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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40 cases in 40 days: Regional court settles EAC treaty violations suits

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has ended its rotational inter-state court session in Uganda, where it determined cases related to violations by member states of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.

The president of the regional court, Nestor Kayobera, said the 40 days that the court held its session in Kampala at the Commercial Division of the High Court, saw a total of 40 cases disposed of.

EACJ held court from November 2 to December 2, ending its annual rotation of sessions in a member country.

“During this period, the court handled 40 cases. You can see, we spent 40 days in Uganda and we have handled almost 40 cases. I don’t know why 40, maybe we ask the philosophers why that number of 40,” Mr Kayobera told the media on Friday.

He added that the appellate division handled matters regarding the revocation of sale agreements, terms of employment of the East African Community and criminal defamation, among other cases.

“All the cases we handled were about the violation of the Treaty by the partner states,” he said.

Read: Regional court needs more autonomy, says president

On the rotation of the East African Court of Justice among the member states, Mr Kayobera said this was initiated last year when the court was celebrating its 20 years anniversary in Bujumbura, Burundi.

He said this was being done to implement Article 7 (1) of the Treaty that states that a community is people-centred and market-driven.

The next partner state to host the regional court after Uganda will either be Rwanda or Kenya, according to Mr Kayobera.

The EACJ is a treaty-based judicial body of the EAC tasked to ensure adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the East African Community Treaty of 1999.

Justice Anne Mugenyi Bitature, the deputy head of the Commercial Court, said they were happy to have been chosen by the Judiciary top management to host the regional court session.

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Uhuru warns planners over delayed closure of DRC peace meeting

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the facilitator of the East Africa Community (EAC)-led Nairobi Peace Process that seeks to end the war in DRC, Monday read the riot act to the organisers of the meeting after it emerged that participants’ allowances would be less than had been planned before they left their homes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Without mentioning their names, a visibly angry Mr Kenyatta called out the organisers for delaying the closure of the meeting which he extended to Tuesday to give room for the funds to be made available as earlier planned.

“My intention is that we finish the meeting well and I know that is what you also want. So, I ask that we postpone today’s meeting to tomorrow and I assure you that the planners of this event do not assume that peace is something to toy around with. Be here tomorrow, if not, I shall stand and ask the whole world to deny them funds if they cannot plan things effectively,” he said on Monday.

Hr added, “Let us meet again at 10am and attend to the issues that have cropped up before closing the meeting. Maybe they (organisers) have done this thinking that my influence waned but they shall realise that it hasn’t.”

Funds adequate

Mr Kenyatta warned the organisers that failure to release the funds as earlier planned will have consequences.

“Let them sleep wherever they are but bring the funds that had been rightly allocated to the participants of this process tomorrow. I know we have adequate funds because I was among those that were sourcing for the funds,” he said.

The week-long event in Nairobi began on Monday last week, bringing together over 50 armed groups, victims of atrocities taking place in eastern DRC, civil society, special interest groups and government officials.

On Wednesday last week, the participants engaged the facilitator in focus group discussions where they each shared their grievances and proposals for a peaceful DRC.

The meeting was to end on Saturday but was pushed to Monday to allow for adequate discussions into the matters arising.

The outcome of the discussions will inform the speed at which the East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) will engage in combat the armed groups fighting in eastern Congo.

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Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the facilitator of the East Africa Community (EAC)-led Nairobi Peace Process that seeks to end the war in DRC, Monday read the riot act to […]

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Kenyans tell how allure of jobs landed them in hands of Myanmar junta

For every Kenyan who has been a victim of human trafficking to Myanmar, their story is that of hope for a rags-to-riches experience that instead dives them into the murky world of the Myanmar junta.

And as the government tries to save many from the jaws of militants, many Kenyans, particularly young women below the age of 30, are continuously getting duped into accepting fake job offers in Thailand, from where they are then trafficked to Myanmar to work as scammers targeting men from particular countries.

To help others from falling into the same trap, three women recently rescued from Myanmar shared the stories about how they left Kenya in search of job opportunities that never came, lost a fellow Kenyan but found a way back home after discovering that they had crossed over to a foreign land and were controlled by an armed group.

Their hope is to protect others from falling into a similar predicament and shed light on the desperation that makes young people easily trust whatever opportunity is thrown at them without thinking through the dangers that might lurk ahead.

Read: Family’s hope of receiving kin’s body from Saudi diminishes as agent vanishes

For 29-year-old Damaris Akumu, from Migori County, the allure of a better life for herself and her child pushed her to use her savings to pay for what she thought was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“I had searched for jobs but none was forthcoming, so I paid the lady that was to arrange my travel Sh150,000 and borrowed another Sh100,000 for emergencies and personal effects and left Kenya on August 4,” she recalls.

Ms Akumu travelled on the same day with 26-year-old Marleen Nduta Gitau, who learnt about the job offers through a relative that she had met at her grandparents’ burial earlier this year.

“I am the second-born in a family of three. My elder sibling has Down syndrome, our last-born is a college student and my parents are casual labourers. This, therefore, means the responsibility of the firstborn falls squarely on me,” Ms Gitau explains.

The relative told her about opportunities in Thailand and she quickly started thinking about working in another country.

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For every Kenyan who has been a victim of human trafficking to Myanmar, their story is that of hope for a rags-to-riches experience that instead dives them into the murky […]

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‘Around 300’ dead in east DR Congo massacre blamed on M23 rebels

Around 300 people died in an attack on villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last week blamed on the M23 rebel group, government minister Julien Paluku said on Monday.

The government has been locked in a months-long conflict with the notorious armed group M23 — with the latest violence coming just five days after a ceasefire was agreed between the rebels and Congolese forces.

The army originally accused the M23 insurgents of killing at least 50 civilians in Kishishe village in eastern North Kivu province last week, before the government put the number of dead at more than 100.

But Paluku and government spokesman Patrick Muyaya laid out updated figures for the deadly attack during a press briefing on Monday, citing data collated by civil society and communities in the region.

No connection with militia

“We are looking at around 300 deaths” of “people known to be regular inhabitants of Kishishe,” industry minister Paluku said, saying the victims had no connection with militia groups.

“Every community has been able to record the people who died from units in Kishishe and its environs,” said Paluku, who was governor of North Kivu province from 2007 to 2019.

“One community alone has more than 105 deaths,” he added.

The rebel group has denied it was responsible and called the allegations “baseless” — although it said eight civilians were killed by “stray bullets” during clashes in the village on November 29.

All the fatalities were civilians and at least 17 believed to be children, Muyaya told reporters, saying there were fatalities recorded from a church and a hospital.

Calls for investigation

The UN’s peacekeeping mission in DR Congo has led calls for an investigation after the government said 50 villagers had been massacred by a notorious armed group in the country’s troubled east.

Representatives for the United States and European Union said the killings were potential war crimes, while Human Rights Watch said UN troops should be deployed to protect survivors.

The government has said it is difficult to confirm the data because the area is still under rebel control.

Muyaya said consolidation work was underway to try and ascertain the full number of victims.

Residents who spoke to AFP by telephone said they had been ordered by the rebels to bury the victims in mass graves.

The March 23 movement, or M23, is a predominantly Congolese Tutsi rebel group that was dormant for years.

It took up arms again in November last year and seized the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda in June. 

After a brief period of calm, it went on the offensive again in October.

Kinshasa accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of providing M23 with support, something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months.

Kigali disputes the charge and has accused Kinshasa of collusion with the FDLR — a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the genocide of the Tutsi community in 1994 in Rwanda.

Talks between the two countries in the Angolan capital Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23.

The ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on November 25. It should also have been followed by a pull-out by the M23 two days later from territory it had seized, but this did not happen.

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Around 300 people died in an attack on villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last week blamed on the M23 rebel group, government minister Julien Paluku said on Monday. […]

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Regional forces mull next step after M23 decline ceasefire

Regional forces assembling in the Democratic Republic of Congo have underlined the priority of guarding civilians suing for peace, by providing a buffer against M23 rebels, The EastAfrican can reveal.

The decision came in response to a defied ultimatum given to the M23 last week by leaders who had gathered in Luanda, Angola.

And as community and armed groups representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo gathered in Nairobi this week, seeking long-term peace, military experts were holed up in Goma mulling the next step after M23 rebels defied a ceasefire call.

The three-day dialogue forum, the third in a series of the Nairobi Process, is backed by the East African Community.

Yet to ease hostilities

In Goma, military experts from EAC member states contributing troops to the regional force (EACRF), as well as the UN stabilisation mission (Monusco) were activated after participants of the Nairobi process reported that the group was yet to ease its hostilities in spite of publicly vowing to do so last week.

As the first step, sources told The EastAfrican the Kenya Defence Forces troops which have been on standby in Goma will be tasked with creating a ring around civilians to reduce casualties among local communities.

The idea is to ensure M23 attacks are thwarted by the Congolese forces, FARDC, the regional EACRF and Monusco, if the regional heads of state under the East African Community approve it.

The decision was first mooted in Angola last week, where a mini summit of the EAC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), under the chairmanship of Angolan President Joao Lorenco, called for ceasefire by all armed groups or they be forced out of occupied territories.

“Kenya to initially deploy its contingent in Goma, DRC and subsequently in Banagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja upon the withdrawal of M23 to its initial positions not beyond the line along Sabinyo (DRC side), Bigego, Bugusa, Nyabikona, Mbuzi, Rutsiro and Nkokwe,” the communique stated.

Continued battles

The M23 in a statement had agreed to the ceasefire call by the Heads of State after the Luanda process with a rider that they would not cease to defend themselves if they were violated by FARDC. But this week, locals reported continued battles between the rebels and Congolese forces.

The peace bid is, however, challenged by DRC’s own local politics. Kinshasa had opposed the idea of the buffer zone, fearing it could incite political heat, including ethnic divisions. Such an eventuality could hurt President Felix Tshisekedi as he bids for re-election due on December 20, 2023.

In the DRC, well before the announcement of the election date, candidates had already declared themselves for the elections and political parties had already put themselves in order of battle. Among the candidates is Martin Fayulu, his challenger in the 2018 election, who claims he won. Others are Moïse Katumbi. The former governor of the ex-province of Katanga is currently allied to Tshisekedi but is expected to challenge him.

Party dynamics

Former president Joseph Kabila’s camp has remained uncertain as his party the Common Front for Congo has yet to reveal its intentions. The other is Dr Denis Mukwege, the famous gynaecologist who co-won the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018. 

Some Congolese have asked him to stand, something he hasn’t taken on but which has attracted jibes on him from Tshisekedi.

After the announcement of election dates, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission Denis Kadima mentioned “constraints that may hamper the implementation of the elections.”

Among the challenges is insecurity, with Mr Kadima admitting that parts of DRC in rebel hands “have an impact on the smooth running of the elections.”

“No electoral operation can be organised properly without security for voters, electoral agents, sites of operations, materials and candidates,” he said last month.

Corneille Nangaa, former chairman of the electoral commission, said DRC’s “number one enemy of the electoral process is mistrust between actors and stakeholders.”

The registration of the estimated 50 million voters has not yet started, he told The EastAfrican.  In 2018, the electoral body needed 15 months to be ready.

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Regional forces assembling in the Democratic Republic of Congo have underlined the priority of guarding civilians suing for peace, by providing a buffer against M23 rebels, The EastAfrican can reveal. The decision […]

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The sweet and sour of the Luanda summit on DRC and the M23 rebels

If Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has ever dreamt of lifting a magic wand to have M23 rebels and Congolese Tutsi instantly vanish from his country’s territory, the mini-summit in the Angolan capital Launda last week might have been the closest he’ll ever get to realising such a dream.

It was a heads of state summit’ communiqué which read as though it had been written by some bored Congolese populist on Twitter, living on welfare in Brussels who’s never set foot in eastern DR Congo.

Essentially, the Luanda mini-summit stipulated that:

•M23 would withdraw from all seized territories and retreat into their initial positions.

•The relinquished territories would be taken up by a buffer regional force led by Kenyan troops, who form part of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF).

•The Rwandan genocidaire forces in DR Congo, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) would then be disarmed and repatriated.

It pains to say that nothing from that communiqué will be implemented, mainly because none of the recommended actions are realistic. For starters, the five days’ ultimatum to M23 was not feasible. At the time of the communiqué, in which warring parties were called to a ceasefire, fighting was ongoing in Kichanga, Masisi territory, and the 1,000 troops Kenyan contingent is too small to man a territory twice the size of Rwanda.

Not a total waste

That said, although Luanda wasn’t the turning point we all weren’t expecting, it wasn’t a total waste of time either. By asking M23 to relinquish Ruchuru and return to its initial positions, Tshisekedi unwittingly admitted for the first time that M23 did not come from Rwanda, that they were always within Congolese forests – and they listed them: Bigega, Bugusa, Nyabikona, Mbuzi, Rutsiro and Nkonkwe. The second takeaway from the summit was the admission of the threat posed by FDLR.

The rest of the communique was meant to appease the Congolese hoi polloi – and that too is a first. I suspect that following the episodes in August this year, when angry mobs looted Monusco headquarters in Goma and Beni in reaction to its spokesperson’s declaring that the UN body had no proof of Rwanda’s support to M23; and that the Monusco had no force, strong enough to face M23, it seems the international community seems to have agreed with Tshisekedi to “protect the Congolese from the truth,” so to speak, to avoid further attacks on, say the American and French embassies and the UN headquarters in Kinshasa. Also, to de-escalate the possibility of UN forces having to open fire on Congolese mobs attacking them.

Indeed, to appease the masses, the honest Monusco spokesperson was given 48 hours to leave the country, while the Rwandan ambassador who insisted his country wasn’t supporting any militia in DR Congo suffered the same fate.

Self-defence

The Monusco elements returning from a rest and recreation and shot in self-defence and killed Congolese mobs charging at them at the border with Uganda, were repatriated and the incident silenced.

The issue with this new theatrical approach is that if negotiators keep-up the smokescreen, they’ll lose all legitimacy.

Is it necessary to remember that M23, which stands for “Movement of March 23, 2009”, refers to peace accords signed on that date between its ancestor the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and Kinshasa.

On November 20, 2012, M23 took control of Goma, and was asked to relinquish it in exchange for the implementation of its grievances captured in said accords.

The M23 movement has its roots in the “Banyarwanda question.” Communities of Rwandan ancestry, speaking Kinyarwanda and practicing the Rwandan culture, are estimated to number 40 million, all located in the Great Lakes region. Only 13 million of them are Rwandan citizens. The majority are Ugandan citizens and the rest are located mainly in Burundi, DR Congo and Tanzania. The presence of Banyarwanda in those areas predates both colonialism and African borders, and their Congolese nationality is a consequence of the division of Africa at the Berlin conference on 188-1885.

Catastrophic déjà-vu

When the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) was fighting for the return of Tutsi refugees to Rwanda in the 1990s, the government in Rwanda brought in the question of their citizenship. To then president Juvenal Habyarimana, the Tutsi had no place in Rwanda and were to be “sprinkled” across countries of the region. Today, Congolese are saying the same thing.

But Tutsi aren’t spices that are to be peppered into other communities and expected to shrink into oblivion. That is what the 1994 genocide perpetrators in Rwanda wanted. Tutsi are a community with an identity and one of the oldest cultures in the region. They trace their ancestral homestead in this region and in current DR Congo since the seventeenth century. It is uncanny that the colonisers’ Berlin Conference of 1884/1885 should be the prism through which Africans interact with one another in this day and age.

Tshisekedi’s request for M23 to withdraw to their initial position has the hallmarks of FDLR leaders written all over it, straight from Habyarimana’s disastrous playbook of the 90s.

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Mediators walk a tightrope with mention of fear of polls

When Rwanda President Paul Kagame this week gave a speech criticising his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, it looked like he was merely responding to Kinshasa’s incessant accusations that Kigali fuels rebel activity in its territory.

President Kagame, while addressing legislators in Kigali, said, “This problem can be resolved if one country headed for elections next year is not trying to create an emergency so that the elections don’t take place…”

“If he is trying to find another way of having the next elections postponed, then I would rather he uses other excuses, not us,” Kagame said.

He did not name Tshisekedi by name but DR Congo is heading into elections in December next year.

Initially political friends, Kagame and Tshisekedi have been exchanging barbs, often cooling on mediation, but resuming exchanges soon after. The bone of contention is rebel movements in eastern DRC. The region has at least 120 armed groups but the main focus has been on M23 and the FDLR, which the two countries alternately accuse one another of sponsoring to interfere with each other’s stability. Each side denies the charge.

Focused on M23

In his speech that lasted for over an hour, President Kagame said the country has focused on the M23 rebel group, even when over several other armed groups are operating in the Eastern DRC.

There is a historical problem to it. The M23 is mostly made up of ethnic Tutsi, who are in Rwanda. The Forces Démocratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) is seen as made up of remnants of the genocidaires who fled Rwanda after Kagame defeated the Hutu-led genocide gangs.

Kagame said he offered President Tshisekedi assistance to fight off some of the rebel groups including the FDLR, which is responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but the latter refused. DR Congo in fact has argued the FDLR, having been disarmed, is not a big problem.

The ethnic link and association with past atrocities have elevated hate speech in the DRC, a UN official warned this week. The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu expressed concern that the spread of hate speech and armed groups and violence in Eastern DRC could trigger a genocide. Some of those massacres have been linked to people who originally fled genocide in Rwanda.

Warning sign

“The current violence is a warning sign of societal fragility and proof of the enduring presence of the conditions that allowed large-scale hatred and violence to erupt into a genocide in the past,” she said after completing her three-day visit to Eastern DRC.

Her visit followed a technical-level mission by her office that established that indicators and triggers contained in the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes, including dissemination of hate speech and absence of internal mechanisms to address it, were present in DRC

Other triggers are the politicisation of identity, proliferation of local militias and other armed groups across the country, widespread and systematic attacks including sexual violence against the Banyamulenge on the basis of their ethnicity and perceived allegiance to neighbouring countries.

According to Ms Wairimu, the current violence in Eastern DRC mainly stems from the refugee crisis that resulted from the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, leading to formation of armed groups that have led to the conflict that has rocked the region for two decades.

Mediators headache

The complexity of ethnic compositions, political grievances and interested parties mean mediators must walk on eggshells in seeking peace. That burden is now carried by former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC Facilitator for Peace in the DR Congo.

Mr Kenyatta must push for penalties on errant parties, while rewarding those suing for peace. Peace, however, is not the reward everyone wants.

This week, all the EAC leaders except South Sudan’s Salva Kiir took part physically or via video link in the discussions in the Nairobi Process that are meant to lay the foundation for continuous dialogue between the government in Kinshasa and the armed groups as well as neutralise negative forces in eastern DRC.

“There are groups that are yet to honour promises to lay down arms and we urge those who are not yet with us on the table to still give support to the Nairobi process. The resources of Congo are supposed to foster development and not to shed blood,” said Mr Kenyatta.

Agreed to disarm

The armed groups agreed to disarm and gave their proposals including withdrawal of foreign armed groups, freeing of imprisoned fighters by the FARDC and amnesty for those wanted for running armed groups.

The call for ceasefire was partly heeded by more than 52 armed groups that showed up for the Nairobi peace process.

The armed groups include those from North and South Kivu, Ituri armed groups, Maniema and Tanganyika as well as a small portion of the M23 rebels.

In attendance at the Nairobi meeting included Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco), a mystical-military organisation that claims to defend members of the Lendu community in Ituri region; Collective Movement for Change (CMC), based in Rutshuru, Masisi, and Nyiragongo; and the Mai Mai. 

The Ugandan rebels based in DRC, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and the M23 were not invited. Both the governments of Yoweri Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi have designated the two groups as terrorist organisations.

DRC’s plans

President Felix Tshisekedi’s Special Envoy Prof Serge Tshibangu said DRC has plans to absorb the local armed groups’ ex-combatants into the army after the due recruitment process has been followed.

“The amnesty will however, not be automatic to all armed groups that lay down their arms as some will have to go through the transitional justice process and be held accountable for their atrocities,” he said. In the past three weeks, Mr Kenyatta has visited Bujumbura, Kinshasa, Goma and Luanda in his diplomatic endeavours.

However, some of the armed groups that are involved in the diplomatic process are concerned that EAC leaders are not doing enough to pressure President Felix Tshisekedi to listen and act on their grievances. Basa Zukpa, the spokesperson for Codeco, said they have had formal talks with President Tshisekedi since 2019, but Kinshasa instead prefers to send delegations to tell them to lay down their arms.

“We are willing to lay down our arms but we need the EAC leaders to make serious efforts to bring peace to eastern Congo because our previous talks with the government have not produced any formal agreement,” said Mr Zukpa.

He said that Codeco is more concerned about intermittent attacks by the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) while their only intention is to defend their people from negative forces.

Jules Mulumba, the spokesperson for the Collective Movement for Change (CMC), expressed similar sentiments, saying they have been in touch with the government but there is no official communication yet.

Expressed frustrations

However, President Tshisekedi, while addressing the gathering via a video link, expressed frustrations that criminal activities are sabotaging diplomatic efforts to bring peace.

President Kagame said that persistent insecurity in eastern DRC is due to the failure to implement various agreements in the past years. He, however, sees some hope in resolving the conflict because the recent resurgence has attracted attention globally.

On the other hand, President Museveni said that the region should adopt a dual approach: Political dialogue and military action against those groups that don’t want peace.

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When Rwanda President Paul Kagame this week gave a speech criticising his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, it looked like he was merely responding to Kinshasa’s incessant accusations that Kigali fuels […]

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M23 urged to stop targeting civilians as 50 killed in east DRC

Emotions are still running high after the killing of civilians in Kishishe, in the chiefdom of Bwito, Rutshuru territory, about 100 kilometres from Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the Congolese army, 50 civilians were killed by the M23 rebels with the massacre being condemned by various agencies.

In the DRC, the government declared three days of national mourning while the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) denounced “these appalling acts”.

In its statement, Monusco called on “all relevant authorities to investigate without delay and bring the perpetrators to justice”.

Amnesty International also reacted by calling on M23 to cease targeting civilians following the killing of dozens of non-combatants in towns in the east of the DRC in recent days in indiscriminate attacks and, in some cases, summary killings.

“The M23 rebel group must immediately end deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s deputy director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes Region.

Protect civilians

“We urge all forces in the area, including the Congolese army and the East African Community Regional Force, to take all necessary measures to protect the civilian population while respecting international humanitarian law,” Ms Mwangovya added.

Human Rights Watch is also calling for an independent investigation and sanctions. The massacre of civilians in Kishishe could constitute a war crime, said Stephanie Miley, chargé d’affaires of the US embassy in Kinshasa.

Young men targeted

According to local civil society sources in North Kivu, the M23 targeted young men from Kashishe who had previously ambushed the rebels through community defence groups.  The bloody attack also claimed the lives of children and elderly people.

According to the Congolese army (FARDC), several other civilians are now missing or have been kidnapped by the M23.

General Sylvain Ekenge, the spokesman of the Congolese army, also denounced the forced recruitment of young people by the M23 and the use of children in the fighting.

The fighting resumed Thursday in North Kivu in violation of the ceasefire decreed in Luanda, Angola.

On November 23, East African heads of state and other political leaders from the region declared a ceasefire.

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Emotions are still running high after the killing of civilians in Kishishe, in the chiefdom of Bwito, Rutshuru territory, about 100 kilometres from Goma in the east of the Democratic […]

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DR Congo accuses M23 rebels of civilian massacre, breaching truce

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army on Thursday accused M23 insurgents of killing 50 civilians and breaching a five-day-old truce in the country’s restive east.

The rebel group issued a statement late Thursday denying the alleged massacre of civilians.

The ceasefire took effect in North Kivu province at the weekend following a summit between DRC and its neighbour Rwanda.

It was to have been followed by a rebel pull-out from captured territory, a withdrawal that has yet to take place.

General Sylvain Ekenge said the M23 group was “carrying out massacres… the most recent of which is that of 50 Congolese civilians, heinously murdered on Tuesday in Kishishe,” a village some 70 kilometres north of the eastern city of Goma.

‘Baseless allegations

Ekenge claimed that while Congolese forces had “scrupulously observed the truce”, the M23 had attacked government positions.

The M23 responded with a statement describing accusations of a massacre in Kishishe as “baseless allegations” and insisting that “it has never targeted civilian populations”.

Sources said earlier that fighting had resumed Thursday in Kirima in the same region, about 10 kilometres from the town of Kibirizi.

“The rebels have crossed the bridge, heading for Kibirizi… there’s panic,” said Paul Lutibahwa, head of civil society groups for the Bambo region.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused the M23 of having breached the ceasefire and “carrying on looting and fighting”.

“The fighting is heavy — we are using heavy artillery,” said a DRC army officer who also asked not to be identified.

Contacted by AFP, M23’s military spokesman Willy Ngoma confirmed that there was fighting with the army.

Resurgent force

The March 23 movement, or M23, is a predominantly Congolese Tutsi rebel group that was dormant for years.

It took up arms again in November last year and seized the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda in June. 

After a brief period of calm, it went on the offensive again in October 2022, greatly extending the territory under its control and advancing towards the city of Goma.

Kinshasa accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of providing M23 with support, something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months. 

Accusation disputed

Kigali disputes the charge, and in turn accuses Kinshasa of collusion with the FDLR — a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. 

Talks between the two countries in the Angolan capital of Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23.

The ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on Friday, November 25 at 1600 GMT and be followed by a pull-out by the M23 two days later.

A parallel initiative has been undertaken by the East African Community (EAC), a seven-nation regional bloc that includes Rwanda.

It has decided to deploy a regional force to help stabilise the region, for which Kenyan troops are already deployed in Goma, and on November 28 launched peace talks, to which the M23 are not invited.

Until Thursday’s violence, there had been no fighting between government forces and the M23, although the rebels had clashed with local militia, especially in the Bambo area, where civilian casualties were reported.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army on Thursday accused M23 insurgents of killing 50 civilians and breaching a five-day-old truce in the country’s restive east. The rebel group issued a […]

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Kagame claims Tshisekedi using DRC crisis to delay presidential poll

Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday accused DRC leader Felix Tshisekedi of exploiting the ongoing insecurity in eastern Congo to postpone next year’s presidential election.

Addressing a parliamentary session after the signing in of new members of the Cabinet, President Kagame said he believes the current leadership of the Democratic Republic of Congo is creating a security emergency a year before the country holds presidential elections in order to find a reason to postpone the elections scheduled for December 2023.

“This problem can be resolved if one country headed for elections next year is not trying to create an emergency so that the elections don’t take place, not that he won the first elections as we know. If he is trying to find another way of having the next elections postponed, then I would rather he uses other excuses, not us,” Kagame said.

ReadCaution greets DRC deal on rebel violence

Tshisekedi came to power in January 2019 and DRC will hold its next presidential election in December 2023.

President Kagame was addressing MPs on Wednesday while officiating the swearing-in of Rwanda’s new minister of Health, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, and the permanent secretary in the ministry, Ivan Butera.

In his speech that lasted for over an hour, President Kagame said Congo has focused on the M23 rebel group, even when over 400 other armed groups are operating in eastern DRC.

The M23 is among armed groups that have turned eastern DRC into one of Africa’s most violent regions.

‘Assistance declined’

He said that when the conflict resumed, he offered President Tshisekedi assistance to fight off some of the rebel groups including the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), which is said to be responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but the DRC leader declined.

ReadRwanda army kills ‘unidentified’ DRC soldier

Given how long the conflict has been ongoing and how attempts to solve the issue remain ineffective, President Kagame said that he believes that someone somewhere wants the issue to remain unresolved.

“It has become so convenient for a long time that all problems are put on the shoulders of Rwanda. Rwanda is always the culprit, not FDLR. The government of DRC should be responsible for its people, not the UN, not the powerful countries like the US, UK, and France. Why does it always come back to Rwanda,” Kagame said. 

ReadLuanda hosts summit on DRC, Rwanda crisis

He added that “the blame that Rwanda carries for DRC issues should be carried by Congo and those who want to alleviate DRC’s responsibilities”.

Military clashes between rebel groups in the eastern DRC have forced thousands out of their homes. By Monday, a ceasefire between government troops and M23 rebels appeared to hold for a third day despite clashes between rival militias.

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday accused DRC leader Felix Tshisekedi of exploiting the ongoing insecurity in eastern Congo to postpone next year’s presidential election. Addressing a parliamentary session after […]

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Unite for lasting peace, Uhuru Kenyatta urges DR Congo citizens

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has implored on Congolese citizens meeting with him in Nairobi for the third Inter-Congolese dialogue this week to embrace forgiveness as the search for lasting peace in the eastern parts of the country continues.

Mr Kenyatta is leading the East African Community-led Nairobi Peace Process talks that have brought together armed groups, civil society groups, women and youth groups, survivors of the conflict and government representatives led by Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi’s Special Envoy Serge Tshibangu.

The groups are represented in Nairobi by about 350 participants, over 50 of whom represent armed groups fighting in eastern DRC.

“Though the pain from the atrocities committed against you may be too much in the last 20 years as lives have been lost, animals stolen and minerals stolen by foreign nations who are happy to spur conflict as they steal your minerals leaving your children unable to go to school and your mothers unable to give birth in hospital, let us embrace a forgiving heart and agree to unite to bring lasting peace to the region,” he said.

Territorial sovereignty

Mr Kenyatta assured the participants that the talks will not delve into discussions over DRC’s territorial sovereignty.

“The Republic of DRC belongs to the Congolese and we are not here to discuss how an inch of your territory shall be cut off. Ours (the Nairobi Process) is to find ways you can co-exist with one another and resolve conflicts that arise between you without taking arms against one another,” he said.

The Luanda process that is closely inter-linked with the Nairobi process is attempting to resolve external conflict between DRC and Rwanda.

“We believe we shall find solutions from both processes so that you can live in peace at home, refugees and internally displaced persons can go back to their home and that all arms in the hands of armed groups shall be silenced and surrendered to the government,” Mr Kenyatta said.

In the last Luanda meeting held last week, EAC member states ordered M23 and other foreign groups operating in eastern DRC to ease hostilities, lay down their arms and leave the country unconditionally.

Conditions for M23

The M23 was particularly asked to leave Banagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja but they are yet to do so and that is why they are not part of the armed groups attending the Nairobi peace process.

“Until that is done, the M23 cannot be part of these discussions. The process happening here only involves armed groups that have agreed to lay down their arms and ease hostilities,” said Mr Kenyatta.

But Prof Tshibangu confirmed that about six percent of the M23 group has shown up in Nairobi and reiterated that the Congolese government will not negotiate with groups that have deliberately declined to take part in the process.

“There will be no amnesty for these people. There will be no forum for us to discuss with foreign armed groups. They should lay down their arms and go to their homes. There shall be no negotiations with them; military action shall be deployed against them,” he said.

Absorb ex-combatants

He added that DRC has plans to absorb other ex-combatants into the army known by its French acronym FARDC after the due recruitment process has been followed.

“The amnesty will however not be automatic to all armed groups that lay down their arms as some will have to go through the transitional justice process and be held accountable for their atrocities,” he said.

The dialogues are meant to create mechanisms for bringing back peace in eastern DRC where more than 120 armed groups are fighting.

They kicked off on Monday with a resolution by EAC heads of state to deploy troops against armed groups that defy calls to ease hostilities, create channels for voluntary repatriation of IDPs and refugees hosted in neighbouring countries in addition to a call for the unconditional departure of foreign armed groups from DRC territories.

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Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has implored on Congolese citizens meeting with him in Nairobi for the third Inter-Congolese dialogue this week to embrace forgiveness as the search for lasting […]

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New clashes erupt between DR Congo army and M23 rebels

Fighting with heavy weapons erupted between government forces and M23 insurgents in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, shaking a five-day-old truce, security sources and rebels said.

The ceasefire took effect in North Kivu province at the weekend following a summit between DRC and its neighbour Rwanda.

It was to have been followed by a rebel pull-out from captured territory, a withdrawal that has yet to take place.

The sources said fighting resumed Thursday in Kirima, about 10 kilometres from the town of Kibirizi.

“Fighting resumed this morning between the FARDC and the M23,” said Paul Lutibahwa, head of civil society groups for the Bambo region. The FARDC stands for the armed forces of the DRC.

Panic

“The rebels have crossed the bridge, heading for Kibirizi… there’s panic,” he said, an account confirmed by a representative of civil groups there, who said that people were fleeing.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused the M23 of having breached the ceasefire and “carrying on looting and fighting”.

A DRC army officer, who also asked not to be identified, said: “The fighting is heavy — we are using heavy artillery.”

Contacted by AFP, the M23’s military spokesman Willy Ngoma confirmed that there was fighting with the army.

Resurgent force

The March 23 movement, or M23, is a predominantly Congolese Tutsi rebel group that was dormant for years.

It took up arms again in November last year and seized the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda in June 2022. 

After a brief period of calm, it went on the offensive again in October, greatly extending the territory under its control and advancing towards the city of Goma.

Kinshasa accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of providing M23 with support, something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months.

Kigali disputes the charge, and in turn accuses Kinshasa of collusion with the FDLR — a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the genocide of the Tutsi community in 1994 in Rwanda. 

Luanda talks

Talks between the two countries in the Angolan capital of Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23.

The ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on Friday, November 25 at 1600 GMT and be followed by a pull-out by the M23 two days later.

A parallel initiative has been undertaken by the East African Community (EAC), a seven-nation regional bloc that includes Rwanda.

It has decided to deploy a regional force to help stabilise the region, for which Kenyan troops are already deployed in Goma, and on November 28 launched peace talks, to which the M23 are not invited.

Until Thursday’s violence, there had been no fighting between government forces and the M23, although the rebels had clashed with local militia, especially in the Bambo area, where civilian casualties were reported.

Pope’s visit

The Vatican, meanwhile, announced that Pope Francis would visit the DRC and South Sudan from January 31 to February 5.

His trip to the two countries had been planned for July this year but was postponed because the pope was undergoing treatment for knee pain.

His stay in the DRC from January 31 to February 3 will take place in Kinshasa and no longer includes Goma. 

The site that had been chosen for a papal mass, located 15 kilometres north of Goma, is currently occupied by a forward position of the armed forces.

Scores of armed groups roam eastern DRC, making it one of Africa’s most violent regions.

Many are legacies of two wars before the turn of the century that sucked in countries from the region and left millions dead.

Demonstrators protesting perceived international indifference to the crisis rallied in Goma early Thursday.

Another march staged by the Catholic church took place in Bukavu, in neighbouring South Kivu province.

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Fighting with heavy weapons erupted between government forces and M23 insurgents in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, shaking a five-day-old truce, security sources and rebels said. The ceasefire […]

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Surrender or face military action, rebel groups in DR Congo told

The M23 rebels, who are not represented at the ongoing inter-Congolese dialogue in Nairobi and are currently under sanctions by DRC, have been asked to hand themselves over to the government failure to which military action will be taken against them.

The Democratic Republic of Congo government has reiterated that it will not offer amnesty to the group which continues to defy calls for cessation of hostilities and exit from the areas of Bunagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja where they were last week asked to leave after the last meeting of the Luanda process in Angola.

“If they are your brothers and sisters, I advise you to tell them to come while the arm is still stretched towards them. Do not want to be in conflict with the government and the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF),” President Felix Tshesekedi’s special envoy Serge Tshibangu Wednesday told the armed groups attending the third Nairobi Peace Process on.

He reiterated that Kinshasa will not engage the foreign armed groups fighting in eastern Congo and that they must leave the country forthwith.

“We have met only six percent of the M23 group who are represented here. The rest have decided to isolate themselves and they continue to carry out attacks,” Prof Tshibangu added.

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC facilitator for the Nairobi process. He said the Nairobi meeting only involves armed groups that have agreed to silence their guns. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP

Groups in Nairobi meeting

The EAC facilitator for the process, former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, said the Nairobi meeting only involves armed groups that have agreed to silence their guns.

“The Luanda process was very clear that M23 should ease hostilities — which they have done — and vacate from three locations. Until that is done, M23 cannot be part of these discussions,” Mr Kenyatta said.

“The other foreign armed groups were told to leave the DRC territory and go back to their home countries. If they will not, they shall face military action by FARDC and the EACRF,” he added.

ReadM23 asks to meet Uhuru Kenyatta

Day two of the Nairobi Inter-Congolese dialogues was off to a slow start following the late arrival of yet another group of 82 representatives of armed groups, community leaders, civil society groups and youth groups from Goma.

Largest inter-Congolese dialogue

The arrival of the group on Tuesday afternoon added to the groups that arrived over the weekend from North Kivu, Ituri and other regions, bringing the total number of participants to 350, who include over 50 armed groups, making it the largest inter-Congolese dialogue since the inception of the Nairobi peace process in April this year.

The late arrival of the team pushed Tuesday’s negotiations to Wednesday.

Participants who spoke to The EastAfrican expressed hope that the meeting would find a lasting solution to the recurrent conflict in eastern Congo, which some claimed is mainly fuelled by foreign fighters.

ReadM23: Ceasefire deal doesn’t concern us

Others intimated that the conflict has entirely destabilised their lives as a result of a growing number of victims who are now disabled as a result of the war, besides cases of rape and defilement — resulting in the siring of “unwanted” children — and a delayed school calendar among other woes.

“We thank Kenya for the part it is playing in helping us find lasting peace because we need an end to all of the trouble happening back at home. I have just received a call from my children telling me that there was a fight in the morning. We hope the M23 can go back to where they came from,” one of the victims said.

Counselling for war victims

Psychiatrists from the Kenya’s Ministry of Health have been seconded to the week-long event at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel to offer counselling to the victims as they come face to face with some of the persons suspected to be behind the crimes committed against them.

One rebel group’s representative confessed that the support for some of the armed groups indeed comes from some neighbouring countries, which he declined to mention, but quickly pointed out that they were ready to surrender their guns to the DRC government if the issues affecting the region are addressed.

ReadExperts: Don’t include rebels into DRC army

Regarding the decision by EAC member states to deploy troops to the region, he said they are waiting to see if indeed their intention is to ensure peace.

“If that is indeed their intention, we shall be happy to support them. All we have been fighting for is the protection of our fellow countrymen and resources. We have seen some groups that are supported by foreign countries steal our minerals and fight our people, we want an end to that and a country that is peaceful,” he said.

Hope in Nairobi process

Prof Tshubangu expressed hope that the Nairobi process would bear fruit and come up with strategies that bring peace in eastern DRC.

“We think we are going to leave this country with resolutions and commitments. Remember all the eyes of the entire world are on us. I’d like to urge all of us that it is important that what we discuss here is executed for the sake of our country and future generations,” he said on Tuesday.

“This is your historical moment. Use it to bring lasting peace to your home country,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau told the participants.

The dialogues are meant to create mechanisms for bringing back peace in eastern DRC where more than 120 armed groups are fighting.

They kicked off on Monday with a resolution by EAC heads of state to deploy military action against armed groups that defy calls to ease hostilities, create channels for voluntary repatriation of internally displaced persons and refugees hosted in neighbouring countries in addition to a call for the unconditional departure of foreign armed groups from DRC territories.

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The M23 rebels, who are not represented at the ongoing inter-Congolese dialogue in Nairobi and are currently under sanctions by DRC, have been asked to hand themselves over to the […]

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Truce holds in east DR Congo despite ambushes by rival militias

A ceasefire between government troops and M23 rebels appeared to be holding for a third day on Monday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite clashes between rival militias, residents told AFP.

Under the ceasefire that came into force on Friday night, the March 23 group, which has seized swathes of territory, was to withdraw from “occupied zones,” failing which an East African regional force would intervene.

But by Monday local people reported no sign of a rebel pullout of those zones.

Over the weekend, sporadic clashes occurred between the mainly Congolese Tutsi M23 fighters and Hutu factions such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation Rwanda (FDLR).

“During the night, an M23 vehicle was caught in an ambush” at Kinyandonyi village in Rutshuru territory, a hospital source said Monday.

“There were deaths but it’s difficult to know more.”

Another attack

On Sunday, the FDLR, present in the sprawling DRC since the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda, carried out another attack 30 kilometres (18 miles) away at Biruma, a resident said.

On Saturday, six civilians died when a local ethnic militia and the FDLR clashed at Kisharo, close to the same area, a hospital source said.

Despite fighting between the M23 and the army continuing right up to the ceasefire deadline north of the provincial capital Goma, no clashes have since been reported between the two, according to locals telephoned by AFP.

Frontlines calm

The frontlines have remained calm, they said.

AFP was unable to independently confirm the accounts from local people.

The March 23 group had been dormant for years, but took up arms again late last year accusing the government of failing to honour a disarmament deal.

M23 has overrun large tracts of mountainous Rutshuru territory north of Goma, a city of one million which they briefly captured 10 years ago.

The advance on Goma has halted over the last two weeks but the rebels had still been gaining ground on other fronts, in the west towards Masisi and in the northeast.

The DRC accuses neighbouring Rwanda of supporting the rebels — charges Kigali denies and in turn alleges Kinshasa works with the FDLR.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi attended a regional mini summit in the Angolan capital Luanda last week, agreeing a deal on the cessation of hostilities from Friday evening.

Nairobi talks

A fresh round of talks with armed groups opened in Kenya on Monday, without the M23 present.

Minister and government spokesman Patrick Muyaya repeated the M23’s position, telling journalists: “The M23 will not take part in the Nairobi talks until it has liberated the occupied localities”.

The UN’s peacekeeping force in eastern DRC, Monusco, said on Monday it had been “officially requested by the DRC’s foreign ministry to support the implementation of decisions adopted in the context of the Luanda and Nairobi peace processes”. 

It said it was “ready to set up a coordination mechanism” with the East African regional force.

The M23 is among scores of armed groups that have turned eastern DRC into one of Africa’s most violent regions.

Many are legacies of two wars before the turn of the century that sucked in countries from the region and left millions dead.

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A ceasefire between government troops and M23 rebels appeared to be holding for a third day on Monday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite clashes between rival militias, […]

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International community has let Ugandans down, says Besigye

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has accused the international community of turning a blind eye to rampant human rights violations in his country.

Although it is the responsibility of Ugandans to hold their government accountable, he argues, the West has decided to ignore what is going on in Uganda.

“Ugandans have first and primary responsibility to cause their government to account to them,” Dr Besigye told NTVKenya on Wednesday evening.

“We know that we have [a] duty. The first duty is to demand that we are treated in accordance with the law, with the constitution and international covenants. We have been doing pretty much … that.”

Human rights universal

He added: “However, human rights are universal and any abuse of human rights anywhere is abuse of human rights everywhere because if you don’t address it, you will fall [victim to] it sooner or later.

“Therefore, we expect [that] indeed the international community has an obligation that it should discharge in ensuring that the kinds of human rights abuses that have been taking place in Uganda are checked. Unfortunately, that has not taken place.”

The veteran opposition politician said Western countries are not bothered about human rights violations in Uganda because they need the help of President Yoweri Museveni in combating terrorism in and outside the East African region.

He said “Western countries are very much concerned about terrorism that has gripped the world, and because our forces are available or conscripted into that fight in Somalia, Sudan, in other places,” they pretend not to see what is happening in Uganda.

“This is shameful and I think it should stop because you cannot say you’re fighting terrorism while [turning] a blind eye [to] abuse of human rights,” he said.

Disappearances

The number of people disappearing because of criticising Mr Museveni’s style of leadership, he claimed, has gone a notch higher compared with Idi Amin’s era.

“Day in, day out people are disappearing. The list of [disappeared] people has been given to [the] government, including Parliament … [This is the list] of people who have disappeared and taken in broad daylight by people who are from security [agencies],” he said.

He added, “Some have been released with horrible torture marks on them and displayed in courts. [These kinds] of abuses cannot be debated.”

Vowing that he was not ready to give up on the struggle for a better Uganda, Dr Besigye said the problem is not about getting a new leader but removing power from the people who carry guns and giving it to the unarmed people of Uganda. Uganda’s independent institutions, he said, need to be freed from state capture.

State capture

“In 2011, I personally came to the conclusion that elections cannot solve the problem we have at hand. There is complete state capture of the institutions of the state,” he said.

“What is needed in our country now is not political contestation at elections – it is a liberation struggle to free our state institutions, free the country from capture by force that has gone on.

Once that is done, he added, Ugandans can then “organise a transition to a democratic space pretty much in the same way that Kenya did”.

He also dismissed claims that the liberation struggle in Uganda has failed because the opposition has failed to unite in order to bring change. He argued that every election cycle, Ugandans remain united and their efforts to elect someone other than President Museveni are frustrated by state capture of institutions.

Ugandans want change

“The people of Uganda who want change have been uniting behind a candidate they think offers the best opportunity for change and that is why every election has been a two-horse race. You have not found an election where votes are distributed among 10 candidates,” he said.

“It has always been a two-horse race because people who want change just look for what will give them the best chance to have that change.”

Dr Besigye noted that power in Uganda is mediated between the military and the family of President Museveni.

He added that the reason it is “always difficult for one candidate to challenge the kind of government that we have is [that] the people who control power sometimes control wealth”.

“Controlling institutions and capturing the state also leads to capture of state resources. Once you have unlimited control over resources, it is easier to sponsor a candidate and encourage all kinds of candidates to come up. Sometimes it is not easy to stop [a] multiplicity of candidates,” he said.

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Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has accused the international community of turning a blind eye to rampant human rights violations in his country. Although it is the responsibility of Ugandans […]

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How Myanmar became destination for trafficked East Africans

On a Facebook page routinely appearing in the East African region, ‘models’, saleswomen and teachers of English are invited to apply for jobs ranging from marketing, language classes and translation.

And the promised pay is hefty, by East African standards. One offer for a ‘sales specialist’ promises one to earn Thai Baht (TBH) 7,5000 (about KSh256,000 or $2,098) per month. A bilingual translator could earn up to $3,000, mostly to work at a call centre where clients are foreign speakers of English or some other language. It is an added advantage if you can speak Chinese and are white, but good looks generally will do you fine.

The qualification, the advert shows is simple. You must be a university graduate, good at communication skills and have a “cheerful” personality. What is more, a human relations manager whose salary is Ksh150,000 ($1,229) can more than double their take-home if they recruit more workers. One offer says they will get $139 times the number of employees under their watch.

Flight ticket guaranteed

The jobs also require one to have fast typing skills and that one must be able to relocate to Thailand with a promise to have their visas sorted and a flight ticket guaranteed.

This type of recruitment, it turns out, has gotten more East Africans travelling in droves to Thailand, but ending up enslaved in Myanmar, according to a bulletin by the Kenyan Foreign and Diaspora Affairs ministry.

One survivor, recently rescued from Myanmar, told The EastAfrican they were duped into the jobs but were moved to an unknown location as soon as they landed in Thailand, initially on a tourism visa. That place turned out to be a remote location inside Myanmar, a country under a state of emergency since last year when the military junta deposed a democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“They said they wanted their employees to be taught English so they can speak fluently to their clients,” Martha* said.

“After we arrived, they took our passports and we were moved mostly through remote locations. They said they were avoiding dangerous security points. But they had not told us we would end up in Myanmar,” she explained.

Rescued

Martha, a Kenyan, was among 24 East Africans rescued in September from Myanmar in a concerted effort by the Kenyan and Laos government with HAART Kenya and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The group also included a Burundian and a Ugandan. Earlier, a group of 13 had also been rescued after the Thai military responded to distress calls.

The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs said on Wednesday that the Laos security forces had rescued another group of six, collaborating with the UN agencies. But the response has been to only those who manage to sneak out their call for help.

“Already, one young Kenyan has died as a result of a botched operation by quack doctors operating in the so-called special economic zones in rebel controlled areas in Myanmar,” the Kenyan ministry said, suggesting organ harvesting is fuelling the trafficking. Officials did not reveal the identity or gender of the dead Kenyan. But most of those rescued recently have been all women.

“Others who have been rescued have returned home in crutches and with broken limbs after being beaten severely by up to 20 gang members operating in the factories.”

Coordinated gangs

The gangs are coordinated, given that travelling between Nairobi and Myanmar is treacherous. With no direct flights and no diplomatic missions between any east African country and Myanmar, travellers are lured as though they are going to Bangkok, a popular destination for tourists, and famous for its blind masseuses. Others are advertised as jobs in Mae Sot, a town in Thailand near the border with Myanmar.

“The jobs that are purported to be in Mae Sot town in Thailand are fake. The cartels use Mae Sot as a bait. As soon as one lands in Mae Sot, they are whisked across the river to the factories in Myanmar,” the Kenyan government warned on Wednesday.

“Kenyans continue to fall prey to online job scammers, who are unrelenting in their search for innocent Kenyans to sell to Chinese cartels. Many of the agents, wanted by the police, are still advertising sales and customer care jobs purported to be in Thailand with impunity, well aware that there are no such jobs.”

Since August, Nairobi says 75 victims of trafficking have been brought back home. They include ten Ugandans and a Burundian, rescued in cooperation with the governments of Thailand, Laos, IOM and HAART Kenya. Authorities estimated there could be more still trapped, as there at least 30 distress calls pending rescue.

Those rescued say they had to work long hours and the pay was not forthcoming. Those trafficked were mostly women under 35. They also said they were working in an area controlled by rebels opposed to the junta in Myanmar. Nairobi says “the rebels provide protection to the Chinese criminal cartels” who sometimes threaten Thai and Laos government officials planning rescue operations.

Kenya now says it will raise supervision on any East African travelling to Thailand through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to purge anyone travelling after getting an ‘online job’ there. In addition, those travelling to Thailand on ‘tourist’ visas will have to show exact address and return tickets even though the government said it invites any Kenyans “to Thailand and other countries in the region who come for legit work and leisure but not as victims of trafficking”.

At least 2,5O0 Kenyans work and study in Thailand, according to official government records.

“Some are teachers, doctors, IT professionals, international civil servants working with UN agencies and others doing business. We have Kenyans who have lived in Thailand for over 30 years and married Thai citizens.”

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On a Facebook page routinely appearing in the East African region, ‘models’, saleswomen and teachers of English are invited to apply for jobs ranging from marketing, language classes and translation. […]

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Uganda blocks contacts of Ebola patients from foreign travel

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has said contacts and suspected contacts of Ebola patients will not be allowed to leave the country in order to prevent the disease from spreading to other countries.

He said a list of confirmed contacts has been given to the immigration authorities who will prevent them from international travel.

The country has also started screening people at airports and land border points of entry for temperature, symptoms and history of contact.

during his fourth televised address to the country since the outbreak of Ebola in September, President Museveni said that his Uganda’s efforts to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola disease are starting to pay off as few new cases are currently being recorded as compared to how the situation was a few weeks ago.

Confirmed cases

As of Wednesday, there are 141 confirmed cases. Fifty five of these have died while 73 have recovered and 13 are admitted to the Ebola treatment units.

Two districts of Kassandra and Mubende, which are the epicentres of the outbreak, are currently under lockdown, with public transport restricted to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the country.

“In the past 21 days, the number of new cases has reduced to an average of three per day. This was because of intensifying control interventions which included door-to-door sensitisation of the communities by the village health teams, training of the health workers on infection prevention control in both public and private health facilities, safe dignified burials of all deceased in the communities and hospitals, and early treatment of cases at the Ebola treatment units,” Mr Museveni said.

Since these interventions were instituted, Mubende district, which recorded the first case and is regarded as a high-risk area, has not recorded a new Ebola case for the past 18 days.

Flouting rules

However, even with the efforts in place, many people, especially from high-risk areas, continue to flout the rules, which has seen the disease reach six districts across the country currently. A case was recently reported in Jinja, 80km east of Kampala, on Saturday. Two more people have succumbed to the disease in the area.

According to President Museveni, progress in containing the disease is being hindered by, among other things, a passenger relay system by boda bodas that allows contacts to escape areas under lockdown and subsequently spread the disease, frequent visits to traditional healers, myths, misconceptions, and misinformation, and escape by Ebola contacts under quarantine.

In his Tuesday address, the president ordered the Ministry of Health and local government leaders to intensify sensitisation of the boda boda riders on the dangers of aiding contacts to leave places under lockdown.

Traditional healers barred

He added that all traditional healers and witchdoctors have been prohibited from carrying out their activities and that trucks carrying logs, which have been discreetly transporting people, are prohibited from moving into and out of Mubende and Kassandra districts with immediate effect for the next 21 days.

The president noted that reports from the tourism sector players indicate that tourists have been cancelling their trips to Uganda and that some have even postponed their bookings in hotels and lodges due to the Ebola outbreak. In addition, several international conferences and meetings have been postponed and some moved to other countries due to the outbreak.

“I would like to reassure the international community, tourists and conference organisers and the entire Ugandan population that the government has put in place measures to control the outbreak. The Ebola outbreak is localised to only six out of the 146 districts. Uganda remains safe and we welcome international guests,” Mr Museveni said.

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Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has said contacts and suspected contacts of Ebola patients will not be allowed to leave the country in order to prevent the disease from spreading to […]

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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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Kenya joins calls for Russia to pay Ukraine war reparations

Kenya on Monday joined 93 other countries in supporting a UN resolution calling for Russia to compensate Ukraine after invading it in February this year.

The non-binding resolution A/ES-11/L.6: ‘Furtherance of remedy and reparation for aggression against Ukraine’ by the UN General Assembly reflected the enduring indifference to African countries in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it did show significant support for Ukraine in seeking compensation and depicting Moscow as an aggressor in the war.

Ninety-four countries including Kenya, Ghana, Somalia and Djibouti voted to have Russia “bear the legal consequences” of its invasion of Ukraine, including recompensing for lost limbs, deaths or destroyed property.

“We had serious reservations on aspects of the resolution which were reflected in the outcome of the vote in the high number of abstentions and ‘no’ votes,” said Dr Martin Kimani, in a note explaining Kenya vote on Monday.
“Despite this, we voted yes because it is the right thing to do. Ukraine has a sovereign right to make claims for damages and loses incurred by virtue of conflict.”

No legal weight

It was the latest political symbol of opposition against Russia as voted by the UN General Assembly. Usually, such decisions reached by the Assembly do not carry legal weight, but can fuel political pressure on the affected party.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, there have been several UN General Assembly decisions, all reached under the rare Assembly’s emergency special sessions.

Weeks after the war, 141 member states denounced the invasion and when Russia annexed three regions of Ukraine in October under a shady referendum, 143 others voted to reject it.

Distant war

In Africa, however, the war continues to be seen as distant. Gabon, the other non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from Africa (besides Kenya and Ghana) abstained and so did Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi.

Fourteen countries including South Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Mali and Central African Republic voted no, while others like the Democratic Republic of Congo were not even present during the voting.

“This is the right of Ukraine but also for all the peoples and countries that are seeking reparations for colonial violence and dispossession, slavery, and other acts of aggression by powerful states, including members of the Security Council,” Dr Kimani added.

Since 1950, the UN General Assembly has often taken up matters regarding international peace and security if the UN Security Council, the most powerful organ of the UN, fails to gain a unanimous decision among its five permanent members. They are Russia, China, UK, US and France.

This session is the 11th since 1950 and it came after Moscow vetoed a resolution tabled before the Security Council condemning an assault on Ukraine.

“Seventy-seven years ago, the Soviet Union demanded and received reparations, calling it a moral right of a country that has suffered war and occupation,” Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the Assembly before voting.

“Today, Russia, who claims to be the successor of the 20th century’s tyranny, is doing everything it can to avoid paying the price for its own war and occupation, trying to escape accountability for the crimes it is committing.”

The Ukrainian diplomat wants the world to follow an example set earlier when it created the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) in 1991 to force Iraq to pay for illegally invading Kuwait. The Commission had overseen payments of over $52 billion in reparations to victims by the time it closed this year.

Nearly 50 nations co-sponsored the resolution on establishing an international mechanism for compensation for damage, loss and injury, as well as a register to document evidence and claims.

Pay for destruction

Ukraine wants Russia to pay for destruction including buildings, bridges and roads, demolition of power supply lines, displacement of civilians and killings, besides rape and torture.

His Russian counterpart, Vasily Nebenzya, argued that the Assembly had no powers to rule on legal cases and punish parties.

“These countries boast about how committed they are to the rule of law, but at the same time, they are flouting its very semblance,” he said.

“The UN will play no role in this process because the proposed mechanism is suggested to be created outside of the UN, and no one has any plans to account to the General Assembly for its activity.”

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Kenya on Monday joined 93 other countries in supporting a UN resolution calling for Russia to compensate Ukraine after invading it in February this year. The non-binding resolution A/ES-11/L.6: ‘Furtherance of […]

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Clashes in eastern DR Congo as Uhuru pursues ‘dialogue’ initiative

roops and rebels traded heavy fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, a military source and local inhabitants said, as former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community’s mediator in efforts to end the war between DRC forces and M23 militants, called for all armed groups to “silence the guns”.

Government forces and the M23 militia were fighting in Kibumba, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the strategic city Goma, the sources said, speaking by phone.

M23 fighters were also seen about 40 kilometres northwest of the city in the Virunga National Park, a wildlife haven famed for its mountain gorillas but which is also a hideout for armed groups, the sources said.

A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 (the March 23 Movement) leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before being driven out. 

M23 grievances

After lying dormant for years, the rebels took up arms again in late 2021, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.

They have since won a string of victories against the military and captured swathes of territory, prompting thousands of people to flee their homes.

The resurgence has ratcheted up diplomatic tensions, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the group.

Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador at the end of last month as the M23 advanced, and recalled its own envoy from Kigali.

Rwanda denies providing any support for the M23 and accuses the Congolese army of colluding with the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) — a notorious Hutu rebel movement involved in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda. 

“The Rwandan army and its allies from the M23 don’t stop, every passing day, launching assaults on our different positions in Kibumba,” Lt Col Guillaume Ndjike, the army spokesman for the eastern North Kivu province, told reporters.

Witnesses in the rebel-held town of Kiwanja also spoke last week of school canteens backed by World Food Programme being pillaged on Sunday and Monday. 

“There was corn flour and oil. They took these provisions as food rations,” a resident said.

Another said oil cans, flour sacks and beans had been taken away by truck the previous day.

‘Silence the guns’

Eastern DRC saw two bloody regional wars in the 1990s.

That conflict, along with the Rwandan genocide, bequeathed a legacy of scores of armed groups which remain active across the region but especially in North Kivu.

The heads of the seven-nation East African Community (EAC) on Sunday announced they would hold a “peace dialogue” on the region’s conflicts. 

“All groups that currently bear arms should lay those arms down and choose the path of peace through dialogue,” said EAC’s mediator, former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, on Monday. 

He arrived in Kinshasa the day before to hold consultations ahead of November 21 peace talks in Nairobi. 

“Silence the guns and join in a political process,” he urged local armed groups. 

To foreign groups, “the DRC is no longer the battleground for problems that are not from this country,” Kenyatta added. 

“There is nothing that can be gained through the barrel of a gun.”  

Angolan President Joao Lourenco is exploring another diplomatic path.

He met on Friday with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and on Saturday with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

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roops and rebels traded heavy fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, a military source and local inhabitants said, as former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African […]

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Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in Kinshasa for DR Congo peace talks

The East African Community (EAC) is engaged in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A day after the arrival of Kenyan troops in Goma, North Kivu, former President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in Kinshasa where he is to stay for two days. The EAC facilitator is accompanied by East African Community Secretary General Peter Mathuki.

Advisers to the chairperson of the East African Community heads of state summit and President of the Republic of Burundi, H.E. Évariste Ndayishimiye, have also been invited to the talks.

The Eastern bloc authorities are preparing for the third round of the Nairobi dialogue, which will bring together the Congolese government and Congolese armed groups.

The Kinshasa talks come a week after a high-level meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, with President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Kenyan President William Ruto.

Mr Kenyatta is scheduled to meet President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa.

“The former Kenyan president will also meet the presidents of the two chambers of parliament (National Assembly and Senate), members of the government, diplomats and representatives of local communities, leaders of religious denominations, traditional chiefs and women’s associations of the provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu who have travelled from Kinshasa to meet and exchange with the team of President Uhuru on Monday,” reads a statement from President Tshisekedi’s office.

Also Read: DRC, Rwanda to maintain ‘political dialogue’

This will be an opportunity for Mr Kenyatta to talk with the communities and understand what they think after so many years of war.

Talks with M23

The meetings are being held against the backdrop of an intense war between the M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in North Kivu.

For the East African leaders, the parties involved must favour dialogue to achieve peace.

The DRC authorities say they have a “double strategy”: diplomacy, but also war to impose peace.

Also read: Cost of DRC war on EAC economies

For this reason, Kinshasa simultaneously says it remains open to dialogue while continuing to fight the rebels who paradoxically also say they are open to dialogue.

President Tshisekedi on Saturday welcomed President João Lourenço, the Angolan head of state and mediator of the Luanda negotiations.

João Lourenço was in Kigali on Friday to meet President Paul Kagame, again in the search for peace. For the moment, despite the increasing number of meetings, the resolutions of the Luanda roadmap, in particular the ceasefire in the theatre of war, have remained a dead letter.

In the DRC, many Congolese reject the idea of dialogue with the M23.

Kinshasa has already set its conditions, including the withdrawal of the M23 from their positions.

Martin Fayulu, a very vocal opponent of Félix Tshisekedi, also believes that Congo “should not dialogue with the M23”. He proposes to talk with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi “so that they withdraw their soldiers from the DRC”.

Fayulu also rejects the deployment of Kenyan troops in the DRC. According to him, “this deployment is a big joke”.

Almost the entire Congolese public opinion does not want to see DR Congo in talks with the M23. With one year to go before the general election, the authorities are sensitive to national opinion.

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The East African Community (EAC) is engaged in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A day after the arrival of Kenyan troops in Goma, North Kivu, […]

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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.

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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 […]

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Kinshasa, Kigali row spells trouble for regional economic recovery

The diplomatic feud between Kigali and Kinshasa threatens to undermine the region’s favourable economic outlook if tensions escalate as both sides trade accusations of aiding armed militias in the volatile eastern DRC region bordering Rwanda.

In its latest sub-regional economic outlook report for Eastern Africa to be released next week, UNECA projects the region will marginally grow at 4.3 percent in 2022 — well above the continental forecast of 2.7 percent and the global 2.5 percent.

“This is a relatively good performance in East Africa when compared with others. However, compared to itself, a growth rate of 4.3 per cent this year shows a slower economic expansion from 2021, when we recorded an average growth rate of 6 per cent,” Mama Keita, Director, Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa, UNECA based in Kigali told The EastAfrican on Thursday.

Multiple shocks

However, the region now faces multiple shocks that have stalled recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic-induced economic downturn including climatic shocks that have intensified across the region with severe droughts and heavy rains being recorded more frequently and for longer periods than before.

The situation is worsened by the cost of living crisis, which is based on high fuel and food costs due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

“Added to this are the effects of internal tensions or security threats in the DRC, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan. These multiple shocks are of course taking a heavy socioeconomic and humanitarian toll, with millions of lives and livelihoods at stake,. Keita said.

She underscored that the multiple crises not only negatively affect growth but also fuel other risks including the cost of living, the level of debt and the exchange rate — all of which affect the purchasing power of populations, reduce the fiscal space for governments and prevent them from investing and fostering growth.

Risk profile advisory

“This situation increases the vulnerability of countries,” she said.

Stakes remain high as analysts are also beginning to raise the risk profile of the region due to the ongoing crisis. For instance, in its latest rating released October 28, Fitch ratings gave Rwanda a ‘B+’ rating citing its low level of GDP per capita and persistent twin budget and current account deficits, which have resulted in high and rising public and external indebtedness.

While the country’s strong governance and highly concessional nature of its public sector debt mitigate these risks, analysts at Fitch said its outlook is negative with risks partly linked to the ongoing “adverse global economic and financing environment, and risks to grants and concessional government financing related to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Fitch expects Rwanda’s real GDP growth of 5.9 percent in 2022 and 5.5 percent in 2023, largely driven by a strong rebound in tourism and service sectors. Inflation is expected to average 15 percent in 2022 and 12.5 per cent in 2023, before easing in 2024.

Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning did not respond to our request for comment by press time on Fitch’s ratings.

Tensions remain

The forecast comes as tensions remain despite renewed regional diplomatic efforts to avoid an escalation.

Angola’s President Joao Lourenco, who is leading mediation on behalf of the AU, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Alfred Mutua were expected in Kigali on Friday in the latest attempt to quell tensions.

Their visit comes after Rwanda this week accused the Congolese government of violating its airspace after a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from Congo briefly touched down at Rubavu Airport in Rwanda’s Western Province.

Rwanda this week accused the Congolese government of violating its airspace after a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from Congo briefly touched down at Rubavu Airport in Rwanda’s Western Province.

“No military action was taken by Rwanda in response, and the jet returned to DRC. Rwandan authorities have protested this provocation to the DRC Government,” the Rwandan government said in a statement issued 7th November.

In their defence, the Congolese government said its jet “unfortunately” entered Rwandan airspace and that it has “never harboured intentions of violating that of its neighbour’s.”

Despite the simmering tensions, officials have so far ruled out going to war.

In a recent communique after a meeting between foreign ministers of both countries in Angola’s capital, Luanda on November 5, both parties agreed “to continue the political dialogue between the leaders of the DR Congo and the Republic of Rwanda, as a way of resolving the bad political atmosphere between the two neighbouring countries.”

In Rwanda, officials have raised concern about “provocation” but maintain that they are committed to the ongoing regional mechanisms to resolve the standoff.

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The diplomatic feud between Kigali and Kinshasa threatens to undermine the region’s favourable economic outlook if tensions escalate as both sides trade accusations of aiding armed militias in the volatile […]

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Kenya: This is why we deployed our troops in DR Congo

Kenya has defended deployment of peacekeeping troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying it has strategic investments interests to protect in the mineral-rich country.

While seeking parliamentary approval for the deployment, Nairobi said it has a lot to lose if the ongoing conflict in the eastern DRC is not stopped.

The National Assembly this week endorsed the deployment, completing formalities for the participation of Nairobi in its first ever direct military engagement in the DRC

The troops, which will begin touching down in eastern DRC, and cost at least Ksh4.5 billion ($37 million) in the first six months, are being seen as a means to achieving Kenya’s mark on the DRC map.

Cost of not sending troops

However, Kenyan legislators agreed with a pitch by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale that the cost of not sending troops would be worse than deploying. Members of Parliament noted that Kenya’s rising business interests in the DR Congo means Nairobi has a personal investment in searching for peace.

“The long-term local and regional benefits in peace and stability, as well as strategic Kenyan investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo outweigh the costs,” Nelson Koech, MP for Belgut and chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations, told The EastAfrican.

“Through this deployment, Kenya will also secure its vital interests including Kenyan businesses like banks operating in the DRC, numerous Kenyan businesspeople in the country, bilateral trade with the DRC, and utilisation of the Mombasa port by the DRC among others,” he added.

The Committee which had been assessing Kenya’s formal deployment, a legal requirement, agreed that DRC’s entry into the East African Community earlier this year provides Kenyan businesses with an opportunity, if the country gets security.

The troops will be part of the regional force deployed by the EAC to target rebel groups who refuse to disarm. But it won’t be the only means.

“The troops deployment is complementary and very strategic to the ongoing political process in DRC. The Kenyan Contingent (KENCON) has a lot of goodwill from residents of Eastern DRC due to the fact that Kenya does not share a border with DRC,” Mr Koech added.

Provide leadership

“The KDF will therefore provide leadership and tangibly contribute to the maintenance of peace and security being a current non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council,” he said.

For months, the question has been how the regional force, technically a combat mission, will work with the UN peacekeepers under the Monusco mission in DRC. Kenya had participated in Monusco in the past but the troops to be deployed under the EAC will be Nairobi’s first combat engagement. Other countries sending troops are Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi with Rwanda allowed to deployed on the shared border with DRC.

On Friday, Kenyan President William Ruto hosted Huang Xia, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General to the Great Lakes region whom he told to push for further support for DRC’s institution rebuilding.

“We urge the International Community through the United Nations to put more resources into the peace efforts by East and Southern Africa nations in the DRC,” President Ruto said on Friday.

“We will support all initiatives to end conflict and bring stability and prosperity to East Africa and the Great Lakes Region.”

Exit strategy

Besides financing, the deployment had faced questions on exit strategy. And Kenya has argued this mission will be different from when it launched an operation on al-Shabaab 11 years ago, its then first combat dealings of any kind.

“In Somalia’s case the priority was to crush the Al-Shabaab infrastructure to incapacitate their ability to attack Kenya. In DRC, the mandate of the KDF is simple. We move in to facilitate ongoing regional stabilisation efforts to create room for dialogue,” Mr Koech explained.

The mission will, however, rely other factors to succeed. One of them is the relationship between Rwanda and DRC who accuse one another of fomenting rebel movements. This week, the two countries agreed, for the second time in three months, to seek a solution against their military escalation, through political channels. It was a decision out of a meeting in Luanda, Angola, of their respective foreign ministers

In a joint communiqué, Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula, his Rwandan counterpart Vincent Biruta and the Angolan Minister for External Relations agreed that the parties must speed up the implementation of the roadmap of July 6 this year. On that date, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi met his Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a summit mediated by Angolan President João Lourenço, the African Union’s appointed mediator to reconcile Kinshasa and Kigali. The Tripartite summit had ordered a ceasefire between the M23 rebel group and the Congolese army and the withdrawal of the M23 from their positions.

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Kenya has defended deployment of peacekeeping troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying it has strategic investments interests to protect in the mineral-rich country. While seeking parliamentary approval for […]

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Uganda to close schools after eight children die of Ebola

Uganda will close schools nationwide later this month after 23 Ebola cases were confirmed among pupils, including eight children who died, the country’s first lady said on Tuesday.

Janet Museveni, who is also the education minister, said there had been cases in five schools in the capital Kampala, as well as the neighbouring Wakiso district and Mubende, the epicentre of the outbreak.

She said the cabinet had agreed to close pre-primary, primary and secondary schools from November 25, two weeks before the scheduled end of term.

“Closing schools earlier will reduce areas of concentration where children are in daily close contact with fellow children, teachers and other staff who could potentially spread the virus,” said the minister and wife of President Yoweri Museveni.

On Saturday, Uganda extended a three-week lockdown on Mubende and neighbouring Kassanda, the two central districts at the heart of the outbreak which has claimed more than 50 lives.

The measures include a dusk-to-dawn curfew, a ban on personal travel and the closure of markets, bars and churches.

Since the outbreak was declared in Mubende on September 20, the disease has spread across the East African nation, including to the capital Kampala.

But the president has said nationwide curbs were not needed. 

Fifty three people have died of Ebola out of 135 cases according to government figures dated November 6.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week said Uganda had registered over 150 confirmed and probable cases, including 64 fatalities.

Uganda’s last recorded fatality from a previous Ebola outbreak was in 2019.

The strain now circulating is known as the Sudan Ebola virus, for which there is currently no vaccine, although there are several candidate vaccines heading towards clinical trials.

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, with common symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea. 

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments

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Uganda will close schools nationwide later this month after 23 Ebola cases were confirmed among pupils, including eight children who died, the country’s first lady said on Tuesday. Janet Museveni, […]

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DR Congo jets bomb M23 rebel positions in east of country

DR Congo’s military used newly deployed jets to bombard M23 positions in the east of the country on Tuesday, officials said, with some residents of rebel-held territory fleeing across the border. 

A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 first leapt to prominence in 2012, briefly capturing the main city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), before being driven out.

After lying dormant for years, the group took up arms again in late 2021, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances. 

String of victories

M23 rebels have won a string of victories against the Congolese army in North Kivu province in recent weeks, dramatically increasing the territory under their control.

Their resurgence has cratered relations between the DRC and its smaller neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the M23. 

On Tuesday, a Congolese security official who asked for anonymity said war planes were bombarding the rebel-held Tchanzu area of North Kivu and would continue “all day”. 

A resident of the strategic town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border -— which the M23 captured in June — confirmed to AFP that the aircraft were striking the area. 

“It’s every man for himself,” he said, describing how town residents were fleeing across the border into Uganda. 

Residents flee

Damien Sebuzanane, a local civil society representative, also said that Bunagana residents had fled. 

The DRC deployed two Sukhoi-25 jets to the troubled east over the weekend, after the M23 captured a series of settlements along an important highway leading to Goma. 

One on the planes violated Rwandan airspace on Monday — although Kinshasa said the incident was a mistake and not intentional. 

Despite official denials from Kigali, an unpublished report for the United Nations seen by AFP in August pointed to Rwandan involvement with the M23.

The report also said the M23 plans to capture Goma in order to extract political concessions from the government in Kinshasa. 

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DR Congo’s military used newly deployed jets to bombard M23 positions in the east of the country on Tuesday, officials said, with some residents of rebel-held territory fleeing across the […]

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Death toll rises to 19 after Precision Air plane plunges into Lake Victoria in Tanzania

The death toll from Sunday’s plane crash in Tanzania has jumped to 19, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said, after the Precision Air flight with dozens of passengers aboard plunged into Lake Victoria while approaching the northwestern city of Bukoba.

“All Tanzanians are with you in mourning the 19 people who lost lives during this accident,” Majaliwa told a crowd after arriving at Bukoba airport, where the flight had been scheduled to land from financial capital Dar es Salaam.

Regional authorities earlier said that 26 survivors out of the 43 people on board flight PW 494 had been pulled to safety and taken to hospital in the lakeside city.

But Precision Air, a publicly-listed company which is Tanzania’s largest private carrier, said in a statement that 24 people had survived the accident, with an airline official telling AFP that the other two hospitalised patients were not aboard the plane to begin with.

“There are two people who were injured during rescue efforts who have been counted as survivors but they were not passengers,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The airline said it had dispatched rescuers and investigators to the scene and expressed its “deepest sympathies” over the accident, which occurred at around 08:53 am (0553 GMT) on Sunday.

The company said the aircraft was an ATR 42-500, manufactured by Toulouse-based Franco-Italian firm ATR, and had 39 passengers — including an infant — and four crew members on board.

Video footage broadcast on local media showed the plane largely submerged as rescuers, including fishermen, waded through water to bring people to safety.

Emergency workers attempted to lift the aircraft out of the water using ropes, assisted by cranes as residents also sought to help.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan expressed her condolences to those affected by the accident, saying: “We pray to god to help us.”

The disaster ranks among the deadliest plane crashes in the East African nation’s history.

Condolences

The US embassy in Dar es Salaam released a statement, paying tribute to “the heroic efforts of first responders, especially ordinary citizens who helped rescue victims.”

The African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat also shared his condolences, as did the secretary general of the regional East African Community bloc, Peter Mathuki.

“Our hearts and prayers go to the families of passengers on-board a plane that crashed into Lake Victoria, with our full solidarity to the Government & people of #Tanzania,” Faki wrote on Twitter.

“The East African Community joins and sends our condolences to Mama Samia Suluhu Hassan, families and friends of all those who were affected by the Precision Air plane accident,” Mathuki said, also on Twitter.

Precision Air, which is partly owned by Kenya Airways, was founded in 1993 and operates domestic and regional flights as well as private charters to popular tourist destinations such as Serengeti National Park and the Zanzibar archipelago.

The accident comes five years after 11 people died when a plane belonging to safari company Coastal Aviation crashed in northern Tanzania.

In March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi plunged six minutes after take-off into a field southeast of the Ethiopian capital, killing all 157 people on board.

The disaster, five months after a similar crash in Indonesia, triggered the global grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX model of jet for 20 months, before it returned to service in late 2020.

In 2007, a Kenya Airways flight from the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan to Kenya’s capital Nairobi crashed into a swamp after take-off, killing all 114 passengers.

In 2000, another Kenya Airways flight from Abidjan to Nairobi crashed into the Atlantic Ocean minutes after take-off, killing 169 people while 10 survived.

A year earlier, a dozen people, including 10 US tourists, died in a plane crash in northern Tanzania while flying between Serengeti National Park and the Kilimanjaro airport.

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The death toll from Sunday’s plane crash in Tanzania has jumped to 19, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said, after the Precision Air flight with dozens of passengers aboard plunged into […]

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Yellowstone, Kilimanjaro glaciers likely to vanish by 2050: UNESCO

Glaciers at many UNESCO World Heritage sites including Yellowstone and Kilimanjaro National Park will likely vanish by 2050, the UN agency warned Thursday, urging leaders to act fast to save the rest.

The warning followed a study of 18,600 glaciers at 50 World Heritage sites — covering around 66,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles) — which found glaciers at a third of the sites were “condemned to disappear”.

The study “shows these glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000 due to CO2 emissions, which are warming temperatures”, UNESCO said.

The glaciers were losing 58 billion tonnes of ice every year, equivalent to the combined annual water use of France and Spain, and were responsible for nearly five percent of observed global sea-level rise, the agency explained.

Condemned to disappear

“Glaciers in a third of the 50 World Heritage sites are condemned to disappear by 2050, regardless of efforts to limit temperature increases,” UNESCO said.

“But it is still possible to save the glaciers in the remaining two thirds of sites if the rise in temperatures does not exceed 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period.”

Countries have pledged to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a goal the world is set to miss on current emission trends.

“This report is a call to action,” said UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay, ahead of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt starting on Monday.

“Only a rapid reduction in our CO2 emissions levels can save glaciers and the exceptional biodiversity that depends on them. COP27 will have a crucial role to help find solutions to this issue.”

Gone by 2050

In Africa, glaciers in all World Heritage sites will very likely be gone by 2050, including at Kilimanjaro National Park and Mount Kenya, UNESCO warned.

In Europe, some glaciers in the Pyrenees and in the Dolomites will also probably have vanished in three decades’ time.

The same went for glaciers in the Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks in the United States.

The melting of ice and snow is one of the 10 key threats from climate change, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in February said.

Glaciers at many UNESCO World Heritage sites including Yellowstone and Kilimanjaro National Park will likely vanish by 2050, the UN agency warned Thursday, urging leaders to act fast to save […]

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US sanctions suspected terrorists, weapon traffickers in East Africa

Days after a deadly attack in the Somali capital of Mogadishu where twin car bombs killed at least 100 people and injured more than 300, the United State has issued sanctions targeting nine suspected terrorists and weapon traffickers in Eastern Africa.

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday took its first action against Islamic State in Somalia (ISIS-Somalia), designating members of the group and others it accused of having ties to the terrorist affiliate.

ISIS-Somalia pledged allegiance to ISIS in October 2015 under Abdiqadr Mumin (Mumin), previously a senior leader of Al-Shabaab faction operating in the Somali region of Puntland.

The designation of the nine comes barely four years after the US State Department categorised ISIS-Somalia a specially designated global terrorist.

Disrupt terrorist financing

The US in a statement said several of the suspected traffickers have sold weapons to, or were active Al-Shabaab members, with threats to issue additional action in coming weeks as it seeks to expose and disrupt terrorist financing in Africa.

Those mentioned in the suspected weapons trafficking network include Liibaan Yousuf Mohamed (Mohamed), Abdirahman Mohamed Omar, Mahad Isse Aden (Aden), Isse Mohamoud Yusuf (Yusuf), Abdirahman Fahiye Isse Mohamud (Fahiye).

Others are Mohamed Ahmed Qahiye (Qahiye), Ahmed Haji Ali Haji Omar (Haji Omar), Liibaan Yousuf Mohamed and Osama Abdelmongy Abdalla Bakr (Bakr).

The US said the ISIS-Somalia usually works with other terrorist organisations such as Al-Shabaab, Somali pirates and smuggling groups.

Illicit networks

“Many of the relevant individuals are also involved in other illegal activities, including piracy and environmental crimes, demonstrating their integration with illicit networks operating in the region,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The individuals and the designated entities are said to be critical nodes for a weapons trafficking network that is closely integrated with ISIS-Somalia.

These networks operate primarily between Yemen and Somalia and have strong ties to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al-Shabaab. The US Treasury also designated a vital supporter of ISIS in Brazil, who has attempted to serve as a liaison for the terrorist group.

Terrorist groups operating in the region continue to commit violent acts in Somalia, targeting Somali civilians, civil servants and first responders in order to instil fear.

Attacks against civilians

ISIS-Somalia has also continued to conduct vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks against civilians.

During last week Saturday’s attack, the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the two car bombs that exploded outside the education ministry in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, killing at least 120 people in the deadliest blasts since a truck bomb killed more than 500 people at the same location five years ago.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to all who lost loved ones and were injured in Saturday’s horrific attack and strongly condemn this indefensible act of terrorism,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

Direct aim at networks

He added, “Today, we take direct aim at the networks funding and supplying both ISIS-Somalia and al-Shabaab that support their violent acts. The involvement of those designated in other criminal activity, including piracy and illegal fishing, demonstrates the extent of ISIS-Somalia’s integration with illicit networks and other terrorist organisations operating in the region. Treasury is committed to working with partners in the region to disrupt the financing of ISIS and Al-Shabaab.”

As a result of the US action, all property and interests in property of the persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of people in the US must be blocked and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 per cent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.

OFAC regulations generally prohibit all dealings by US citizen or people within the United States, including transactions transiting the US that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

In addition, people who engage in certain transactions with the designated persons may themselves be exposed to sanctions or be subjected to an enforcement action.

The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish but to bring about a positive change in behaviour.

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EAC defence chiefs to meet over conflict in eastern DR Congo

The Kenya Defence Forces has released a statement indicating that Kenyan troops will be deployed to the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) following a decision endorsed and adopted by regional leaders at the third East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Conclave on Peace and Security in Eastern DRC held in Nairobi in June 2022.

At the same time, Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is the chairman of the East African heads of state summit, has said that after consulting with his counterparts, the regional heads of defence forces will be meeting as soon as possible.

“President Evariste Ndayishimiye made a telephone conversation with his counterparts in the region with the aim of harmonising the views on the ways and means of managing the security crisis in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said a statement from the president Ndayishimiye’s spokesman Alain-Diomede Nzeyimana.

“At the end of the exchanges, it was decided that a meeting of the heads of defence forces of the EAC member countries should be held as soon as possible to study the parameters of a concerted and sustainable response, which will be followed by an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State,” the statement added.

Fighting intensifies

This comes as fighting between DRC forces and M23 rebels intensified in the eastern part of the country, forcing thousands of people to flee the country.

Kinshasa has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, allegations that Rwanda has denied.

While addressing the East African Legislative Assembly in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Tuesday, President Paul Kagame said his government is committed to peace and stability in the region.

“Rwanda remains committed to peace and stability efforts within the frameworks at both regional and continental levels,” said President Kagame.

His comments came after the DRC expelled Rwanda’s ambassador Vincent Karega. He was given 48 hours to leave the country.

Regional forces deployment

In June this year, Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta, who was then chairman of the East African Community heads of state summit, ordered the deployment of regional forces into DRC. The move came after M23 announced the capture of Bunagana city in the eastern part of the country, forcing hundreds of Congolese to flee to neighbouring Uganda.

Since then, there had been no any official announcement of deployment of the EAC standby force to DRC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo joined the East African Community in March this year. One month later, the new regional bloc member accused Kigali of destabilising the country by supporting the M23 rebels.

“There is concern about the escalation of the conflict between Rwanda and DRC, but the president (Kagame) was very clear that Rwanda is committed to existing regional and continental frameworks,” said George Odongo, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly from Uganda.

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The Kenya Defence Forces has released a statement indicating that Kenyan troops will be deployed to the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) following a decision endorsed and adopted by regional […]

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Kenya deploys troops ‘to protect humanity’ in eastern DR Congo

Kenya’s President William Ruto announced Wednesday the deployment of troops to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a joint regional operation against a rebel offensive.

Armed groups in eastern DRC have stepped up attacks, reviving ancient animosities and unleashing a surge in tension with neighbouring Rwanda.

Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) agreed in April to establish a joint force to help restore security in the region.

Speaking at a ceremony in Nairobi, Ruto said the troops were “on a mission to protect humanity”.

“As neighbours, the destiny of DRC is intertwined with ours,” he added.

“We will not allow any armed groups, criminals and terrorists to deny us our shared prosperity.”

Command the force

Kenya will command the force, which will also include soldiers from Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan.

A Rwandan contingent will be deployed along the border, after Kinshasa objected to Kigali’s participation in any operations within the DRC.

Military officials in Nairobi declined to reveal the number of Kenyan soldiers involved, citing “obvious security reasons”.

A UN force, known by its French acronym of MONUSCO, is already operating in the DRC. Uganda and Burundi also sent troops to the DRC earlier at the invitation of the Congolese government.

M23 rebels

The M23 rebels, a mostly Congolese group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, accusing the DRC government of failing to honour an agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.

Fresh advances by the militia across North Kivu province last month prompted the UN peacekeeping mission there to increase its alert level and boost support for the Congolese army.

The M23’s resurgence has had resounding repercussions for relations in central Africa.

The DRC accuses Rwanda of backing the militia, claims denied by Kigali.

On Saturday, Kinshasa decided to expel Rwanda’s ambassador. In turn, Rwanda accused Kinshasa of being “on the path of continued military escalation.”

The increase in violence has alarmed the international community, with the African Union appealing for a ceasefire.

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Countries seek joint approach to fight climate change in Horn of Africa

Development organisations predict that up to 5 billion people will face water shortages by 2050 globally as the climate change bug continues to bite and the effects intensify.

The Horn of Africa region is already highly affected by climate change and is facing the worst drought ever experienced in the last four decades.

Besides the impacts of climate change, other significant trends and issues affect the continent, including rapid population growth, with urbanisation rates expected to triple by 2050.

In a hybrid meeting held both physically and via zoom at Nairobi’s Trade Mark Hotel, stakeholders deliberated on how to deal with development issues in the Horn of Africa, especially regarding climate change and its effects.

The gathering was the second to be held this year and for the third time in history. Dubbed the Horn of Africa Resilience Network (HoRN) learning event, the annual event brings together stakeholders, including representatives from both national and regional governments, development partners and private sector actors. Other participants include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) bilateral mission representatives and academic and research institutions.

Stakeholders follow proceedings during the HoRN learning event in Nairobi On October 26, 2022. Dr James Nyoro, an agricultural economist and food security expert from kenya, outlined some gains made in g climate change adaptation in the past few years. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NMG

Knowledge sharing

The HoRN acts as a platform for interaction and knowledge sharing among stakeholders. It is also an opportunity for creating partnerships through engaging in effective multi-stakeholder partnerships to leverage the comparative advantages critical to making developing countries and communities more resilient and self-sufficient. During the forum, participants also explore discussions around the future of resilience in the Horn region.

On October 26, participants at the HoRN learning event discussed climate change, its effects, the future, resilience and the development agenda, among other related subjects. Under the theme ‘Climate change adaptation and resilience: Managing risks for a more resilient future’, the half-day event brought to light various issues through cultural lenses, livelihoods, economies, health and access to fundamental rights that affect local communities in the region.

Climate shocks and stresses

“Everyone around the globe is vulnerable to climate change. Even though other countries are more vulnerable, climate shocks and stresses are increasingly impacting all of us,” said Laurie Ashley, the Resilience and Climate Adaptation Advisor-Centre for Resilience at USAID.

She noted that most impacts of climate change are related to water— too much of which results in flooding and too little of which results in drought — as is the current situation in many places within the HoRN region.

Climate change has threatened development progress and exacerbated inequality, including increasing water and food scarcity, the need for humanitarian assistance and displacement.

USAID, Ms Ashley noted, has developed a new climate change strategy for 2022-2030 with six ambitious targets that sustain the gains already made in building resilience in the face of climate change-related shocks and stresses.

The strategy is built on the understanding that without urgent action, climate change could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030. The strategy’s targets include adaptation, which will improve the climate resilience of 500 million people, and finance, through which USAID will mobilise $150 billion in public and private finance for the climate agenda.

Residents of Mtito Adei in Kenya’s Makueni County fetching water from a dam. The Horn of Africa region is already highly affected by climate change and is facing the worst drought ever experienced in the last four decades. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NMG

Reduce carbon emissions

Under the mitigation target, USAID will collaborate with countries to support activities that reduce, avoid, or sequester an equivalent of six billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. Through the Natural and Managed Ecosystems target, there will be support for the conservation, restoration, or management of 100 million hectares, with a climate change mitigation benefit. Under the Critical Populations target, USAID will support its partners to achieve systemic changes that increase meaningful participation and active leadership in climate action for indigenous people, local communities, women, youth, and other marginalised and underrepresented groups in at least 40 partner countries.

“Achieving these targets will require a holistic approach — every USAID sector, mission, and the programme has a role to play as we work towards more resilient systems in areas like agriculture, energy, governance, infrastructure, and health,” said Ms Ashley.

“With all hands on deck and using locally-led and equitable approaches, we will greatly increase our ability to address current and evolving climate risks,” she added.

In her opening remarks, USAID Acting Mission Director for Kenya and East Africa Sheila Roquette called for the adoption of a joint implementation approach, saying it would yield the maximum results needed to ensure communities become resilient and interventions lead to desired results.

“Only together can we achieve resilient systems guided by national and regional priorities. There is a need for greater and strengthened regional and cross-border collaboration to advance resilience in the region,” said Ms Roquette.

Climate change adaptation

In his presentation, Dr James Nyoro, former governor of Kenya’s Kiambu County, who is also an agricultural economist and food security expert, outlined some gains made regarding climate change adaptation in the past few years.

Significant policies and strategies have been formulated in Kenya, which include the National Climate Action Plan 2008/2022, National Climate Change Response Strategy 2010, the National Disaster Management Authority strategic plan, and Vision 2030 for the development Strategy for Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands. 

Regarding climate mitigation, several approaches have been adopted. They include enhancing the use of green energy in Kenya by up to 85 per cent, enhancing reforestation and afforestation (the current government proposes to have every citizen plant at least three trees over the next five years), enhancing efficient energy utilisation methods and popularising the use of renewable energy in rural areas.

Dr Nyoro stressed the need to ensure the engagement of community members across the board. In addition, there is a need to employ measures that focus on climate change adaptation. Such measures include promoting climate-smart agriculture and sustainable, regenerative and conservative tillage, enhancing capital-intensive precision agriculture, solarising streets and water sources, enhancing drought and flood management and developing more early maturing drought-resistant crops.

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AU, EAC call for ceasefire in war between DRC army and M23

The African Union (AU) and the East African community (EAC) have called on the parties in the conflict between between the Congolese army (FARDC) and rebel group M23 to begin a ceasefire in order to enable a peaceful solution to the ongoing war.

The call came on Monday, a day after the Democratic Republic of Congo expelled Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karega.

In a statement, Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is the AU chairperson, together with AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, expressed their deep concern about the deteriorating security situation in the eastern part of the DR Congo, and urged “all stakeholders to engage in a constructive dialogue. This, they said, should be within the framework of the existing African Union peace, security and cooperation framework for the DRC and the region, and the East African Community Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue.

The whole region is particularly concerned about the escalating violence that is trapping civilians. The war has intensified and the rebels have taken over two villages — Kiwanja and Rutshuru centre in North Kivu — in addition to Bunagana.

Military confrontation

In view of the current situation, the city of Goma, the most populated in North Kivu, risks experiencing a military confrontation like it did in 2012.

The possibility of an escalation in the most populated parts of eastern DRC could threaten the stability of the entire region. This is what African leaders are trying to avoid at all costs.

Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the AU-Kenya peace envoy and facilitator of the EAC-led Nairobi process, called on “all parties to recognise that there is no military solution to the conflict and embrace a peaceful means to the settlement”.

Although DRC and Rwanda diplomatic relations are breaking down, both countries said they are fully committed to the Luanda process, where they had already begun negotiations in search for peace, under the aegis of Angolan President João Lourenço, who had been mandated by the African Union to spearhead the process.

Find a peaceful solution

On Sunday, the Angolan leader sent an emissary to DRC President Félix Tshisekedi to discuss the situation in eastern Congo. The Angolan Minister of External Relations Tete Antonio brought Lourenço’s message to President Tshisekedi that his Angolan counterpart intends “to continue his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the dispute between Kinshasa and Kigali through the application of the Luanda roadmap established in July 2022”, the communication office of the Congolese head of state reported.

The heads of state in the sub-region are clear have insisted on the need to resume negotiations within the framework of the ICGLR, the Nairobi process and the Luanda process.

With regard to the Nairobi process, the stakeholders, namely the Congolese state and various armed groups, are due to meet in the Kenyan capital for the third round of the Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue.

The third session, which was initially slated for November 7-14, 2022 has been rescheduled for November 21-27, 2022 in Nairobi.

During the first two sessions of these consultations, 30 representatives of the armed groups were present to negotiate for peace with representatives of the Congolese state.

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The African Union (AU) and the East African community (EAC) have called on the parties in the conflict between between the Congolese army (FARDC) and rebel group M23 to begin […]

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DR Congo expels Rwandan ambassador as M23 rebels gain ground

The authorities in Kinshasa on Saturday announced they were expelling the Rwandan ambassador as M23 rebels they accuse Kigali of supporting made fresh gains in the east of the troubled country.

The announcement, made by government spokesman Patrick Muyaya, came after a government meeting to assess the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The latest advance by rebel fighters prompted the UN peacekeeping mission there to increase its “troop alert level” and boost support for the army.

Muyaya said that in recent days “a massive arrival of elements of the Rwandan element to support the M23 terrorists” against DR Congo’s troops had been observed.

“This criminal and terrorist adventure” had forced thousands of people to flee their homes, he added.

Given Rwanda’s continued support for the rebels, the defence council, presided over by President Felix Tshisekedi, had decided to ask the government to give Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karega 48 hours to leave the country.

M23 rebel fighters have seized control of Kiwanja and Rutshuru-centre along the strategic RN2 highway in the eastern province of North Kivu, local officials and witnesses told AFP by telephone earlier Saturday.

Rebels had also been seen at Rugari, just 30 kilometres (20 miles) down the RN2 from the provincial capital Goma, which it links with the north and Uganda.

Four peacekeepers were wounded by mortar fire and shooting at Kiwanja, the mission announced.

“Kiwanja and Rutshuru-centre are in M23 hands,” said civil society representative Jacques Niyonzima.

“The rebels have held two meetings and told local people to go about their work and those displaced to return to their villages, saying security was now guaranteed,” he said.

At Kiwanja, “in our area we recorded three deaths, a man, a woman and her child, killed by shells that landed on houses”, said local resident Eric Muhindo.

A general hospital official in Rutshuru added: “There were several wounded in Kiwanja after a small amount of resistance”.

“Calm has returned. People are moving about and shops are opening,” the official said, asking not to be named.

The UN’s MONUSCO mission condemned “the hostile acts of M23” and called for an immediate halt to the fighting.

The mission said on Twitter it was providing “air support, intelligence and equipment” as well as medical assistance.

The peacekeepers said they were “mobilised in support” of DRC’s army after residents reported at least 10 people dead since Sunday and dozens more injured near the RN2.

MONUSCO said it had set up an “operations coordination centre” with the army and was carrying out reconnaissance and surveillance flights, but did not provide further details about the alert level.

M23, a mostly Congolese Tutsi group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, accusing the government of having failed to honour an agreement over the demobilisation of its fighters.

It has since captured swathes of territory in North Kivu, including the key town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border in June.

The front line between Congolese troops and M23 rebels had been calm in recent weeks until last week, when clashes erupted again.

Last Sunday, M23 fighters captured the village of Ntamugenga in the Rutshuru area. It lies four kilometres (less than three miles) from the RN2 where the clashes spread on Thursday.

The UN humanitarian affairs office in the DRC said this week around 34,500 people had fled the Rutshuru region.

The group’s resurgence has destabilised regional relations in central Africa, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the militia.

Rwanda denies the charges and counters that DRC works with a notorious Hutu rebel movement involved in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis, the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which Kinshasa also denies.

A report by independent UN experts seen by AFP in August found that Kigali had provided direct support to the M23.

And this week a US representative to the United Nations spoke of Rwandan defence forces providing assistance to the M23.

Angola’s President Joao Lourenco said he would dispatch his Foreign Minister Tete Antonio to DR Congo to mediate the dispute, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said following a phone call between the leaders.

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The authorities in Kinshasa on Saturday announced they were expelling the Rwandan ambassador as M23 rebels they accuse Kigali of supporting made fresh gains in the east of the troubled […]

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Kenya’s opposition pushes back Ruto’s plan to promote GMOs

Kenya’s opposition has vowed to push back hard against genetically modified (GMO) food imports into the country, opening a new political battlefront with President William Ruto’s government.

President Ruto, in one of his first major decisions in office, last month, lifted a 10-year-old ban on GMO foods and allowed cultivation of crop varieties developed using genetic engineering technology.

The approval comes in the wake of a biting drought that has exposed three million Kenyans to famine in 23 counties, forcing the government to intervene with relief food. Firms involved in GMO seed manufacturing will be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the policy shift that will put pressure on farmers to reduce prices or be forced out of the market.

But opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka have faulted the President’s move, alleging a scheme involving unnamed individuals in government and foreign companies to profit from the current drought and famine that have left about four million people in need of relief food supplies in parts of the country.

Foreign campaign financiers

Mr Odinga, who lost the August 9 presidential election to President Ruto by a narrow margin, released a statement early in the week accusing the ruling elite of seeking to exploit the humanitarian crisis to reward or court foreign campaign financiers instead of mobilising an effective emergency response.

“In this scheme, the worse the pain, the bigger the gain for the shylocks in government,” he said, vowing to mobilise Kenyans to stop GMOs ‘on the farms and in the courts’.

“This situation requires a massive emergency response programme to ensure rapid delivery of food, water and medicine to the millions of people… This required emergency response is evidently missing but instead the government is consumed by politics of survival and the elections of 2027.”

President Ruto has yet to directly respond to the opposition’s pushback against what is understood to be a key plank of his food security agenda, with the most high-profile official comments coming from his new Trade minister Moses Kuria.

Safety concerns dismissed

Speaking during the handover by his predecessor on Thursday, Mr Kuria asked Mr Odinga to withdraw a court case against GMOs, dismissing concerns about their safety.

“We should not be afraid that we are going to die more than the rich countries,” Mr Kuria said.

Kenya boasts some the best regulations and laws on biotechnology research, and cultivation and commercialisation of GMO crops and trade in related products in Africa.

In consideration of the adoption of GMO crops, the Cabinet said it put into mind various expert and technical reports including that of Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, United States of America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Awaiting approval

GM maize testing in Kenya started in 2010 but approval for the environmental release was granted by the NBA in 2016. The scientists completed research on genetically modified maize last year and the material has been awaiting approval by the Cabinet before release for commercial farming

But the technology continues to polarise public opinion in the country amid lingering concerns about human health and environmental safety and the implications of patent controls by Western multinationals on the seed systems in poor countries.

Geopolitica of GMOs

The geopolitics of GMOs, reflected by the polar opposite positions taken by the European Union and the US on related issues, has also tended to influence policy and political positions in Kenya at any given time.

The current political wars over GMOs mirror those in 2011 when the grand coalition government under then President Mwai Kibaki, faced with a similar food crisis, approved importation of the staple maize grain from South Africa to alleviate a shortage before public health fears fuelled by discredited research findings published in a European journal around the time prompted a ban in 2012.

Ironically, Mr Odinga, as then Prime Minister, publicly backed GMO food imports, labelling critics ‘conservatives’ and urging them to embrace the technology.

Like Mr Kuria the other day, the former prime minister was quite dismissive in his response to opposing views on GMOs.

“The Americans cannot be so negligent as to allow the American people to consume GMO food if it is harmful. Let us not be too conservative because science is moving on. Conservatism is not going to help this country. Alarming statements which are calculated to instill fear…” Mr Odinga said of adverse documents tabled in Parliament on August 3, 2011 by then Naivasha MP John Mututho.

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Kenya’s opposition has vowed to push back hard against genetically modified (GMO) food imports into the country, opening a new political battlefront with President William Ruto’s government. President Ruto, in […]

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Puzzle of ‘missing’ Ugandan MP’s Nairobi-Kampala journey

A Uganda Member of Parliament who was reported missing after taking a taxi in Nairobi, Kenya, is reported to be in Kampala.

Just hours after media reports that he was reported missing when he boarded an Uber taxi from the Kilimani area on Sunday morning to the Nairobi City Centre, Bukigai County MP David Wakikona on Tuesday afternoon told The Monitor that he is in Kampala.

On Tuesday, details emerged of how the Ugandan legislator left Samra Court, located along Argwings Kodhek Road in Nairobi, and made his way to Kampala.

The Nation established that the legislator left the Nairobi apartment without informing any of his colleagues from the Uganda Parliament. 

Mr Wakikona on October 3, 2022, arrived in Kenya alongside fellow MPs including Abdi Fadhil Kisos Chemaswet (Kween County), John Ngoya (Bokora), Paul Busiro (Busiro) and Clerk of the National Assembly Opio Emmanuel.

Read: Ugandan MP missing in Nairobi after boarding taxi

On October 9, he asked a guard at the city apartment to get him a taxi to drop him off at Tom Mboya Street. It has been established that upon reaching Nairobi Central Business District, the Ugandan legislator proceeded to Latema Road where he booked a Molo Line matatu to Nakuru City.

A senior detective privy to the matter said that once in Nakuru, he then boarded another vehicle. His phone signal showed that by 2 pm he was in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County. He then proceeded to Bungoma County before travelling to Kampala.

Unaware of Mr Wakikona’s whereabouts, his colleagues filed a missing person’s report at Kilimani Police Station, prompting Directorate of Criminal Investigations officers to track him down to the Kenya-Uganda border. The officers could not get hold of the MP as he had already crossed into Uganda.

 “A missing person report was filed at Kilimani police station and the DCI took over the investigations. The MP has already returned to Uganda,” Kilimani Sub-County police boss Andrew Muturi said on Tuesday.   

Shortly after reports of Mr Wakikona’s disappearance appeared on Tuesday, he issued a statement in Uganda saying he was safe and asked local journalists to find him within Parliament Buildings in Kampala.

“I am here [in Kampala], you come to Parliament you will see me,” he said.  

Political career

Since he was re-elected in the 2021 Uganda General Election, Mr Wakikona has been embroiled in a court case challenging his academic qualifications.

His main opponent, Mr Wilson Watila, moved to court challenging his election victory. Mr Watila garnered 2,177 votes against 4,108 polled by Mr Wakikona.

Mr Watila rejected the poll results and filed a petition at the Mbale High Court, accusing his opponent of electoral malpractices, which he alleged had denied him victory.

He also cited discrepancies in the names on the academic documents belonging to his rival, saying that he did not swear a poll deed before his nomination.

Mr Watila claimed that the ‘O’-Level certificate presented by his rival indicates that he is David Wakikona Wanendeya while the ‘A’- level certificate reads Wakikona Wanendeya David.

He also said that his certificate from Soroti Flying School carries Wakikona D. Wanendeya while his advanced flying certificate reads Wakikona David. 

But Wakikona’s lawyers from Tumusiime Kabega and Co. Advocates told the court that the affidavits that accompanied the petition were defective since they were prepared by a commissioner of oaths who never had a valid practicing certificate.

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A Uganda Member of Parliament who was reported missing after taking a taxi in Nairobi, Kenya, is reported to be in Kampala. Just hours after media reports that he was reported […]

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East Africa divided on GM foods as Kenya lifts ban

Kenya’s decision on October 3 to allow cultivation and importation of genetically modified (GM) maize for mass consumption elicited mixed reactions in the country and East Africa, and exposed the incoherent policies on GM technology in the region.

While President William Ruto’s administration sees it as a means to unlock a supply line of relief food, easing hunger for millions of people in the country and the Horn of Africa, agriculture lobbies are urging caution, with some demanding that the government reverse the decision.

Read: Is Kenya finally ready for rollout of GM crops?

Kenya’s Cabinet said the decision to lift the 10-year ban was in response to the worst drought to hit the country in 40 years, which has left more than three million people on the verge of starvation.

But activists protested the move, raising concerns over the safety of GM foods.

“Food security is not just about the amount of food but the quality and safety of food,” said a joint statement signed by a dozen groups, including Greenpeace Africa. “Our cultural and indigenous foods have proved to be safer, with diverse nutrients and with less harmful chemical inputs.”

Kenya, like many other African nations, banned GM crops over health and safety concerns and to protect smallholder farmers, who account for the vast majority of rural agricultural producers in the country. But it faced criticism over the ban, including from the US, which is a major producer of GM crops.

On Monday, a statement issued by President Ruto’s office said the decision was “a progressive step towards significantly redefining agriculture in Kenya by adopting crops that are resistant to pests and disease.”

Read: Tanzania steps up vigilance on GMOs as Kenya okays biotech foods

Also read: East Africa divided on GM foods as Kenya lifts ban

It said the Cabinet had considered expert views and technical reports, including by Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Food Safety Authority before arriving at the decision.

But the lobbies say the move was made without public participation and that it “essentially curtails the freedom of Kenyans to choose what they want to eat.”

“We demand that the ban be immediately reinstated and an inclusive participatory process be instituted to look into long-term and sustainable solutions to issues affecting food security,” they said.

They added that lifting of the ban opened up the market to American farmers using sophisticated technologies and highly subsidised farming that risks putting small-scale farmers in Kenya out of business.

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy, contributing more than 20 percent of its GDP.

Dr Ruto was elected to the top job in August on a promise to turn around Kenya’s stuttering economy and tackle inflation. Within weeks of taking office in September, he reduced the price of fertilisers to improve crop yields in the midst of the drought that has affected 23 of the 47 counties.

Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, pushing millions across the Horn into extreme hunger.

Read: Kenya rules out GMO maize imports to tame cost of animal feeds

Tanzania opposition

Without a binding regional policy on GM technology, Kenya’s neighbours are scrambling to tighten controls, considering the porous borders.

Tanzania’s Agriculture minister Hussein Bashe said Dodoma was firmly opposed to the use of biotechnology in food production and would impose stronger measures to prevent GM food or cash crops produced in “neighbouring countries” from finding their way into the country.

Dar es Salaam-based lobby African Organic Network (AfroNET) said Kenya acted without properly considering the long-term ramifications of GM technology on the collective health of its citizenry.

“They have taken a wrong approach to such a contentious issue. It is not simply about ensuring food security in times of drought, as they seem to think,” said Constantine Akitanda, AfroNET spokesperson.

Kenya is the second country after South Africa to back out of an African Union resolution to adopt organic agriculture instead of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) methods to minimise the effects of climate change.

Read: East Africa region urged to adopt GMOs to boost food security

According to Akitanda, South Africa has been trying out GM farming for the past 25 years but is “only now realising that the hopes and dreams they had when they started have not materialised.”

“Kenya is now on course to also learn the hard way. The WFP [World Food Programme] stipulates in its own guidelines that any food crops it endorses for exchange between countries must be non-GMO, which means Kenya may have to forget about exporting any of its own farm produce,” he said.

On the argument that GM crops could help alleviate food scarcity, Akitanda added: “Africa has enough arable land to produce sufficient food without deploying unnatural methods to boost production.”

He said African countries need to withstand external pressures to embrace GM technology.

Observers say Kenya’s rash decision is informed by the need to open a window to receive relief food donations from countries that have authorised GMOs, such as the US.

The approval is meant to allow imports of GM maize that are readily and cheaply available on the market to help in lower the price of flour, which has hit a high of Ksh240 ($2) for a two-kilo packet after the new government dropped a subsidy scheme that Dr Ruto termed unsustainable.

Cancer link

The ban on GMOs was announced by former Health minister Beth Mugo in 2012, after a journal by French scientist Eric Seralini claimed that the crops had a link to cancer. The journal was, however, recalled two years later on grounds it was not conclusive on the matter.

Read: Uganda parliament passes biosafety Bill on GM products

GM maize testing in Kenya started in 2010 but approvals for the environmental release were granted by the National Biosafety Authority in 2016.

The scientists completed research on GM maize in 2021 and the material has been awaiting approval by the Cabinet before release for commercial farming.

Attempts by the East African Community (EAC) to legalise GMOs hit a snag back in 2013 as it emerged that partner states were at different stages in the formulation of biosafety policies and legislation.

Kenya and Uganda are leading the region in embracing agricultural biotechnology. Tanzania has formulated a policy for biosafety legislation and regulation but has been slow in allowing practice.

In Rwanda and Burundi, biotechnology research and development is mainly confined to conventional techniques and traditional biotech applications.

Regional law

The EAC prepared and submitted the draft regional Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy to the Council of Ministers in 2014 during the 30th Ordinary Council of Ministers session.

Read: EDITORIAL: Let’s base GMO debate on tech equity and not food security

The ministers made recommendations, including establishing a biotechnology and biosafety unit at the Secretariat to provide logistical, administrative and support to the policy framework. The matter is yet to take off.

“The meeting took note of the reports of the national consultations and made the following observations: capacity on the implementation of the national biosafety framework in application of biotechnology is inadequate,” says the EAC Regional Biosafety Report of 2013.

“However, lack of awareness, education and stakeholder participation is required for effective implementation of national biosafety frameworks.”

With maize being a staple in the region, scientists argue the GM maize can yield double what farmers are getting from the traditional breeds, given that it is drought-tolerant and can withstand pests and diseases.

Read: Comesa warns on Indomie noodles after Egypt recall

Timothy Njagi, a research fellow at Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute in Kenya, says the decision to allow GMOs was long overdue.

“GM maize is cheaper than the conventional one and once we start importing, it will lower the cost of food locally,” said Dr Njagi.

He said GMO imports will help address the high cost of animal feeds, which have for the past three years remained at a historic high.

The waiver on GMO imports would allow millers to import other non-conventional materials used in making feeds, such as soya.

Comesa policy

In the wider region, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has put in place a legal framework for GM produce.

In September 2013, the Fifth Comesa Joint Meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources endorsed a proposed common policy on biotechnology and biosafety, taking into account the sovereign right of each member state.

Comesa member countries are signatories to the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety but are at different stages of implementing the requirements, especially establishing their national biosafety regulatory frameworks, and adopting GM crops.

Read: Caution over gene-modified wheat offering

Comesa has a regional risk assessment mechanism for the sharing of information, resources and expertise.

The Cartagena Protocol, in force since September 2003, is an international agreement that aims to ensure safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology to protect biological diversity and risks to human health.

It establishes a procedure for prior informed agreement to ensure countries have the necessary information to make decisions about the importing of LMOs into their territory.

According to proponents of GM technology, the immediate benefit for Kenya could be unlocking billions of shillings for firms involved in the GMO industry.

Roy Mugiira, chief executive officer of the NBA, the regulator, welcomed the decision by Kenya’s Cabinet saying, “In the coming few days, we will be issuing guidelines on importing or growing of these varieties.”

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Kenya’s decision on October 3 to allow cultivation and importation of genetically modified (GM) maize for mass consumption elicited mixed reactions in the country and East Africa, and exposed the incoherent policies […]

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Armed group attacks peacekeeping base in DRC second time in a week: UN

UN peacekeepers have for the second time in the past week repelled an attack on their base in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a spokesman said on Thursday.

Suspected members of the Twirwaneho armed group on Wednesday opened fire on the base in Minembwe, in South Kivu province, said Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Our UN peacekeepers returned fire, forcing the assailants to disperse,” Dujarric told a regular briefing. “There are no casualties among peacekeeping troops. This is the second attack carried out by the group in a week towards the same UN base.”

He said a UN peacekeeper from Pakistan was killed in the September 30 attack, which was strongly condemned by Guterres. The Minembwe base in the tropical highlands of Fizi territory is part of the UN mission in the DRC known as MONUSCO.

The Twirwaneho is one of about 120 armed groups known to be terrorising the eastern DRC.

On Wednesday, the spokesman reported that MONUSCO dispatched a patrol of peacekeepers to join DRC forces in North Kivu province after eight civilians were killed in a raid in Beni territory believed to have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group.

Such attacks in the DRC’s mineral-rich eastern provinces have terrorised the civilian population.

Earlier this year, civilians staged demonstrations, some turning deadly, protesting what they said is a lack of protection and failure to halt the violence. 

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UN peacekeepers have for the second time in the past week repelled an attack on their base in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a spokesman said on […]

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President Samia drops Mulamula in mini Cabinet reshuffle

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Sunday made changes to her cabinet, a few months after she reshuffled the cabinet in April.

In the new changes announced in a statement by the Directorate of Presidential Communication, Ms Stergomena Tax has been appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation, replacing Liberata Mulamula.

Prior to the new appointment Ms Tax served as the Defence Minister, being the first woman to head the docket.

Innocent Bashungwa, who was the Minister of State in the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government, has been moved to the Defence ministry taking over from MS Tax.

President Samia also appointed Ms Angela Kairuki to replace Bashungwa at President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government.

The new appointees are scheduled to take oath of office on Monday at State House Dar es Salaam.

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Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Sunday made changes to her cabinet, a few months after she reshuffled the cabinet in April. In the new changes announced in a statement […]

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Erratic weather, global crises push cost of food to record high levels

Governments in East and Horn of Africa have rolled out food aid programmes to communities hit hard by inconsistent weather patterns and global crises that have pushed food costs beyond the reach of many.

This week, Kenya launched a relief food programme for communities trapped in a cycle of four failed agriculture seasons, and Uganda had already been distributing relief food to people in Karamoja regions.

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha)is predicting the likelihood of a fifth failed crop season. Uganda, which has generally enjoyed above average food production from its arable fertile soils, having two harvest seasons annually, is now increasingly facing food challenges due to less erratic and less predictable rains and unprecedented prolonged dry spells.

According to the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), some rainy months now have only 18 wet days compared with 20 previously which impacts on food yields.

According to meteorological information, 40 per cent of all rainfall received in Uganda is influenced by natural features such as wetlands and forests, which have been encroached on and destroyed by developers for housing or peasants for farming and others decimated for firewood and charcoal.

Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, says the Ugandan government has been forced to provide food to areas that have “had pockets of hunger,” costing upwards of Ush19 billion ($4.9 million) in the past three months alone.

According to the Meteorological department, the country steadily been receiving less rainfall over the past 16 years. However, there are those that argue that the food shortages being currently experienced in the region is also effects of bad national policies, rather than the weather.

In Kenya, President William Ruto flagged off relief food to drought-stricken counties on Tuesday, but admitted it was only a short-term measure.

The programme is targeting 3.5 million people. Kenya’s Meteorological Department has declared severest drought in 23 out of the 47 counties.

And Ocha’s National Drought Early Warning data for September 2022, says 10 counties are under an alarming drought phase with at least 4.35 million people in danger.

The Horn of Africa, including parts of Kenya, is facing the worst drought with at least 20 million people in immediate need of food. This includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and South Sudan, and Djibouti and Eritrea

Kipkorir Arap Menjo, the director of the Farmers Association, a lobby for local food producers, said Kenya’s maize growing regions are expecting a harvest early October. But even in countries touted as having almost sufficient food supplies, like Tanzania, prices are soaring and limiting access for many.

As countries struggle to get cheaper grain from traditional sources like Russia and Ukraine, world prices and growing world demand is making the situation harder in the region.

According to the Bank of Tanzania, the price of maize alone has more than doubled over the past year, hitting Tsh87,383 ($37.66) per 100-kilogramme sack in July compared with Tsh43,371 ($18.69) in the same month last year. Other key basic foods like rice and beans have also registered sharp price increases.

In its latest monthly review report for August 2022, the BoT says wholesale food prices had increased “mainly due to low harvests associated with delayed short rains and a high demand for food from neighboring countries.”

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Governments in East and Horn of Africa have rolled out food aid programmes to communities hit hard by inconsistent weather patterns and global crises that have pushed food costs beyond […]

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Kenya on the spot as ICC suspect dies mysteriously

The sudden death of Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru, while out on Ksh1 million ($8278) bond and as he waited for the ruling in his case at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has put President William Ruto’s regime in the international spotlight.

Gicheru, 52, was found dead at his Karen home on Monday evening. This means his case at The Hague is over since the ICC does not convict or acquit the dead – as reasoned in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the case against Slobodan Milosevic.

It also means that President Ruto, who was adversely mentioned during the Gicheru trial, is off the hook — for now.

Mr Gicheru, a former ally of President Ruto, was charged with interfering with ICC witnesses in the case in which Dr Ruto was charged with crimes against humanity following the 2007/2008 post-election violence. His arrest warrant was unsealed on September 10, 2015.

However, though a Kenyan court had stopped his extradition, the lawyer surrendered to the Dutch authorities on November 2, 2020, surprising his friends and lawyers.

During his trial, which closed on June 27, 2022, Dr Ruto was adversely mentioned by the prosecution as the beneficiary of the “common scheme”, which included bribery and intimidation of witnesses.

Interestingly, Mr Gicheru, who was charged with eight counts of offences against the administration of justice, opted not to present any oral testimony during his case, and his lawyer relied on documents disclosed by the prosecution to extricate him from the jaws of the ICC. Even more intriguing is that Mr Gicheru’s defence failed to call any witnesses.

Mr Gicheru’s death is the second one among the members of the “common scheme”. In December 2015, one of Mr Gicheru’s allies, Meshack Yebei, was abducted and killed.

His body was later found in the Tsavo National Park. Mr Yebei was also implicated in efforts to corrupt witnesses in the case against Dr Ruto and his co-defendant, Joshua arap Sang.

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The sudden death of Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru, while out on Ksh1 million ($8278) bond and as he waited for the ruling in his case at the International Criminal Court […]

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Ruto Cabinet brings new faces to tackle regional problems

Kenyan President William Ruto this week named his Cabinet, bringing back politicians into the Executive, a departure from the Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta governments that had technocrats.

Dr Ruto who had the backing of several parties that supported his “Hustler Nation” and “bottoms-up” economic approach, rewarded his Kenya Kwanza base across the country by naming party loyalists expected to support, push for and implement his vision.

Of the 22 Cabinet seats, he appointed more than 10 politicians, and retained only three from the Kenyatta government team, one being Monica Juma, former Cabinet Secretary for Energy, who now becomes National Security Advisor on a Cabinet level position, having served as Defence Secretary.

“I have nominated a new team to serve in the Cabinet and subject to the approval of the National Assembly, shall in due course appoint them to take charge of various ministries and implement the agenda of national transformation,” said President Ruto on Tuesday.

The key dockets of Foreign Affairs, Energy, Trade, Defence, Interior, Water, Roads and Transport, Agriculture have been given to politicians. Treasury and Planning and East African Community Affairs will be led by technocrats.

President Ruto, while officially opening the 13th parliament, told legislators that the country is broke and living beyond its means and needs to rethink its financial state to grow. This explains why earlier, he named former Central Bank governor Njuguna Ndung’u Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Planning. (See separate story).

Kenya has in the past 10 years expanded its regional and international diplomatic presence by pushing for peaceful resolutions in regional conflicts through its Building Bridges Initiative, has offered candidates for several continental and international organisations top jobs and even got the rotational UN Security Council Seat.

With this background, Dr Ruto’s Foreign Affairs nominee, Alfred Mutua, a former governor, and former government spokesman in Kibaki’s administration, is a lightweight with big shoes to fill. Dr Mutua studied journalism in India and was known as Kibaki’s “PR man.” His credentials on the international scene are limited.

Mr Mutua takes over a ministry that will make or break the image of Dr Ruto’s government. Regionally, this job is taken care of by the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development.

This docket has been given to a technocrat, Rebecca Miano, the chief executive of the Kenya Electricity Generating Company, where she was the first female CEO. She has no known experience on regional integration.

Related to regional commerce and integration is the docket of Trade, Investment and Industry, whose nominee is fiery politician Moses Kuria, a former MP. Once a fierce defender of Mr Kenyatta, they had a falling out and he joined Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Mr Kuria will have to navigate not just Kenya’s international trade deals but also those that affect the region and need national policies to support such as the EPAs and Agoa.

Close to trade is infrastructure, in this case roads and railway network, particularly the extension of the standard gauge railway to Uganda.

The nominee for the Transport, Roads and Public Works Kipchumba Murkomen, a politician, serving senator and former leader of Majority in the Senate. As a first timer in Cabinet and with an expansive docket, much will be expected of him.

Transport infrastructure was one of the busiest and crucial dockets in the Kenyatta government, with major projects accomplished that changed transport, courtesy of major highways across the country, the Nairobi Expressway, rehabilitation and revival of the national railway network and the SGR, revival of ports and upgrade of county roads. The Ruto government is expected to build on these successes, and pursue regional connectivity to a new level.

Over at Defence, another key ministry in regional harmony seeing as EAC partner states have started sending security contingents to the restive eastern DR Congo, President Ruto nominated Aden Duale, serving Member of Parliament for Garissa Town and former Leader of Majority in the 12th parliament. Mr Duale is not associated with nor known for advocating regional issues. Same could be said of the nominee for Interior, Prof Kithure Kindiki, former Deputy Leader of Majority in the Senate.

Yufnalis Okubo, former registrar at the East African Court of Justice is, however, hopeful.

“If you look at the ministries of Trade, Foreign Affairs and the East African Community which all deal with regional and international affairs, I can only single out Dr Mutua, nominee for Foreign Affairs, who has some experience having been a government spokesperson and worked and lived abroad, and also as a two-term governor of Machakos,” said Mr Okubo.

“Ms Miano’s nomination from corporate Kenya, without exposure to handle regional issues, is the same mistake made with the Phyllis Kandie appointment in 2013,” Mr Okubo said, referring to Kenyatta’s first EAC Affairs Cabinet Secretary.

Ms Kandie was later named ambassador to the EU, in Brussels but also later made Kenya’s representative to Unesco.

“It will be interesting to see how Ms Miano fits in,” said Mr Okubo who has worked in the EAC for over 10 years.

Mr Okubo avers that compared with neighbours, Kenya does not take regional matters seriously.

“Uganda’s ministry of EAC has retained the Permanent Secretary (Mrs Mwanje) for over 10 years. While in Kenya has had more than five different Principal Secretaries in the same ministry since 2013, a worrying trend that shows we have failed to value experience in regional politics,” said Mr Okubo.

Mr Kuria’s immediate assignment will be the ongoing new trade deal negotiations between Kenya and the US.

The other pressing assignment is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) ministerial meeting to be held December 13 in Washington, DC.

SOURCE

Kenyan President William Ruto this week named his Cabinet, bringing back politicians into the Executive, a departure from the Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta governments that had technocrats. Dr Ruto […]

Continue reading "Ruto Cabinet brings new faces to tackle regional problems"

Violence threatens fragile South Sudan peace

The UN says there is a need to keep an eye on South Sudan, where fragile peace continues to be threatened by conflict.

On Wednesday, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) pointed out inter-communal conflict for repeated cycles of violence that may erode gains towards peace across the country.

Nicolas Haysom, the special representative of the Secretary-General to South Sudan, said fighting between rival factions in Upper Nile and parts of Jonglei States has caused massive displacement of civilians seeking refuge in the UN bases in Malakal town, the capital of Upper Nile State.

“The fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) forces and the Kitgwang and Agwelek factions has displaced thousands of people within Upper Nile, to Jonglei, Unity states, and parts of Sudan,” Mr Haysom told journalists in Juba.

He said more than 14,000 have been displaced and sought refuge at the Malakal Protection of Civilians site.

Mr Haysom said that the mission is working with state authorities and humanitarian agencies to support sustainable solutions in Malakal to mitigate overcrowding, and outbreaks of disease, as well as maintain peace within the community living within the UN Protection of Civilians site.

In recent days, the Twic/Ngok Dinka conflict has created a new wave of refugees in Abyei, Warrap, and Northern Bahr El Ghazal.

Escalated fighting

Earlier, UN-appointed human rights experts sounded the alarm on the likelihood of violence escalating.

Yasmin Sooka, the chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, asked the international community to pay more attention to the violence proliferating at a local level all over South Sudan.

Ms Sooka said donors and member states must continue to monitor the peace agreement and security sector reform and ensure constitutional legislation is pushed through before elections.

“Without these steps, we are likely to see millions more South Sudanese displaced or crossing borders, creating havoc for neighbouring countries and aid agencies,” she said in a statement issued in Juba.

The UN experts said the parties to the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement for South Sudan signed onto a further two-year extension of the transitional governance arrangements, postponing elections until late 2024.

The Peace Agreement included a national consultation process on establishing three bodies. Consultations were held in mid-2022, but excluded millions of refugees.

The UN experts said after four years, none of the three proposed transitional justice bodies have come into being — the Commission on Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing; the Hybrid Court; or the Compensation and Reparation Authority.

Andrew Clapham, a member of the team, said survivors in South Sudan, told them that criminal accountability is the only way to guarantee their safety and peace in the country.

SOURCE

The UN says there is a need to keep an eye on South Sudan, where fragile peace continues to be threatened by conflict. On Wednesday, the UN Mission in South […]

Continue reading "Violence threatens fragile South Sudan peace"

France ex-president urges regional forces in DRC to be on the offensive

Former French President François Hollande says the regional force to be sent by the East African Community to the Democratic Republic of Congo must be offensive and attack the enemy from the start.

Hollande who flew to Bukavu from Kinshasa for two-day trip in South Kivu, eastern DRC, met with Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018.

But he used the trip to address the issue of the deployment of regional forces to eastern DRC to quell rebel attacks.

While his host of the day, Dr Mukwege, is very much opposed to the deployment of contingents of soldiers to DRC, Mr Hollande suggests that the regional force should be deployed for a “short duration”.

This “force must be offensive. It must be a force of action,” he said on Wednesday.

Hollande made the trip to attend the inauguration of a modern operating theatre at the Panzi hospital which is run by Dr Mukwege, who is being pushed by several people in DR Congo to run in the 2023 presidential election.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is preparing to host the contingents of the East African Community that will come to stem insecurity in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri regions in eastern DRC.

Burundian troops have already been on the offensive since August 15 in South Kivu, and President Félix Tshisekedi announced the arrival of Kenyan troops in the coming days. South Sudan has also said it has prepared 750 troops to go into the troubled eastern provinces of the DRC.

The presidents of the East African sub-region expressed their urgency to put an end to nearly 30 years of violence in the eastern DRC during the April 2022 conclave in Nairobi.

The former head of state believes that it is “necessary that in eastern Congo, France and several personalities work so that crimes do not go unpunished.”

SOURCE

Former French President François Hollande says the regional force to be sent by the East African Community to the Democratic Republic of Congo must be offensive and attack the enemy […]

Continue reading "France ex-president urges regional forces in DRC to be on the offensive"

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