum, is the largest-ever foreign direct investment in Africa. It will turn Mozambique into the third-largest exporter of natural gas in the world and add $66 billion to its economy,” he said.

The leaders have curated investment projects in renewable energy, hydropower, gas, railways, roads, and water transport, agriculture, health, mining, fertiliser manufacturing, port infrastructure and urban green transport to woo investors.

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African leaders have said the continent’s investment risk has been exaggerated, making investors hesitant to put their money in its development projects. Quoting a Moody’s Analytics report on defaults on […]

Continue reading "Africa has least default rate on infrastructure projects, say leaders"

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