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BURNING OF 28 SENGWER HOMES IN EMBOBUT FOREST, ELGEYO MARAKWET

On 10 July 2020, 28 homes were burnt in Kapkok Glade leaving families with no shelter. The Kenyan Constitution and the 2012 Land Act prohibit such forced evictions. We condemn these actions in the Embobut forest and call for adherence to the Constitution.

On May 11,2020, the President through Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i issued a moratorium on forced evictions during the pandemic.

On 13th July eight human rights and conservation organizations  issued out joint statement raising their  concern and condemning the   BURNING OF 28 SENGWER HOMES IN EMBOBUT FOREST, ELGEYO MARAKWET.

The eight organisation calls on the Government of Kenya to immediately:

  • Make a Ministerial Statement to halt the KFS operation and forced evictionsin Embobut Forest;
  • Adhere to theConstitution, the Land Actand thePresidential declaration of a moratorium on evictions for the period of COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Ensurethat all those affected canlive peacefully in the forest glades, no further retaliation happens to Sengwer community membersand that those responsible are brought to justice;
  • Provide shelter and basic needs for the affected families.

DOWNLOAD FULL STATEMENT HERE

 

On 10 July 2020, 28 homes were burnt in Kapkok Glade leaving families with no shelter. The Kenyan Constitution and the 2012 Land Act prohibit such forced evictions. We condemn […]

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Pain and Pandemic: Unmasking the State of Human Rights in Kenya in Containment of the COVID -19 Pandemic

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), on 30th June 2020, released a report titled Pain and Pandemic: Unmasking the State of Human Rights in Kenya in Containment of the COVID -19 Pandemic. The report, which captures the results of KNCHR’s monitoring efforts during this COVID-19 period, revealed that loss of life, inhuman and degrading treatment and cases of torture were witnessed during the monitoring period as measures were being taken to contain the spread of the virus. (See more on the report here)

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), on 30th June 2020, released a report titled Pain and Pandemic: Unmasking the State of Human Rights in Kenya in Containment of […]

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REGIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY JOINT STATEMENT ON THE ONSLAUGHT OF CIVIC SPACE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC RESPONSE IN EAST AFRICA

 We, the undersigned representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) operating within the East African Community and operating under the East African Community (EAC) Consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF) met through a webinar on 19th June 2020, convened by EACSOF Kenya Chapter, to discuss continued threats to civic space due to restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The discussion was prompted by the growing need to foster a more coordinated regional approach to address the severe threats to civic space in the EAC region.

We wish to commend the EAC partner states for taking actions to control the spread of Covid-19. We are aware, however, that various challenges have undermined efforts to have a collective approach to the pandemic. We, nonetheless, congratulate governments in the region for taking the pandemic as a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of their citizens.

State of civil society amidst COVID-19

The lack of a collective approach based on similar standards has meant that reactions to Covid-19 are largely in line with domestic governance conditions. In countries where civic space was already severely threatened, the directives have tended to be more severe. In such situations, Covid-19 restrictions have merely added to the factors that deny citizens their essential freedoms such as freedom to assemble, freedom to associate, etc.

We note further the rights to information and the freedom of expression have been threatened across the board. In their efforts to control the spread of disinformation, governments have targeted and undermined these rights. Human rights activists and social media influencers are among those who have experienced threats from the authorities due to the information shared on their social media platforms, mainly challenging the government to account for the use of funds. The media and journalists, already under severe constraints in several countries, have faced increasing challenges including threats to suspend licenses and harassment of individual journalists in the course of duty. There has been a surge in cases of police brutality in the process of enforcing restrictions thus undermining ongoing police reforms.

Even though we acknowledge the importance of necessary measures to control Covid-19, the widespread abuses of human rights especially by security forces, have undermined citizens’ faith in what governments are doing to control the spread of the virus. In several cases, this has led to demonstrations, which in turn has created conditions for further spread of the virus. We, therefore, agree with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ rights and other human rights bodies across the world, which have emphasized that restrictions must be lawful and reasonable.

Given the above, and the need to continue building a prosperous Africa through continental and regional integration, we recommend the following to the governments of the six EAC partner states:

  1. That there is a need to recognize and harness the leadership, mobilization and educational potential inherent in the civil society so that a more effective partnership approach is engendered in response to Covid-19;
  2. Take immediate action to eliminate Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK) as well as other human rights abuses by security officials in charge of enforcing restrictions. Where such abuses have occurred, responsible state institutions must move with speed to investigate and bring to book those responsible. The state must also provide support to victims of such abuses;
  3. That there is a need to continue working towards a collective approach to control of Covid-19 by the EAC partner states. This is partly necessitated by the need to handle practical challenges being currently experienced in the region such as the issue of truckers and movement of goods;
  4. The collective approach envisioned above must be human rights friendly in line with the East African Community Treaty, which under “Establishment and Principles of the Community” (Chapter Two) emphasizes “adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice”;
  5. Observe the principles of accountability and transparency in all processes related to control of Covid-19. This includes procurement processes through which countries are sourcing material supplies for purposes of dealing with the pandemic. Partner States must, at all costs, mitigate against rent-seeking, profiteering and other forms of corruption;
  6. Support community healthcare systems (such as Community Health Workers) as the first lines of defense in controlling the spread of COVID-19 due to their role in sensitization, supporting vulnerable communities at the village level, and in urban informal settlements. We note, for example, that community health workers and level one facilities require the provision of adequate protective gear, testing kits, and other materials; and
  7. We support partner states call for debt relief to focus more resources on Covid-19. However, this does not preclude the need to bring to account those responsible for the accumulation of odious debts and large-scale looting.

In solidarity with the East African Community, partner states and Civil Society Organizations in East Africa Region.

          

The statement is endorsed by

  1. The East African Civil Society Organisations’ Forum (EACSOF)
  2. The East African Civil Society Organisations’ Forum (EACSOF) Kenya Chapter
  3. Tanzania Association of NGOs (TANGO)
  4. Defenders Coalition Kenya
  5. Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Association (DENIVA)
  6. The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA-U)
  7. Rwanda Women’s Network
  8. Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP)
  9. Burundi Journalists Union
  10. Forum pour la Conscience et le Development (FOCODE)
  11. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO),
  12. Freedom House, Tanzania
  13. Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG)
  14. Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU)

 

ABOUT EACSOF KENYA CHAPTER

The East African Civil Society Organisations’ Forum (EACSOF) Kenya Chapter is a membership Non-Governmental Organization founded in 2013. It is the Kenyan Chapter of EACSOF, which is based in Arusha and whose mission is to provide a platform and catalyze a critical mass of organized civil society to engage in need-driven, people-centered East Africa integration and cooperation process effectively and proactively for equitable and sustainable development. EACSOF Kenya hosts the Protection of Civic Space in East Africa Platform (PCSEAP) which regularly assess, monitors and documents civic space trends and facilitates continued learning, sharing of best practices and innovative strategies for CSOs in East Africa.

 

E-mail: eacsofke@gmail.com

Website: http://www.eacsofkenya.org/

 

Download Joint Statement

 

 We, the undersigned representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) operating within the East African Community and operating under the East African Community (EAC) Consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF) met through a […]

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President Uhuru Kenyatta lifts Covid-19 restrictions

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday announced phased reopening of the country as the government moved to relax Covid-19 restrictions.

The president said cessation of movement into and out of the capital Nairobi, and Mombasa and Mandera counties would lapse on Tuesday 4am, allowing people to travel into and out of these counties. He, however, extended the nationwide 9pm-4am curfew for 30 days.

“By reopening Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera, we are more at risk than we were when the restrictions were in place.  We must, therefore, exercise cautious optimism, and avoid reckless abandon,” said Mr Kenyatta, who promised to have the orders reviewed should the virus spread widely.

“Should the situation deteriorate and pose a challenge to our health infrastructure, it shall be ‘clawed back’.”

In the next 21 days, the country will study patterns of interactions and the spread of the disease.

“Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to the lockdown,” the president said.

He cautioned that the country had not met minimum requirements to reopen the economy.

“According to the experts and stakeholders, we have not met the irreducible minimum 100 per cent. However, consensus amongst them is that we have reached a reasonable level of preparedness across the country to allow us to reopen,” Mr Kenyatta added.

WORSHIP

The president also allowed reopening of places of worship, restricting them to one-hour services and no more than 100 people at a time. Places of worship will be required to strictly adhere to safety protocols in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. Sunday Schools and Madrassas will, however, remain closed.

No congregants under 13 years or over 58 years should be allowed in places of worship, Mr Kenyatta added. Those with underlying health conditions have also been cautioned against congregating to worship.

He asked Kenyans to continue adhering to Covid-19 safety measures to prevent spread of the disease.

“It is your duty and good will to defend and protect yourself and family and environment…Minimise unnecessary movements, delay upcountry travel, adhere to protocols,” he added.

He also urged citizens to minimise unnecessary contact with the elderly, children and those vulnerable to the virus.

The president further said that the Ministry of Education shall jointly with all stakeholders notify the public on the resumption of the 2020 Academic Calendar for basic education and tertiary institutions, by Tuesday.

FLIGHTS

The president also announced changes in transportation protocols, saying that public service vehicles moving in and out of areas which were previously under cessation of movement will require mandatory certification from the Ministry of Health in consultation with the Ministry of Transport.

Local flights will resume on July 15, 2020 in strict conformity with guidelines and protocols issued by the Health ministry.

“International Air Travel into and out of the territory of the Republic of Kenya shall resume effective 1st August, 2020; in strict conformity with all protocols from the Ministry of Health, local and international civil aviation authorities, and any additional requirements applicable at the ports of departure, arrival or transit,” he added.

CAMPAIGNS

However, politicians keen to carry out campaigns for 2022 were not so lucky. Restrictions on political gatherings and any other gathering were extended by another 30 days.

Further, the President extended the restriction on the reopening of bars as well as wedding and funeral attendance.

Mr Kenyatta also directed the ministries of Health and Trade to establish protocols before the resumption of importation of second-hand clothes and shoes.

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Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday announced phased reopening of the country as the government moved to relax Covid-19 restrictions. The president said cessation of movement into and out of […]

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Report flags Kenya as a hotspot for human trafficking

A new US report on global human trafficking trends has put Kenya in the list of countries with the worst human trafficking problems in the world.

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2020 report says traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Kenya and exploit victims.

“Within the country, traffickers exploit children through forced labour in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, and begging,” says the report.

It was released on Wednesday in Washington at a ceremony attended by US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The report’s findings say traffickers in Kenya exploit girls and boys in commercial sex, including sex tourism on the Coast, Nairobi and Kisumu, particularly in informal settlements, noting that family members facilitate the exploitation. Traffickers also exploit teenage boys from nomadic tribes into cattle rustling, it said.

Children are also exploited in sex trafficking by people working in khat (miraa) cultivation areas and near gold mines in western Kenya, truck drivers on highways, and fishermen on Lake Victoria.

NGOs reported that internally displaced persons, particularly those who live close to a major highway or local trading centre, are more vulnerable to trafficking than persons in settled communities.

The report says Kenyans are recruited by legal or illegal employment agencies or voluntarily migrate to Europe, Northern Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East — particularly Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, and Oman.

They go to such locations in search of employment but in some cases are exploited in massage parlours and brothels or in forced into manual labour or domestic service.

Nairobi-based labour recruiters maintain networks in Uganda and Ethiopia that hire Rwandan, Ethiopian, and Ugandan workers through fraudulent offers of employment.

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A new US report on global human trafficking trends has put Kenya in the list of countries with the worst human trafficking problems in the world. The Trafficking in Persons […]

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Kenya to reopen its airspace despite increasing Covid-19 cases

Kenya is set to reopen its airspace for domestic flights, allow religious gatherings and inter-county tourism and travel in a bid to salvage its battered economy, even as the number of Covid-19 infections continue to rise sharply.

President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to review the months-long Covid-19 lockdown measures that are supposed to lapse on July 6, ending more than three months of strict shutdowns of different sectors of the economy.

“We will soon start domestic flights and this is what we will use as our trial in readiness for international travel over the next couple of days,” said President Kenyatta last week, pointing to lifting of a ban on travel into and out of Nairobi and Mombasa, the country’s biggest cities. It is however not clear whether the 9pm to 4am countrywide curfew will be lifted.

The reopening will be guided by protocols put in place in different sectors of the economy.

The tourism sector, which has been hard-hit by the government-imposed restriction on movement, has developed a set of re-opening protocols, which received a stamp of approval from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on July 1.

“I am delighted to announce that Kenya has been listed among the 80 global destinations certified and authorised to use the “World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travel Stamp” together with our Magical Kenya Logo. This stamp will allow travellers to recognise Kenya as a safe destination once we reopen and implement the health and safety protocols,” said Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. The protocols seek to ensure service provision meets required guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

They will also ensure a safe experience for visitors.

A 15-member interfaith council chaired by Archbishop Anthony Muheria of the Nyeri Catholic Archdiocese, has been holding deliberations on the protocol for re-opening places of worship.

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed last month appointed an 18-member committee to advise on the resumption of sporting activities in the country.

The national government has been pushing county administrations to build capacity of at least 300 ICU beds per county in readiness for the ease in travel restrictions, which is expected to trigger a surge in new cases countrywide.

A progress report last week showed county governments had set up 6,898 isolation beds against the national target of 30,500 units.

Covid-19 cases have been rising in the country at an alarming rate. The number of infected people stood at 7,188 on July 3, with 154 deaths. Daily positive cases hit an all-time high of 307 in June.

More than 10.9 million people have caught the virus globally, with deaths exceeding 521,000.

Kenya Airways Board chairman Michael Joseph in an interview with The EastAfrican said the national carrier is ready to resume flights as early as July 8, once the travel restrictions are lifted.

“We are ready to re-open. We have put in place protocols as required by both local and international standards including the boarding and checking-in situation,” said Mr Joseph.

Several airlines are considering keeping the middle seats empty to avoid passengers sitting directly next to each other.

Mr Joseph, however, argues that it is not commercially viable to operate half-empty flights. “Planes require a load factor of over 66.7 per cent to make any profit. It is not commercially viable to keep the middle seats empty and therefore the normal plane seating arrangement will be maintained,” he said, adding, “We will enforce other measures including wearing masks, sanitisation, controlled boarding, and limiting contact.”

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Kenya is set to reopen its airspace for domestic flights, allow religious gatherings and inter-county tourism and travel in a bid to salvage its battered economy, even as the number […]

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Kenya shelves Naivasha SGR depot cargo pick-up orde

The State has backed down from its earlier directive on the use of standard gauge railway (SGR) for all cargo destined to Nairobi and beyond following pressure from regional economies.

Transport Cabinet Secretary (CS) James Macharia told Parliament that regional governments demanded additional developments at the Naivasha inland container depot (ICD) before the directive to pick cargo from the facility can be implemented.

The decision is a huge reprieve to freighters who risked losing hundreds of jobs following the ban on use of trucks to transport cargo from Mombasa.

In May, Mr Macharia announced that all cargo destined for Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan will be transported through the SGR for clearance at the ICD starting June 1.

“Stakeholders have requested additional infrastructure investment within the Naivasha ICD. This includes an expanded marshalling yard,” David Pkosing, who chairs the Transport committee said in a statement to the House.

Mr Pkosing was responding to a statement sought by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir over a directive that truck drivers pick up transit cargo from Naivasha ICD depot.

He said Mr Macharia confirmed that the ministry is undertaking additional investments at the Naivasha ICD including an expanded marshalling yard and works are expected to be completed by July 15 The committee said the May order by Mr Macharia was informed by the need to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

“The CS told us that the directive was as a result of consultations between the East African heads of States and follow up meetings by ministers responsible for transport in the region,” he said.

Mr Pkosing added that the committee and Mr Macharia reached an agreement that the directive be put on hold pending consultations with local and regional stakeholders.

“The directive that transporters pick cargo destined for transit from Naivasha ICD is no longer compulsory but is now optional.

“As such, we find this decision by the Ministry of Transport satisfactory for the time being pending our inquiry set to be concluded in a month,” Mr Pkosing said in response to a statement sought by Mr Nassir.

Mr Nassir, also Mvita MP, had demanded an inquiry into the directive issued by Mr Macharia.

He had also sought to know why importers were being compelled to transport cargo destined to Nairobi and the county’s hinterland via the SGR when an earlier order issued jointly by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) had been suspended by the Ministry.

Mr Pkosing said the order to transport all cargo to Nairobi ICD via SGR was suspended and continues to remain in force to date.

Mr Nassir confirmed the committee and the Ministry had reached a deal that the two orders be lifted and that thorough stakeholder consultations be undertaken to resolve existing grievances

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The State has backed down from its earlier directive on the use of standard gauge railway (SGR) for all cargo destined to Nairobi and beyond following pressure from regional economies. […]

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New reality for business leaders in post-Covid era

East African businesses will have to change in order to survive after the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a survey released by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) titled East Africa’s Rebound, workers will have to adapt to the new reality to ensure near-term business continuity in the region.

“Covid-19 has had a significant economic impact across East Africa. Global shocks and local restrictions aimed at curbing the virus spread have severely impacted businesses across sectors,” states the report.

The International Monetary Fund has revised its 2020 projection for the EAC GDP growth rate from six per cent to 1.8 per cent.

Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya established strict restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, while other countries in the region took less restrictive approaches.

BCG Nairobi office Managing Director Mills Schenck said containing Covid-19 will be a daunting journey for East African businesses.

“Business leaders will need to tailor strategies for uncertain disease progression scenarios, global market dislocations, and shifting consumer behaviour,” he said.

NEW METHODS

To ensure near-term business continuity, the study recommends new methods of cash and liquidity management while ensuring products and services serve the preferences of customers, whose consumption patterns have changed to accommodate their lower purchasing power.

The report also points at the use of Big Data analytics in cutting costs and boosting brand confidence.

“Firms will have to hire and maintain a dedicated team to track data, assess business impact, and plan for different scenarios,” the survey says.

Since most consumers have moved online due to government directives to contain the virus, business leaders should invest in the digital customer experience.

According to BCG, governments can support businesses to capitalise on opportunities by removing barriers to trade across the region, which would empower local manufacturers.

SOURCE

 

 

East African businesses will have to change in order to survive after the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a survey released by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) titled East Africa’s Rebound, workers […]

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Clobbered to death for not wearing a face mask

Julius Ouma Orwa was allegedly assaulted to death by police in Migori after he was arrested for not wearing a face mask.[Courtesy]

Three families have become the latest to seek justice for their kin after alleged police assaults.

The latest cases came a day after a government agency released a report exposing the depth of torture and deaths caused by security officers in the name of implementing coronavirus restrictions.In Nyarago village of Uriri, Migori County, a family is in mourning after their kin was allegedly clobbered to death by police officers for not wearing a face mask.Julius Ouma, 68, was said to have been walking home from Awendo town where he works when he met two officers near Nyarago bridge.

Ouma’s son, Phillip Orwa, said the officers accosted the old man, demanding to know why he was not wearing a face mask.“Just before he could explain himself, the officers pounced on him, hitting him on the head,” said Orwa.While on the ground, the officers hit his legs with batons, leaving him for dead.Witnesses who watched from a distance took him to his home, a few kilometres away.Family members then took him to a local private hospital where he was admitted, while complaining of pain in the head and leg.

He lost his ability to speak after two days and died on Monday while undergoing treatment.The family now wants the unidentified officers brought to book for his death.“It is sad that the officers chose to beat him up instead of arresting him and charging him,” said Orwa.Yesterday, County Police Commander Celestine Nyaga declined to comment on the matter, saying she was yet to get such reports.In Nakuru, human rights organisations have petitioned Inspector General (IG) of Police and Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) to investigate a case where a 27-year-old man was allegedly shot and injured by the police.
According to Human Rights Network (Nahurinet), the police are intimidating the victim and lodging extra crimes against him.Police claim that Jackson Ondiek who is currently admitted at Eldama Ravine Hospital, is a suspected thief, who defied a dusk to dawn curfew on June 7, 2020.Ondiek says he failed to get a means of transport home and was caught up by the curfew, leading to his shooting.Nahurinet’s David Kuria said the victim’s health continues to deteriorate.“We need Ipoa and the IG to look into it to enable the victim get justice,” said Kuria.
According to Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), at least 56 cases of human right violations perpetrated by law enforcement agencies have been reported, among them 19 deaths. The figures cover the period between February and June this year.The violations are perpetrated by the police, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Services and administrative officers.“Out of the 56, 19 deaths are as a result of shooting whereas 37 are of injuries sustained as a result of physical, psychological and sexual assault,” reads a report by the human rights organisation.Ondiek, a chicken seller from Mumberes village in Eldama Ravine, told The Standard that he was shot at Makutano area on his way back home.The police accused him of planning to break into a shop at Makutano Centre, then said he was caught with stolen property, only to later allege he was planning to attack them. after buying three chicken at the centre,” said Ondiek.Baringo police commander Robinson Ndiwa dismissed the allegations, saying Ondiek is a suspect in a theft case.He could not say what he had stolen, but maintained he had assorted items including school uniforms belonging to children.For Daniel Mutua, June 16 become a grim reminder of the moment he almost lost his life at the hands of police.Mutua, a catering student at Probation Training College in Likoni, is now nursing severe injuries on his right eye and jaw after he was allegedly attacked by police officers on patrol.In the alleged attack, he lost a tooth and the pain in his body grows by the day.The fourth born in a family of seven who hails from Kathiani in Machakos County had been studying in Mombasa and was unable to travel back home.He trained to ride a motorcycle and sought employment to eke a living. The 22-year-old had just dropped a client at Ujamaa area and was in a hurry back home at Migombani area to beat the curfew.At Kona Mpya, he says he saw a police van parked by the roadside at around 8:40pm.As soon as he passed it, one of the officers emerged from behind and hit him on the jaw. He lost control and landed in a ditch some meters away from where the vehicle had been parked.Yesterday, Likoni sub-county police commander Jane Munywoki claimed she was not aware of the matter. But Mutua says his efforts to get his statement recorded at the police station so he can pursue justice has hit a snag as police keep on taking him around in circles.

Julius Ouma Orwa was allegedly assaulted to death by police in Migori after he was arrested for not wearing a face mask.[Courtesy] Three families have become the latest to seek […]

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They have killed us more than corona’: Kenya Police Brutality amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Police brutality in Kenya is not new and with the COVID- 19 pandemic the police remains to be accused of using excessive force and violence in the name of imposing the lockdown.

On March 25, President Kenyatta announced a government plan for a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew starting March 27. Police appear to have enforced it chaotically and violently from the start. In downtown Nairobi, police arrested people on streets, whipping, kicking, and herding them together, increasing the risks of spreading the virus. In the Embakasi area of eastern Nairobi, police officers forced a group of people walking home from work to kneel, then whipped and kicked them, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

In Mombasa, on March 27, more than two hours before curfew took effect, police teargassed crowds lining up to board a ferry back home from work, beating them with batons and gun butts, kicking, slapping, and forcing them to huddle together or lie on top of each other. Video clips on local television stations and social media showed that the police were not wearing masks and other protective gear, which authorities were encouraging everyone to wear and have since made mandatory.

Despite these killings being well documented by both state and non-state institutions, the policemen responsible for these acts have rarely been held to account including by the police oversight authority. One or two cases that elicit public interest and outrage are investigated for a while with no prosecutions and justice for the victims.

The police authorities and the oversight body have a responsibility to ensure that all current and past killings are thoroughly investigated and that all those implicated are held to account in line with Kenyan law

On March 30, President Uhuru came out to apologize over the use of force by policemen following criticism from various groups over abuses in Mombasa but did not instruct the police to end the abuses.

On 8th June Kenyans held peaceful protests to condemn police brutality and an increase in extrajudicial killing since a dusk-till-dawn curfew was enforced in March to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

Below is a highlight of curfew killings/brutality by police stories that have hit media stations

  1. Yassin Hussein Moyo

On March 31, at around midnight in the Kiamaiko neighborhood, in Nairobi’s Eastlands area, the police shot live ammunition at Yassin Hussein Moyo, 13, hitting him in the stomach and killing him, witnesses said. His father, Hussein Moyo, told the Kenyan media that his son was standing on the third-floor balcony at midnight alongside his siblings when the bullet struck him.

  1. Hamisi Juma Kambiriwa

March 27, 2020, After dropping his client who was in labor at Mwahima Likoni Hospital, 49-year-old Hamisi Juma Kambiriwa, a boda-boda operator, was on his way home with another passenger named Hassan Kitosha. Kitosha narrated to Standard Media how they encountered police officers who then hit Juma on the shoulder, this caused him to lose control of the vehicle and they ended up in a ditch filled with muddy water. The officers allegedly left Kitosha to leave but they beat Juma with batons and gun butts. He arrived home at 8 pm, severely injured, but was unable to go to the hospital because of the curfew. His family took him the next morning and he died on Sunday at Msambweni Hospital. IPOA released a statement saying it will be investigating the case.

  1. Calvin Omondi

On March 27, 2020, 26-year-old boda-boda rider, Calvince Omondi, was on his way back from taking a customer from Oyugis to Kendu. On his way home, Omondi met a group of police officers from Kosele Police Station. According to Omondi’s father, the officers stopped Omondi at Kosele trading center and beat him unconscious because he was operating outside curfew hours. The officers then brought him to the hospital. Omondi’s father described to the media how he found his son unconscious and how he remained speechless for 2-days until he died on Sunday morning. Since the incident, IPOA has sent out its Rapid Response Team to investigate the case.

Omondi’s father spoke of how his son left behind a wife and child. Since Omondi was the breadwinner of the family, the family is left in emotional and financial pain. Omondi’s family is left wondering why the police officer used excessive force when they could have just arrested him.

  1. Ramadhan Juma

According to reports, Ramadhan Juma went missing the night of April 1st.  His family was extremely worried especially since Juma had a mental health disability. They set up a search party the next day and found him with critical injuries at Kakamega County Referral Hospital. Juma succumbed to his injuries that morning. It is alleged that Juma’s injuries were the result of police brutality from implementing the curfew. The National Police Service is refuting the claims. Investigations are underway to confirm the circumstances that caused Juma’s death.

  1. Erick Ng’ethe

Erick Ng’ethe was a 23-year-old, who came from a large family where he was the 15th born. Ng’ethe worked as an accountant for the Nile Pub and Restaurant in Diani and had missed a few days of work during the first week of the curfew. On April 1st, he was not in a financial position to miss any more days so he proceeded to go to work. MUHURI reported that around 9 pm, police officers attempted to raid the bar but the main door was locked. The officers broke part of the roof and lobbed tear gas canisters inside forcing Ng’ethe to open the door. The police began physically assaulting customers who were inside. Ng’ethe was choking on tear gas, crawling on the floor when an officer pounded his head with a club.  The police officers took him with them when they left. According to sources, upon realizing Ng’ethe had succumbed to his injuries the police officers attempted to drop his body back at Nile Pub, but they found it was locked. They proceeded to drop it off at Kwale Morgue. When MUHURI accompanied the family members to the morgue they discovered his body with blood all over it and a great depression in the back of his head. Police officers had booked him under “unknown” and stated they found his body on the road. However, this narrative has been refuted by many witnesses. The case is currently under investigation.

  1. Ochieng

On March 27th, 2020, Ochieng was beaten by police officers as he was coming from his father’s, in Korogocho. He succumbed to his injuries.

  1. John Muuo Muli,

On April 5, 2020, John Muuo Muli, a 27-year-old carwash attendant in Ruai, was found by police officers after curfew and the police officers severely beat Muli. According to media reports, Muli’s brother could not take him to the hospital that night because they feared further police harassment. The next morning, Muli went to Mama Lucy Kikabi Hospital and succumbed to his injuries. According to the post-mortem, Muli’s intestines had been raptured as a result of the police beating.

  1. Peter Gacheru

On April 4th, 2020, Peter Gacheru, a 46-year-old mitumba businessman, was found 15-minutes after curfew by police officers. It was reported that Gacheru was closing his shop when he was physically beaten with batons by police officers. Gacheru was found half-conscious and an ambulance took him to PCEA Kikuyu Hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.

  1. Idris Mukolwe

On April 7, 2020, Idris Mukolwe, a 45- year-old tomato vendor, died from suffocating on a tear gas canister. The tear gas canister was allegedly thrown by security officers who were enforcing the ban on trade in Mumias town. Witnesses interviewed by media claim that the tear gas canister exploded in Mukolwe’s face and he ran out of air and started suffocating. When his friends from the market tried to help him, the police threw another canister at them forcing them to leave their friend alone.

  1. Mzee Maurice

April 13, 2020, Mzee Maurice, a mentally disabled individual from Kakamega, was attacked by police officers after he was found outside past the curfew hours. He was rushed to the hospital the following morning after his sister-in-law found him by the roadside. He passed away on reaching the hospital

  1. Vitalis Owino

Vitalis Owino, a 36-year-old man from Mradi area market in Mathare, left his house around 6 pm to get some food for his family and use the public toilet facilities. For unclear reasons, police officers physically assaulted Owino. Owino succumbed to his injuries. His body was found the next morning in Mradi area market. The body was taken to Muthiaga Police Station after residents blocked area police from picking it up.

  1. Abdallah Mohammed

Abdallah Mohammed was allegedly arrested by the police in Tezo Roka, Kilifi for violating the curfew regulations. It is claimed that the officer assaulted him before being released. Abdallah died while receiving treatment in a nearby clinic.

  1. Elvis Emmanuel Stemo

On May 23, 2020, around 10:30 pm, Elvis Emmanuel Stemo was found outside his home after curfew and was arrested, shot, and killed. The post-mortem report stated his body showed signs of being hit by a blunt object; it also displayed two bullet wounds in the leg and one in the neck.

  1. Maurice Ochieng

Maurice Ochieng died 5 days after being beaten up by police officers for not wearing a mask. He was originally detained at Maseno Police Post on May 20th but was allegedly released after his condition worsened. On May 25th, Ochieng collapsed and was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival. The family is waiting for the autopsy report to confirm the cause of death.

June 1, 2020, Mathare, Nairobi A 51-year-old man, known by the community as Vaite was killed in Mathare 3c, around 7:40 pm. Vaite was shot 3 times at a close range, 2 bullets to his thigh, and 1 to his lower abdomen. The police officers were alleging enforcing the curfew, but Vaite was a homeless man and would sleep by the roadside, at the same spot where he was shot. It is alleged that the police officers fled the scene after they shot Vaite, leaving him to bleed to death.

Vaite was well-known by the community, as he would collect and sell plastics during the day, and would sleep outside at night.  He was a university-educated automotive engineer, who suffered a mental breakdown, 10 years ago, after he and his wife split up.

 

 

Recommended solutions to ending police brutality

  1. Demilitarize– police have acquired weapons and are trained in the military-style tactics which spins the narrative that the police are heroes fending off danger and so they must protect themselves at all costs; shoot first, think later. Police reforms should ensure the police are community peacekeepers trying to keep the citizens safe rather than soldiers on the battlefield.
  2. Police the police– police oversight authorities are often highly prized and operate in a closed system. When one officer crosses the line, fellow officers including superiors come out to defend them leaving the incident to the word of the victim against that of a respected law enforcer. The introduction of external oversight and allowing due process to be followed is important to keep the police force in check.
  3. Rewrite the use of force policies that require officers to report the use of force incidents and compels them to intervene where a colleague improperly uses force.
  1. Sue the police– the police as with any other government officials are protected by the doctrine of ‘qualified immunity’ which grants government officials performing discretionary functions immunity from civil suits unless the plaintiff shows that the official violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. The majority of the police officers are likely to take advantage of such allowances and perform illegal acts. Such doctrines must be revised

Police brutality in Kenya is not new and with the COVID- 19 pandemic the police remains to be accused of using excessive force and violence in the name of imposing […]

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EAC states must avoid falling into Covid-19 debt trap

An unexpected outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic for many poor countries, East Africa included, is the extent to which it has raised the International Montery Fund and World Bank’s appetite for lending. As the devastating social and economic impacts of the pandemic manifested themselves in the United States, the UK, France, Italy and Spain, the IMF and World Bank duly announced emergency credit lines for roughly two dozen African countries. In near unison, East Africa’s finance ministers have whipped out the begging bowls and approached a variety of lenders for ‘corona response’ and ‘budget support’ funding.

The effort has not been in vain. Although it was not on the initial list, Uganda a fortnight ago secured approval for a $491 emergency facility from the IMF. In that, it joined Rwanda and Kenya that, to varying degrees, had earlier been tipped for similar financial interventions. For Uganda, the IMF package supplements plans to borrow another 600 million Euros from the EU. Separately, President Yoweri Museveni is seeking another two facilities worth $500 million for balance of payments support. If all goes according to plan, Uganda will in a short time have added $1.6 billion in debt to her already existing burden in the region of $14 billion.

With a GDP of 28.5 billion in 2019, the additional borrowing will tip the debt to GDP ratio past 50 percent. Uganda’s example is a cautionary tale of the inherent risks in the Covid-19 debt relief bonanza. Concerted campaign Until now, Uganda has been the only country in the region with a debt to GDP ratio below the critical 50 per cent threshold. Her neighbours who were hovering in the high 50s and lower 60s, have similarly piled up additional credit. From the concerted campaign for debt cancellation and payment holidays that has been mounted by African leaders, it would seem that secretly, they hope their slate will be wiped clean by benevolent Western donors.

The major obstacle to such a prospect however, is the West’s insistence that China, which holds a huge chunk of African debt, must be part of any multilateral debt relief effort for the continent. China has not warmed up to this proposition so far, choosing instead to negotiate bilaterally with its African debtors. The calls for cancellation suggest that African leaders are conscious of the precarious position previous borrowing has put their economies into. The debts of many of these countries is already unsustainable. In some instances, 100 percent of export revenues and upwards of a third of the annual budget are dedicated to debt servicing.

The need for Covid relief is not debatable but it also underscores the risk one assumes when borrowing against the future. Ultimately, public debt has to be repaid by taxpayers. That should not be a problem if debt worked for the public god and helps achieve verifiable economic benefits. It is erroneous for Africa to assume that its debt will always be forgiven. Failure to pay debt is equal to becoming insolvent. Unless Africa demonstrates a willingness to be disciplined and to meet its financial obligations to others, it might become ineligible for credit in the near future.

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An unexpected outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic for many poor countries, East Africa included, is the extent to which it has raised the International Montery Fund and World Bank’s appetite […]

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Kenya shuts Tanzania, Somalia borders over Covid-19

Kenya has closed its borders with Somalia and Tanzania as the country strives to stem further spread of the coronavirus. In a televised address to the nation on Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was imposing more measures after it emerged that some of the cases had crossed the border from Tanzania and Somalia.

“If we do not take additional precautionary measures and get even more serious in implementing existing guidelines, the number of people who will get sick and die is going to rise sharply,” said President Kenyatta.

The decree, effective Saturday midnight, does not affect cargo vehicles. The move, unprecedented in the history of the East African Community’s 20-year existence, came as Kenya said it had blocked 78 truck drivers from Tanzania from entering the country.

The President also announced that the number of Covid-19 cases in the country had risen to 830 after 49 more people tested positive. Forty-three of those detected this week had crossed the border from the neighbouring countries, according to Kenyatta.

“As of yesterday [Friday], the cases across the border were distributed as follows, Wajir 14, Isebania 10, Namanga 16, Lungalunga 2 and Loitoktok 1,” Kenyatta said, referring to border towns near Tanzania. The decision to block infected Tanzanian truck drivers came as member states in the region struggled to have a common policy on limiting the spread of Covid-19, while allowing free movement of goods. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan belong to EAC. However, during a virtual meeting convened Tuesday by EAC Chairman and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, only Nairobi, Juba and Kampala participated. Tanzania later claimed the meeting was for the Northern Corridor, a reference to countries that mainly import goods through Kenya’s Port of Mombasa. Shutting the border could effectively strengthen those corridor divisions even though Kenya argued it was simply protecting its people. “I know that our economy has taken a big hit, and the sectors that are linked to foreign trade, travel and production are under intense stress…even though the measures we are putting in place are inconvenient to all of us, the far worse outcome is for this pandemic to grow out of control,” added President Kenyatta. Somalia, too, has faced rising cases, blowing from 26 only in mid-April to 1284 by Friday night. Mogadishu has not given the figures on the number of those tested.

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Kenya has closed its borders with Somalia and Tanzania as the country strives to stem further spread of the coronavirus. In a televised address to the nation on Saturday, President […]

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CIVIC FREEDOMS AND THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: A SNAPSHOT OF RESTRICTIONS AND ATTACKS

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The spread of the pandemic, and the response of states to the crisis, have created unprecedented living conditions for much of the world’s population. A range of restrictions on freedoms has been introduced in attempts to curb the pandemic. However, some of these have had troubling impacts on human rights and the space for civil society. In many cases, they have patterned onto and reinforced existing restrictions of civic space.

Civic space is the bedrock of any open and democratic society and is rooted in the fundamental freedoms of people to associate, assemble peacefully and freely express their views and opinions. Since 2016, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented and analysed the state of civic space in 196 countries.

States have taken measures that include emergency laws, nationwide lockdowns and restrictions on movement. But one month after the declaration of the pandemic, CIVICUS has documented several alarming civic space trends that have resulted. These are:

  • Unjustified restrictions on access to information and censorship;
  • Detentions of activists for disseminating critical information;
  • Crackdowns on human rights defenders and media outlets;
  • Violations of the right to privacy and overly broad emergency powers.

International human rights law recognises that in the context of officially proclaimed public emergencies, including in public health, which threaten the life of a country, restrictions on some rights can be justified, but they must have a legal basis and be strictly necessary, of limited duration, respectful of human dignity, subject to review, proportionate to achieving the objective, not involve discrimination and be used strictly to the extent required by the emergency in question. Even where an official proclamation of emergency has been made, non-derogable fundamental rights such as the right to life and freedom from torture and inhuman, cruel, or degrading treatment still must not be infringed. Where a proclamation of emergency has not officially been made, rights can only be restricted during a public health threat in accordance with the limitations allowed in normal times under the relevant provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

International law is clear, but there are concerns that some of the actions taken by some states may be exceeding justifiable restrictions and negatively affecting civic freedoms. CIVICUS has compiled information on key civic space issues that have surfaced due to the response by governments and some other groups to the COVID-19 pandemic, raising serious concerns about the state of civic space at this time. These reports are sourced from civil society groups and activists, credible news sources and official documents. The restrictions are happening in a range of countries with different civic space ratings. When a country is referenced the respective rating colour is also displayed:

   OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

Censorship and restrictions on access to information

In  China, the government initially  responded to the outbreak by withholding information from the public, under-reporting cases of infection and downplaying the severity of the infection. The authorities also censored numerous articles and social media posts about the pandemic, including those posted by families of infected people seeking help and by people living in cordoned-off cities documenting their daily life. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, through a ‘medida provisória’ (provisional measure), decreed that government officials were not obliged to answer any freedom of information requests during the outbreak. The Supreme Court subsequently suspended the decree.The CIVICUS Monitor has shown that in 2019, censorship was the most common tactic used by states to silence activists, journalists and government critics and suppress critical information. Human rights groups have documented attempts to censor or restrict information on the COVID-19 pandemic. These have potentially prevented people from accessing information about the pandemic that can help them protect themselves and their families and being able to ask informed questions about the decisions being taken by the authorities in response to the pandemic.

In Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s government is limiting the use of the word ‘coronavirus’ as much as possible in order to deter the spread of information about the pandemic. It has ordered the word’s removal from health brochures distributed in hospitals, schools and workplaces. In El Salvador journalists have not been allowed to ask questions during press conferences related to the crisis and the government’s response.

In Vietnam, where the state controls all conventional media and implements strict social media censorship, the authorities have been cracking down on people using Facebook and bloggers who are trying to deliver timely and valuable information about the pandemic. As of 17 March, at least 654 people who posted on Facebook about the outbreak had been summoned to police stations for interrogation about their posts, and 146 of them have been fined.

During this crisis, internet shutdowns directly harm people’s health and lives, and undermine efforts to bring the pandemic under control. The shutdown in Indian-administered Kashmir is hampering the ability of doctors to obtain information about the virus and educate the public. Similar concerns have also been raised in Rakhine state in Myanmar, which is also subject to an internet shutdown.

Threats and arrests for criticising state response

There have also been reports of people being threatened or arrested for criticising their state’s response or disseminating information on the pandemic.

In Iran, civil rights activists, journalists, a city councillor and a footballer have all been  detained or summoned for questioning after criticising the Iranian government’s management of the pandemic in social media posts. Some of those who were summoned were accused of portraying the country in a negative light and pressured to be supportive of the government’s response to the outbreak.

In the Solomon Islands, the Ministry of Health has sent out a memo threatening ‘termination with immediate effect’ for staff who post comments online criticising the government’s response to the pandemic. It said the regulations were included under the State of Public Emergency declaration. In Sri Lanka, on 1 April, the Inspector General of Police instructed all police officers to take legal action against those who publish posts on social media criticising government officials.

Police in Pakistan have arrested dozens of doctors and medical staff who protested about a lack of personal protective equipment in their fight against the pandemic. In Thailand, on 23 March, an artist was charged under the draconian Computer Crime Act for a Facebook post criticising the lack of airport COVID-19 screening.

Restrictions on the media

Journalists and the media have a key role to play in sharing timely information about the pandemic. However, some states are shutting down media outlets, restricting the media and criminalising journalists.

On 17 March it was reported that decrees had been issued by the governments of JordanMoroccoOman and Yemen to suspend newspaper printing and distribution in response to the pandemic. This includes both independent and state-owned media outlets. Authorities reportedly imposed this to prevent the possible spread of the virus during the printing, delivery and distribution of papers.

On 5 March, authorities in Niger arrested Kaka Touda Mamane Goni, an independent journalist who publishes news reports on his Facebook and Twitter pages, at his home in Niamey, Niger’s capital. His arrest stemmed from a complaint filed by the local General Reference Hospital, which alleged that his social media posts about a suspected COVID-19 case at the hospital posed a threat to public order.

In Kenya, blogger Robert Alai was arrested on 20 March for posting false information about the virus. Alai had claimed that the government was concealing crucial information about the spread of the virus and that its impact was far greater than the government was acknowledging. He is accused of contravening the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act 2018.

The house of journalist, Darvinson Rojas in Venezuela was raided and he was detained by agents of the Special Action Forces of the Bolivarian National Police on 21 March for his reporting on the pandemic in Venezuela. At the hearing on 23 March, Rojas was accused of ‘instigating hatred and public instigation’.

On 26 March, the President of Vanuatu signed a declaration of a State of Emergency in response to the pandemic. As part of the declaration it was announced that all news articles on the virus had to be vetted by the National Disaster Management Office after consultation with the Ministry of Health.

Journalists have at times also been subjected to physical assault or harassment while covering COVID-19 lockdowns. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, journalist Tholi Totali Glody was reportedly chased by police officers and thrown off a motorcycle taxi on 22 March in Likasi, Haut-Katanga province, resulting in injuries that included a broken leg.

Passage and use of restrictive laws to counter ‘fake news’

The pandemic’s spread has been matched by the proliferation of misinformation about the virus. While misinformation is a serious problem, some states have resorted to unduly repressive laws on ‘fake news’ that could have wider impacts.

On 18 March, the government of South Africa’s new regulations criminalising statements intended to deceive any person about COVID-19 or the government’s response to it. The regulations were published in the Government Gazette under the 2002 Disaster Management Act and carry penalties including fines, imprisonment, or both.

The Philippines government declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic on 25 March and passed a law that included provisions penalising the spreading of ‘false information’ on social media and other platforms. Those found violating this provision may face two months’ imprisonment or a fine of not less than P10,000 (approx. US$196). Courts may also impose a fine of up to P1 million (approx. US$19,642). On 28 March, Egypt’s general prosecution said that those spreading ‘fake news’ and rumours about the virus may be imprisoned for five years and fined EGP 20,000 (approx. US$1,266).

Turkey’s Ministry of Interior announced on 23 March that legal action had been taken against 316 social media account holders who had shared information about the virus ‘to cause worry among the public, incite them to fear and panic and target persons and institutions’. In Malaysia, the authorities reported on 11 March that they had opened 37 criminal investigations related to the spread of ‘fake news’ on the virus.

Targeting of human rights defenders

There is also evidence that governments and others are using the pandemic as an opportunity to target human rights defenders.

In Honduras, on 24 March, police arbitrarily arrested Evelyn Johana Castillo for being on the street during the emergency, while she was returning home from buying food with her husband and older daughter. She is the Assistant Coordinator of the Ojojona Women’s Network and a member of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras. Evelyn stated that this attack against her may have been a reprisal.

A human rights defender in El Salvador has been the target of a smear campaign after posting on Facebook on 13 March about overcrowding and the lack of hygiene for people held in quarantine during the pandemic. She received messages containing harmful speech, intimidation and threats, including misogynistic insults and derision of her feminist activism.

According to local civil society groups, death squads in Colombia are taking advantage of lockdowns to kill rural activists. Marco Rivadeneira, a high-profile activist, was murdered in the southern Putumayo province, Ángel Ovidio Quintero was shot dead in the western Antioquia region and Ivo Humberto Bracamonte was killed on the eastern border with Venezuela.

Police abuses during lockdowns

Civil society groups and journalists have raised concerns about the use of excessive force or inhumane and degrading treatment by law enforcement officials towards people who have violated lockdowns in various countries. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings has raised concerns about this.

According to Human Rights Watch, police and local officials in the Philippines have  confined those arrested for violating the government’s COVID-19 regulations in dog cages and forced them to sit in the midday sun as punishment, among other abuses. In Indiavideos have circulated of police officers violently caning those who do not respect the restrictions. Violators have also been publicly shamed in India by being forced to do squats, push-ups, crawl or roll around the streets.

In South Africa numerous videos have emerged that appear to depict police officers and soldiers kicking, slapping, whipping and even shooting lockdown violators. On the first day of South Africa’s lockdown, police fired rubber bullets at News24 journalist Azarrah Karrim, despite her shouting ‘I’m media’, when she was covering the dispersal of people by security forces in Johannesburg.

In Kenya, police in various locations were also recorded caning people who defied the curfew. Videos and photos also featured the police lobbing teargas canisters and clubbing people with batons in the city of Mombasa to clear the streets in advance of the curfew.

Surveillance and violations of the right to privacy

There have been numerous examples of states increasing intrusive surveillance measures. Any surveillance measures and restrictions on the rights to privacy introduced in response to the pandemic should be provided for by law and be necessary, proportionate, timebound and implemented with transparency and adequate oversight; they must be the least intrusive available to achieve the desired result. The reality has not lived up to these standards.

China’s authorities are notorious for using technology for surveillance, unconstrained by privacy legislation. Its universal street camera system, first deployed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has been expanded all over the country’s main metropolitan areas and has been recently upgraded with facial recognition capabilities. The authorities have been using this system to catch, shame and fine citizens going outside without face masks and to identify and quarantine individuals who show symptoms.

The move by the authorities in Israel to permit the security service to use mobile phone data of infected people has also raised privacy concerns. This system is apparently already operational, with 400 people having received text messages warning them of potential contact with infected people.

On 31 March, Armenia’s parliament passed amendments to broad surveillance powers to enable the use of mobile phone data for tracking COVID-19 cases. The amendments impose restrictions on the right to privacy and allow the authorities to access confidential medical information related to people exposed to the virus. In Fiji, civil society raised privacy concerns after the Ministry of Health disseminated private information that listed the names and addresses of passengers who were on the same flight as the country’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient. The list of 82 names included residential addresses.

Overly broad emergency laws and new restrictive legislation

International civil society has documented a number of countries that have declared a state of emergency or passed emergency laws or regulations to combat the virus that grant the state overly broad powers and endanger civic freedoms. International human rights law is clear that any measures introduced must be subject to sufficient oversight by both the legislature and the courts, should not be discriminatory and must be time bound.

Among the emblematic cases highlighted by CIVICUS partners is Hungary. Its new law (Bill on Protection against the Coronavirus or Bill T/9790), adopted on 30 March, extends the government’s power to rule by decree by absolving it from parliamentary scrutiny and does so without providing a clear cut-off date. The new law also amends the Criminal Code concerning the crime of ‘imparting or conveying false information’: anyone who publicises false or distorted facts that interfere with the ‘successful protection’ of the public or might alarm or agitate the public could be punished by up to five years in prison.

The government of Cambodia has drafted a state of emergency bill, containing many overly broad and vague provisions, which would empower Prime Minister Hun Sen to override fundamental human rights protections. This includes unlimited surveillance of telecommunications, control of the media and social media and complete authority to restrict the freedoms of movement and assembly. Articles 1 and 4 of the bill would allow the law to be used even after the crisis ends.

Some states have also used the crisis to quietly pass restrictive legislation without adequate scrutiny. For example, amid the chaos of the pandemic in the USA, at least three states have passed  laws imposing new criminal penalties on protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.

Recommendations to governments

Given the concerns outlined above, it is clear that governments need to do more to respect civic freedoms when responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments should implement the following recommendations to ensure that fundamental freedoms do not become another casualty of the virus:

  • Safeguard the freedom of expression in all forms while addressing the pandemic and refrain from censoring social and conventional media. Any restrictions should be pursuant to an order by an independent and impartial judicial authority, and in accordance with due process and standards of legality, necessity and legitimacy, in line with international law and standards.
  • Maintain reliable and unfettered access to the internet and cease internet shutdowns that prevent people from obtaining essential information and services during the crisis.
  • Address violations against human rights defenders and journalists during the pandemic, and ensure that those who commit violations are independently and promptly investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice.
  • Respect and protect media freedom, as guaranteed under international human rights law, during the pandemic.
  • Replace approaches to misinformation on the pandemic that rely on censorship and criminal sanctions with those emphasising transparency and media freedom.
  • Ensure that surveillance measures adopted to address the pandemic are lawful, necessary and proportionate. As part of this, ensure that any expanded monitoring and surveillance powers are timebound, and only continue for as long as necessary to address the current crisis.
  • Ensure that increased collection, retention and aggregation of personal data, including health data, is only used for the purposes of responding to the pandemic.
  • Ensure that law enforcement officials respect the law and avoid abusive conduct while enforcing lockdowns and curfews, and investigate those suspected of such abuses and bring the perpetrators to justice.
  • Guarantee that any new emergency laws and decrees deployed to combat the pandemic do not in any circumstances restrict certain fundamental rights, including the right to life, prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, recognition before the law and the presumption of innocence. Make sure that any such laws or decrees are not discriminatory in any way, including on the grounds of race, ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, language, religion and social origin, and are timebound and subject to sufficient oversight by both the legislature and courts.

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The spread of the pandemic, and the response of states to the crisis, have created unprecedented living […]

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Coronavirus lockdowns could spark rise in HIV infections, experts warn

If lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are succeeding in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, health experts warn that the measures could unintentionally undermine efforts to contain another potentially deadly disease: HIV. At the start of April, Travis Sanchez, an epidemiologist at Emory University, carried out an online survey of around 1,000 men who have sex with men, and half of them reported a drop in the number of sexual partners, as well as reduced use of hook-up apps. In theory, this should reduce transmission.

But he quickly added a disturbing warning: a quarter of the men said they had experienced problems getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases, because thousands of centers that used to provide them have closed down. That means that those people still having sex have no idea about their status, which Sanchez warned is a potential ticking bomb. “It’s very likely that people’s risk behaviours will resume before they will have full access to prevention services,” he said. “And I think that combination could lead to increases in HIV transmission.

” The full impact of the pandemic on HIV transmission will not be known before next year, when the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes its statistics on 2020 infections. But numerous experts and healthcare professionals fear a step backward, a year after the United States announced the goal of cutting the number of new infections by 75 percent by the year 2025.

In Washington, a city that has been hit hard by HIV, the Whitman-Walker clinic has had to stop its daily walk-in tests for the virus and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Around 50 people used to come in every day to get tested, including many gay people, and for many it had become a routine check-up carried out every three months. “All those folks are going without testing,” said nurse practitioner Amanda Cary, who now only sees symptomatic patients by appointment. “I do think there’s going to be a rise in STIs,” she said.

The CDC told AFP it was expecting a drop in the number of STIs being diagnosed in the short term, “but an increase in the long-term once restrictions lift and more people are screened and tested again.” It said that for HIV, “the decrease in the availability of testing and limited access to treatment and prevention services may result in more infections and poor health outcomes in the long run.” EVERYTHING CAN CHANGE In San Francisco, Doctor Matthew Spinelli worries about the homeless, or those who lack the connectivity to take part in the televisits that have replaced in-person visits to health centers.

“People are just scared of a hospital right now, so I’m pretty worried,” said Spinelli, who practices at the city’s largest hospital. His clinic is also following some 3,000 people living with HIV. He fears that in the chaos of the pandemic, some of them are not going to pharmacies or taking their daily medication, which could allow their viral load to shoot up and make the patients to become contagious again. “I’m worried that their mental health or substance use may be worsening in this environment and hence their pill-taking adherence is worse,” he told AFP.

In the United States, the use of the preventive daily pill PrEP, which allows those who take it to be almost 100 percent risk-free from contracting HIV during unprotected sex, has increased, but Spinelli reports that some have stopped taking it during the lockdown. Which leads to the question: will they start again afterwards? “On the balance it is probably going to worsen the HIV epidemic, that would be my prediction, both in this country, and worldwide,” Spinelli said. But by forcing healthcare professionals to improvise, the pandemic will also bring about other lasting, positive changes in prevention strategies.

Telemedicine will become commonplace, for one thing. Needle exchange programs are already handing out more syringes at one time, and even shipping them out by mail. The use of home HIV test kits, which have been around for years but have been under-utilized, will spread, said Stephen Lee, director of Nastad, an association of public health officials who specialize in HIV. The CDC is pushing home-testing, and both Florida and Tennessee are considering implementing it, he told AFP. “The pandemic has shown us that we can and should do it,” he said.

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If lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are succeeding in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, health experts warn that the measures could unintentionally undermine efforts to contain another potentially deadly disease: […]

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Pandemic adds to string of disasters that render Africa perpetually hungry

Recurrent floods since late 2019, an upsurge in locust invasion, and now the Covid-19 outbreak, all make for disaster for food security in East African countries, experts are warning. The World Food Programme (WFP), for example, says due to Covid-19, the world faces “multiple famines of biblical proportions”. A “hunger pandemic” is what the WFP chief David Beasley called it, one that could kill 300,000 people every day.

Mr Beasly, speaking during an online briefing broadcast by the UN, said there are currently 821 million food-insecure people in the world. In East Africa, abundant seasonal rains have benefited crops and rangelands but they have also fostered a severe desert locust outbreak and flooding. In October 2019, widespread flooding affected nearly 3.4 million people throughout the region according to January 2020 report by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).

This aggravated the effects of the recurrent drought and instability in the region by causing population displacements, livelihood disruption, and increased humanitarian needs. Somalia and Ethiopia were the most affected, while Kenya and Uganda experienced landslides as well as destructive flooding. Desert locust upsurge has remained alarming particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where a new generation of locusts is emerging, posing potentially adverse impacts on the agricultural seasonal yields and local economies affecting food security.

The indirect impacts of Covid-19 through government interventions to control its spread, including social distancing, movement restrictions, and border closures, have driven a slowdown in economic and trade activity that has led to a sharp decline in household income and, in some cases, contributed to spikes in food prices. And Ocha predicts that household food access, especially in urban areas, will most likely decline in the near- and medium-term.

CONCURRENT SHOCKS

“Household food availability from mid- to late 2020 could also be affected if access to seeds and agricultural inputs becomes constrained. Reductions in household income to purchase food and essential non-food commodities, coupled with limited coping options, are driving an increase in the stressed, crisis and emergency food situations for populations across the region,” said this month’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net) report.

The report warns of acutely food insecure population rises due to Covid-19 and concurrent shocks. An analysis by Fews Net points to rising food prices that could restrict household purchasing power. In Kenya tight regional supply is driving high maize and bean prices. The retail maize price in key urban and rural reference markets reached up to 14-33 per cent above the five-year average while wholesale bean prices reached up to 18 to 40 per cent above the five-year average.

Fews Net cross-border monitoring data indicate that maize imports into Kenya during late 2019 accounted for 12 per cent of total regional imports. Based on Fews Net estimates, the national maize balance is expected to be approximately 3.06 million tonnes in June 2020, before the start of the long rains harvest. WREAKING HAVOC Although imports from Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia were expected to fill the gap, it is unclear how this will pan out with the new global Covid-19 crisis.

Floods are already wreaking havoc across Kenya, Uganda and Burundi. Already, in 2019, over 27 million people in six Intergovernmental Authority on Development members — Uganda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Ethiopia, were classified as being in acute food and livelihood crisis or worse — a phase of acute dietary diversity deficit. The six countries faced all three main drivers of acute food insecurity — weather extremities, conflict and economic shocks — with negative impacts reinforcing each other, adding to the complexity of the food security situation.

Now experts are worried about the outcomes of the Covid-19 and renewed flooding in parts of the region to add onto the converging issues. In Rwanda, food prices were already unusually high in early 2020 as a result of increased transport costs and trade disruptions caused by torrential rains as well as reduced imports from Uganda. In Somalia, the number of acutely food-insecure people was projected to increase from 1.2 million in January to March 2020, to 1.3 million from April to June due to substantial crop and pasture losses due to desert locusts, and as the main harvest in July, forecast at 15 to 25 per cent below-average.

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Recurrent floods since late 2019, an upsurge in locust invasion, and now the Covid-19 outbreak, all make for disaster for food security in East African countries, experts are warning. The […]

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Coronavirus creeps along East Africa’s trucking corridors

Every day hundreds of trucks fan out from East Africa’s main ports in Kenya and Tanzania carrying cargo to the landlocked hinterland, and fears are rising they are becoming a major vector for the coronavirus.

Their drivers gather at truckstops, weighbridges and customs points, socialising at lodges, restaurants and with sex workers who ply the busy routes linking the port cities of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

With most East African countries under strict restrictions to curb the coronavirus, truck drivers are among the few allowed to circulate as they ferry essential goods across the region.

However, border testing has revealed a high number of cases among the drivers and alarm is growing over their potential to be superspreaders.

“It is clear… the remaining sources of the disease are the truck drivers within Uganda and the region,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said earlier this month.

Uganda has carried out thousands of tests on truck drivers, with 51— a mixture of Tanzanians and Kenyans—found to be carrying the virus. The country has a total of 126 recorded cases.

Rwanda has for three weeks said its case numbers—currently 286— “reflect a rise in cases of cross-border truck drivers and their assistants”, without detailing how many have been infected.

Truck drivers have also tested positive in Kenya, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

‘They can spread it far’

Osborne Ndalo, a clinician in Mombasa with the North Star Alliance, which runs health clinics at truck stops, said one Kenyan driver who tested positive at the Ugandan border was found to have infected a lover at one stop in Kenya, as well as up to three others he interacted with along the road.

“What makes the drivers a risk group is mobility… They come into contact with people from different regions, from different backgrounds,” he told AFP.

Ndalo said he believes drivers are spreading the virus “much further, we don’t even know”, as testing is limited.

Uganda’s health services director Dr Henry Mwebesa said the sex trade was an added risk.

“An infected truck driver can infect a sex worker by mere contact, and the virus spreads not only among the drivers but the communities around too if they get in touch with contaminated surfaces.”

This pattern harks back to the spread of HIV/AIDS, which severely impacted truck drivers in the region.

“They need to be careful, they can spread it very far,” said Nicholas Mbugua, secretary general of the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association (KLDTDA), which is working hard to educate the drivers on handwashing and social distancing.

Kenya has now ordered drivers passing in either direction across the border to obtain a certificate proving they have tested negative for the virus, and undergo a nasal swab test every two weeks.

Traffic, relays and protests

Museveni said stopping trucks from entering the country would be “suicidal” for Uganda, which like many of its neighbours has no access to the sea or rail transport for imports and exports.

The crisis has led to a panoply of new measures at borders across the region that are disrupting trade and leading to days-long queues and protests.

Uganda’s testing regime has seen truckers stuck in long queues at the border, sometimes for days.

“It’s too problematic, we have lots of traffic lasting up to three to four days,” said Hussein Juma, 43, from Mombasa, adding that truck drivers were also being stigmatised and called names such as “corona”.

Uganda has also banned drivers from pulling in at traditional stopover points, designating mandatory stops where they are registered and tested, and their vehicles disinfected.

The country is mulling implementing a relay system at the border where a driver would hand over to a Ugandan driver at the border.

Rwanda has already put the system in place, with all trucks offloaded and sanitised before being handed over to Rwandan truck drivers.

“Some of the truck drivers that come from our neighbouring countries don’t usually have protective gear and do not abide by the protection guidelines to self-isolate, wear a mask” and so on, Abdul Ndarubogoye, chairman of the Rwanda Truckers Association, told AFP.

‘Weak link’ Tanzania

Rwanda imports mainly through Tanzania—and to a lesser extent Kenya via Uganda —and its rules have irked Tanzanian drivers who have protested at the Rusumo border post, blocking their colleagues from Rwanda from entering the country.

“It’s like the East African countries are not trusting each other in the way each handles Covid-19,” said Tanzania Truck Owners Association board member Rahim Dossa.

Trucks from Tanzania mostly transport cargo from the port of Dar es Salaam to Zambia, the DRC, or to Kenya where its tea is auctioned in Mombasa.

However, the country is only checking the temperatures of drivers at the border.

This week Zambia shut its frontier with Tanzania after noting a high number of cases in its border town Nakonde.

“If one country is a weak link then we are not doing much with this fight against Covid-19,” said Ndalo, the Mombasa clinician.

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Every day hundreds of trucks fan out from East Africa’s main ports in Kenya and Tanzania carrying cargo to the landlocked hinterland, and fears are rising they are becoming a […]

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Drivers standoff turns EAC states relations on its head

A stalemate between truck drivers and border control officials at different EAC crossing points has paralysed movement of goods within the region, raising the possibility of severe shortages of supplies in the coming weeks.

The standoff, which has been caused by East African Community member countries’ failure to agree on how to stop regional spread of the Covid-19, has created massive traffic jams at border control gates of member countries as truck drivers boycotted work to protest against perceived mistreatment.

Hinterland countries, mainly Uganda and Rwanda, have accused Tanzanian and Kenyan drivers of spreading the deadly virus to their countries, watering down their efforts to control the pandemic through strict restrictions of movement and public gatherings of their own nationals.

Kampala and Kigali have been calling for fumigation of trucks and a changeover of crew (relay driving) at the borders or offloading of cargo at crossing points, but Tanzania and Kenyan drivers have opposed the proposals.

Tanzania Truck Owners Association and Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) have suspended transport of goods to Kigali, citing strict measures put by the Rwanda Revenue Authority as well as fears over security and safety of drivers and their cargo.

“We suspended ferrying Rwandan cargo until the Rwanda government eases measures which are against the EAC protocol for free movement of goods especially during this Covid-19 pandemic. We cannot risk loss of cargo and truck by involving multiple drivers in a single haulage,” said Mercy Ireri, the KTA chief operating officer.

She added that the relay driving advocated by Rwanda is impractical since it would require recruitment and training of new drivers and would drastically increase the cost of transportation at a time cargo volumes were low and transit times longer.

In Uganda, Kenyan truck drivers have been directed to the Nelson Mandela Stadium, Namboole, and are not allowed to access the country beyond that point.

Kenya has so far reported the highest number of Covid-19 infections in the region with 621 cases followed by Tanzania (509), Rwanda (273), Uganda (114), Burundi (19) and South Sudan (120).

Different scripts

Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya have imposed strict restrictions on movement of people and public gatherings, while Tanzania and Burundi have a more relaxed stance against the virus which has infected more than 3.8 million people globally and killed over 270,000 since December.

Truck owners complain that they have incurred additional fuel expenses, and increased truck and cargo security expenses which has increased their overheads.

EAC trade officials, however, appear to be reading from different scripts.

“Ministers and permanent secretaries of Trade, Health and EAC have met and issued a protocol on how the truck drivers should operate during the Covid-19 measures,” Kenya’s Principal Secretary in charge of Trade, Johnson Weru, told The EastAfrican.

“Parameters have been set, places where the testing should take place and modalities of how it should be carried out has been agreed upon. It is only implementation that is varying from one country to another.”

Last week, both the EAC Customs and Trade Commissioner General Kenneth Bagamuhunda and his Health counterpart Dr Michael Katende visited the Kenya-Uganda border seeking solutions to the thorny issue of truck drivers.

They were, however, unable to resolve the stalemate.

“On April 30, 2020, I made an assessment mission to Malaba where I discussed with heads of border agencies from both sides the operational interventions to address the challenges. There are joint efforts by Kenya and Uganda to remove congestion at the borders,” said Bagamuhunda in an interview.

On May 1, the Customs and Trade boss visited Busia one-stop-border point and met Heads of Customs and Port Health of Kenya and Uganda.

Assuaging fears

Even as the EAC issued administrative directives for uniform implementation of measures to allow free movement of cargo as envisaged under the EAC Common Market Protocol, implementation bottlenecks persist.

Rwanda is only allowing in trucks that have changed crew at its Rusumo and Kagitumba Customs border posts.

Kenya on Wednesday announced that cargo drivers must be tested at least 48 hours before travel and issued with a Covid-19 free certificate before loading cargo in Mombasa.

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A stalemate between truck drivers and border control officials at different EAC crossing points has paralysed movement of goods within the region, raising the possibility of severe shortages of supplies […]

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Misery all round as floods kill and displace people across the region

East Africa Community partner states are sitting on a time bomb as floods cause havoc in the region.
Floods have killed 200 in Kenya, displaced 10,000 people and more than 65 deaths reported in Rwanda by Friday, as a second wave of locusts is expected to hit Kenya next month, threatening agriculture and food security in the region.
This piles misery on the region’s 1,519 Covid-19 cases and almost 200 fatalities as of May 7, 2020.
But it is the floods that are killing more people, and destroying farmlands raising fears of food insecurity, affecting the most vulnerable who are already dealing with effects of both the Coronavirus and poverty.
Only last week, EAC’s Lake Victoria Commission executive secretary Ally-Said Matano warned people living in low laying areas around Lake Victoria in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to move to higher ground as the lake basin experiences unprecedented high levels of water. This has caused massive flooding in the lake region.

In Kenya, Energy CS Charles Keter, warned at press conference in Nairobi on Wednesday that; “The Masinga dam has reached its full capacity. We are warning those who live along the River Tana, those in downstream counties of Garissa and Tana River to move away from the river.’’

Heavy rains
According to the Kenya Metrological Department, the heavy rains are expected to continue until end of May, with parts of western, Mt Kenya, northeastern and Rift Valley put under watch.
“The situation is serious. The reservoir in Masinga as of this morning has reached historical figures of 1,057.86 metres above the sea level. Maximum reservoir is 1,056…it is a serious issue,” the Energy CS said.

Kenya’s Interior Minister CS Dr Fred Matiangi issued a warning: “Effective this morning, Wednesday May 6, we have raised the alarm in relation to floods in the country. We have no option but we will begin to move people out by force. It is better we talk to you when you are still alive than when you are dead,” he said.
Meanwhile Kenya is expanding locust surveillance in the northeastern parts of the country, amid fears of a second wave of invasion later this month.

According to a joint team from the national and county governments collaborating with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) who are leading the fight, the next phase of war on locusts will be won largely if weather conditions such as wind directions as well as the country’s ability to track and spray will be done diligently.
Every day, the surveillance team made up of scouts from the National Youth Service and trained community volunteers go out to gather and relay data using the e-locust 3M smartphone app.
The data will be transmitted to the national locust centre, the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy as well as at the six command bases which have been set up in the region to co-ordinate training and surveillance activities.
“This war will most likely go into late May and June, latest July. But that will depend on whether we will have new invasions,” Prof Hamadi Boga, the country’s Crops Development and Agricultural Research said.

Earlier this month, FAO had warned locusts could further devastate the region in June, in an invasion that would be 20 times larger than the first one.

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East Africa Community partner states are sitting on a time bomb as floods cause havoc in the region. Floods have killed 200 in Kenya, displaced 10,000 people and more than […]

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Confusion at East Africa borders will slow down economies.

The confusion witnessed at East Africa’s border points this week demonstrated the consequences of a discordant approach to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the relative lack of depth of regional mechanisms, or commitment to them.

Tanzanian long-distance drivers forced a closure of their country’s common border with Rwanda as they protested over Kigali’s introduction of a relay (driver hand-over) system for long-distance commercial truckers.

As the number of mostly imported cases of Covid-19 cases rose, Kigali introduced a requirement for a crew change at the common border.

Inbound or transit cargo would have to be offloaded, warehoused and then transferred to Rwandan transporters for onward delivery.

On the Kenya-Uganda border, queues of trucks stretched back 40 kilometres as drivers waited to go through sample collection for Covid-19 tests. Both approaches have created a logistical nightmare and conditions that could actually aid the spread of the coronavirus among crews.

Rwanda and Uganda are apprehensive about their neighbours to the East and South, because routine testing has revealed more positives among long distance drivers than from within the community.

Although these numbers might not be an accurate predictor of the pandemic given that testing is biased more towards cross-border drivers than from within local communities, they are nevertheless informing the official response. Add in Tanzania’s reluctance to lockdown its population and you have a level of asymmetry that reflects long-ignored fissures.

East African cooperation is in peril. Members have over time slowly digressed from their commitments. What is happening now is only possible because for a long time the region has not been talking.

Kenya and Uganda have been caught in an unnecessary trade war; while Rwanda and Uganda are on the precipice of a deep political crisis.

The failure to write a common manual for management emanates from a crisis of trust and the failure to add fidelity to the systems that are supposed to entrench economic cooperation.

Under normal circumstances, a certificate of health, issued by any of the member states should be trusted by all the others. Keeping drivers in a pipeline with designated stops, should then prevent them from mixing with the community, but where is the goodwill and infrastructure to support that?

This newspaper has in the past argued that only deeper cooperation will save the region from this and any other crises in the future. We still stand by that view.

The current standoff is unwarranted, unproductive and will only inflict long-term harm on the business community who are the real engines of the regional economy. Collapse of firms will make a post-Covid recovery even more protracted and slow down economies.

President Yoweri Museveni has argued correctly that it would be suicidal to close borders to commerce. Export and import trade, though subdued, is still a critical lifeline to the regional economy.

It is therefore necessary that leaders take a leap of faith and give the EAC protocols and conflict resolution mechanisms a chance to demonstrate their functionality. So far, there is nothing to show that the rules have failed.

Instead, all evidence points to a failure of the spirit of regional cooperation.

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The confusion witnessed at East Africa’s border points this week demonstrated the consequences of a discordant approach to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the relative lack of depth of regional mechanisms, […]

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Press release of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa on the protection of Human Rights Defenders during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa, Honourable Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, expresses concern following reports of reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society in Africa and the adverse effects that national responses of States Parties to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have on their work.

In the context of this COVID-19 global pandemic, the role of human rights defenders has become ever more important to safeguard the fundamental human rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter).

The Rapporteur notes, in particular, serious violations of the freedom of assembly and association, as enshrined in the African Charter and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The Rapporteur deplores the fact that, notwithstanding the press releases of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights of 17 and 24 March 2020 encouraging States to ensure compliance with the provisions of the African Charter and advocating for effective and human rights-based responses to curb the spread of the COVID-19  pandemic in Africa, several human rights defenders continue to be detained in overcrowded or unsanitary prisons and other detention centres without being charged, and this makes them especially vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. The Special Rapporteur stresses the obligation of States Parties to ensure that measures adopted within the framework of COVID-19 national responses are not used as an opportunity to discriminate against, stigmatize or target particular individuals or groups, including civil society organizations and human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteur would like to remind that efforts deployed by States Parties to curb the spread of COVID-19 in their respective territories should not result in the silencing of human rights defenders and should comply with the provisions of the African Charter.

The Special Rapporteur would also like to call on human rights defenders to continue, with determination, their activities to promote and protect human rights in compliance with the laws and regulations adopted in the context of this global threat.

The Special Rapporteur urges States Parties to:

  1. Ensure that national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic do not lead to the targeting or undue interference with the work of human rights defenders;
  2. Refrain from using COVID-19 related emergency declarations to justify the adoption of repressive measures against specific groups such as human rights defenders;
  3. Also refrain from adopting measures that restrict civic space and contribute to creating a hostile environment for human rights defenders;
  4. Ensure that human rights defenders can communicate freely without fear of reprisal;
  5. Take all necessary measures enabling human rights defenders to conduct their core activities, in particular, those providing support to the most vulnerable populations, while complying with the health measures necessary to combat COVID-19; and
  6. Promptly release human rights defenders detained without charge.

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The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa, Honourable Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, expresses concern following reports of reprisals against human rights defenders and […]

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Kenya is turning a public health crisis into a law-and-order one

Kenya’s cabinet secretary for health, Mutahi Kagwe, is an unhappy man. A week after the government tentatively allowed restaurants to reopen from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., he seems surprised that Kenyans are actually patronizing these establishments and having beer with sausages. While bars remain closed, eateries can still serve alcohol to their clients. Ordering a token meal with one’s drink has long been one of the tactics used to get around the country’s ill-considered, poorly drafted and widely ignored law restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol, which was enacted in 2010.


Kagwe’s frustrations reflect the approach of a government used to demanding obedience rather than seeking consent. Efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic have treated it less as a public-health issue than as a problem of law and order. But using the criminal-justice system to address a public-health crisis has unintended consequences.


This approach leaves Kagwe’s initiatives mired in the contentious relationship the criminal-justice system, and especially the police, has historically had with the public. Kenyans have come to see the advice dispensed by the Ministry of Health as the latest excuse for the perpetuation of decades of predatory policing.
Unschooled in the principles of public health, the police seem to have completely misunderstood the objective. Rather than encouraging compliance, officers have resorted to type, employing the blunt implements of brutality and arrest to expand opportunities for the extraction of bribes. This results in perverse and dangerous outcomes, where police force people into crowded vans and cells under the pretext of enforcing social distancing rules, arrest motorists for failing to wear masks even when alone in their vehicles, and drag families from their homes for not wearing masks indoors.


Another characteristic of the government’s response has been the branding of those who circumvent restrictions as lacking in personal discipline. By attributing citizens’ choices to a failure to control impulses, this language refuses to engage with citizens’ gripes and instead assumes they cannot have legitimate reasons for disagreeing with the government’s policies. Kagwe’s repeated decrying of Kenyans’ supposed “indiscipline” has grated on the public as a result.


But even as the state seeks to positions itself as a father figure, its own conduct has been questionable, to say the least. Its agents have engaged in the illegal demolition of homes while also urging citizens to stay indoors. Its utilization of funds for the coronavirus response has been shown to be less than prudent. It has also prioritized paying hundreds of millions of shillings in unconstitutional retirement benefits to politicians over repatriating citizens stranded abroad, paying the costs of putting people in mandatory quarantine and fulfilling a promise to provide free masks to the poorest Kenyans.


Kenyan media reporting, meanwhile, has tended to repeat rather than question the government line. There have been few attempts to distill the reality behind the numbers announced at the daily briefings and probe the choices that the government has been making. While public officials have not made the media’s job easy, restricting the flow of information and the number of questions they are willing to answer during press briefings, it is also true that journalists have generally been reluctant to delve beyond official narratives. “Trust and obey” has seemed to be the overriding message.


Many have pointed to the success of South Korea and Taiwan as evidence that compliance with government directives is critical to defeating the coronavirus. But the trust in governments as custodians of the public interest is high in those societies — as is the ability for citizens to hold errant politicians to account.


In Kenya, on the other hand, more than a century of humiliation, oppression and robbery — first by the British colonial authorities and then their successors in the independent government — has not left the populace so sanguine about the role of the state in public affairs. Government actions are now transferring this lack of trust to the health system, resulting not just in defiance, but also in people staying away from health centers and being fearful of testing.

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Kenya’s cabinet secretary for health, Mutahi Kagwe, is an unhappy man. A week after the government tentatively allowed restaurants to reopen from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., he seems surprised […]

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WHO says ‘extreme vigilance’ needed in exit from lockdowns.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that “extreme vigilance” was needed as countries begin to exit from lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, amid global concerns about a second wave of infections. Germany earlier reported an acceleration in new coronavirus infections after it took early steps to ease its lockdown. South Korea, another country that had succeeded in limiting virus infections, has seen a new outbreak in nightclubs. “Now we are seeing some hope as many countries exit these so-called lockdowns,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, told an online news briefing. But he added that “extreme vigilance is required”. “If the disease persists at a low level without the capacity to investigate clusters, there’s always the risk that the virus takes off again,” he said. Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing Covid-19, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus. Ryan said he was hopeful that Germany and South Korea would be able to suppress new clusters and praised their surveillance, which he said was key to avoiding large second waves. “It’s really important that we hold up examples of countries who are willing to open their eyes and willing to keep their eyes open,” he said. In contrast, he said other countries, without naming them, were “trying to drive through this blindly”. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the same briefing that lifting restrictions was “complex and difficult” and that the “slow, steady lifting of lockdowns” was key to protecting lives and livelihoods.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that “extreme vigilance” was needed as countries begin to exit from lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, amid […]

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Sexual and gender-based violence during COVID-19: lessons from Ebola

The COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster that has severely disrupted the normal functioning of populations around the world and continues to proliferate indiscriminately. Disease outbreaks like COVID-19 threaten the health of all. But women and girls are disproportionately affected. During epidemics, the very measures taken to protect populations and keep health systems afloat leave women and girls especially vulnerable to violence. Sexual and gender-based violence is a hidden consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As communities around the world are forced to stay at home, women and girls are at a heightened risk of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Because disasters exacerbate pre-existing gender inequities and power hierarchies, violence in the home may worsen as prolonged quarantine and economic stressors increase tension in the household. Women and girls are isolated from the people and resources that can help them, and they have few opportunities to distance themselves from their abusers. During epidemics, it’s harder for sexual and reproductive health workers to appropriately screen for sexual and gender-based violence. And referral pathways to care are disrupted

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster that has severely disrupted the normal functioning of populations around the world and continues to proliferate indiscriminately. Disease outbreaks like COVID-19 threaten the health […]

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Government needs NGOs to win war on Covid-19

“Epidemics are tests of social and political systems” writes Simukai Chigudu, in a fascinating article for the online platform, Africa Is A Country. Chigudu is a Zimbabwean academic and Associate Professor of African Politics at the University of Oxford. Citing his book, The Political Life of an Epidemic: Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe, which looked into the roots of the 2008 cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, he notes that it is the “political, economic and social processes that … shape the trajectory of [an] epidemic” not just the biological properties of the virus or bacterium involved.

This is not to say the actions of governments are not important. The trajectory and the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic so far have been largely dictated by the actions of states. The thousands of lives it has so far claimed are not evenly distributed globally, but rather concentrated in countries that for a variety of reasons either didn’t take the pandemic seriously or were slow to react to it. In a very real sense, it is not just the virus that is killing people. They are also dying from state inaction, incompetence and malfeasance.

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“Epidemics are tests of social and political systems” writes Simukai Chigudu, in a fascinating article for the online platform, Africa Is A Country. Chigudu is a Zimbabwean academic and Associate […]

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High Court Stops Demolition Of Sonko Rescue Team Sanitiser Booths.

The High Court has stopped the destruction of COVID-19 sanitiser booths erected in various parts of the city by the Sonko Rescue Team (SRT). SRT is a Non-Governmental Organisation associated with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, that undertakes various charitable work.

In recent weeks, it was involved in fumigating city slums and also erected sanitiser booths at strategic locations on city streets and bus stations as well as at the Kenyatta National Hospital and other government installations. However, some of them were destroyed by police and other officials said to be from the Ministry of Health.This prompted the NGO to file a case in court Tuesday. Consequently, Justice Weldon Korir issued orders restraining respondents in the matter from interfering, in any way, with charity functions of the NGO, pending hearing and determination of the case. The Judge observed that the petition by the NGO had raised weighty issues that require determination.

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The High Court has stopped the destruction of COVID-19 sanitiser booths erected in various parts of the city by the Sonko Rescue Team (SRT). SRT is a Non-Governmental Organisation associated […]

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State sets new rules on Covid-19 donations

The Government has directed that all philanthropic efforts to communities impacted by the coronavirus be coordinated by the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Fund, governors and county commissioners. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the government has banned direct distribution of food and non-food donations to affected communities since they were retrogression to the measures to control spread of the respiratory virus.The coronavirus pandemic has seen a number of philanthropic groups and corporates, who want to donate to those disadvantaged by the disease, but the State says unstructured distribution was exposing more people to the virus. “Whereas we applaud these noble, charitable and philanthropic efforts, they have inadvertently led to breach of the social distancing guidelines as set out by the Ministry of Health, besides creating disorder,” Matiang’i said. The new measures come a day after food distribution at Deputy County Commisioner’s office in Kibera turned into a shoving contest as residents jostled to benefit from donations by Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

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The Government has directed that all philanthropic efforts to communities impacted by the coronavirus be coordinated by the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Fund, governors and county commissioners. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred […]

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Covid-19 Fund issues donations guidelines after chaos.

The national steering committee on coronavirus has outlined guidelines on how the public can donate to Kenyans affected by the pandemic. In a statement issued Sunday, Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Chair Jane Karuku said those who wish to make donations should engage the Fund Secretariat, who will in turn coordinate distributions to families and persons in need. Tracking coronavirus “The notification to the fund is to enable coordination of donations to facilitate security arrangements, alignment with the needs assessment map, health surveillance and related public guidance necessary to facilitate safe distribution of the donations,” she noted.

 

Ms Karuku noted that well-wishers within Nairobi can notify the Fund Secretariat through their email address secretariat@kenyacovidfund.co.ke as well as through their rapid response phone numbers: 0702000055, 0702000077 or 0772429949.

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The national steering committee on coronavirus has outlined guidelines on how the public can donate to Kenyans affected by the pandemic. In a statement issued Sunday, Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund […]

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Win for long-distance truckers, now among essential service providers

Movement of trucks and cargo is now classified under essential services in the East African Community in line Covid-19 Administrative Guidelines. The measures, outlined in a 17-page document, and seen as a response to rising cases of positive Covid-19 cases among long distance truck drivers, further directs country Commissioners of Customs and other agencies to allow scanned documents in lieu of original documents that may take longer to be physically couriered to facilitate faster movement of goods.

Further, transporters must use the EAC gazetted transit routes along the Northern and Central corridors while partner states should waive fees on port and border handling charges for essential goods required during this period. Closures opposed The joint EAC team chaired by deputy secretary general in charge Productive and Social Sectors, Dr Christoph Bazivamo, head of Health department Dr Michael Katende, and the director of Customs and Trade, Kenneth Bagamuhunda, cautioned partner states against closing border crossings by imposing measures that impede access to all designated points of entry and exit of cargo.

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Movement of trucks and cargo is now classified under essential services in the East African Community in line Covid-19 Administrative Guidelines. The measures, outlined in a 17-page document, and seen […]

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How coronavirus is changing daily life in Nairobi

Since Kenya confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 13, authorities have adopted various measures to curb the spread of the virus while stopping short of imposing a full lockdown.

AFP spent a day this week exploring how the measures are impacting the capital Nairobi and its 4.3 million inhabitants, as the health crisis exacerbates social inequalities and batters the economy of the regional powerhouse.

6:45 am, Ndenderu police checkpoint

The sun has just risen and morning mist envelops a valley on the outskirts of Nairobi.

On this road heading north towards the Rift Valley region armed police monitor vehicles and pedestrians.

“The only people who can go through are the ones with the authorisation: the lorries carrying food, doctors, etc,” explains police inspector Julius Kariuki Mugo.

Edward, a 25-year-old driver, shows a stamped pass from his boss that enables him to continue on his route to deliver flour to a town 75 kilometres northwest.

Since April 6 Kenya has blocked movement in and out of Nairobi, three coastal towns, and the northeastern county of Mandera. Two refugee camps have also been cordoned off, as well as one suburb in Nairobi and one in Mombasa.

After initially creeping up slowly, virus cases this week began to jump, with authorities fearing rampant community transmission in slums and poor areas of the capital and second city Mombasa.

There have been 582 cases and 26 deaths, and Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe has urged citizens not to make a “mockery” of two months of efforts as social distancing fatigue sets in.

8:30 am, central Nairobi

Normally congested during rush hour, central Nairobi is quiet.

In a store that sells bicycle spare parts, brothers N. Shah and S. Shah, both in their fifties, are feeling the impact of the pandemic on the economy.

“We’re doing 10 percent of our usual business,” says N. Shah.

“People don’t have money. If you don’t have money to pay your rent, you don’t have money for shopping,” says S. Shah.

Their neighbour, A.J. Shah, does not know how he will pay his rent and the salaries of his four employees with business at “around 15 percent” of its normal level.

His shop sells food and cleaning products to hotels and restaurants. Even if hotels reopen, it is unclear who would actually stay in them.

“The crisis is hitting everywhere,” he says. “Who is going to come to visit the wildlife?”

11:00 am, physiotherapy practice

Since mid-March, Kenyan authorities have closed schools and encouraged working from home, which many have taken up. But it does not make sense for everyone.

“For us, working from home is not an option,” says Victoria Choi, who runs a physiotherapy practice in the Westlands neighbourhood with her husband Bernard.

Only one client is allowed in the office at a time, and all must use hand sanitiser and wear masks.

Like many parents, Bernard and Victoria have rearranged their schedules to take care of their two youngest children—girls aged 15 and nine.

Their social lives have also taken a hit.

“I miss going out with the boys,” Bernard says, adding that “having a beer alone in the house in front of the television” is not exactly a substitute.

1:00 pm, Java café

An institution in Nairobi, the Java chain of restaurants has continued operating, albeit at a much reduced pace.

“We’ve been affected a lot since we’re only doing takeaways” and home deliveries, explains Pamella Gavala, deputy manager of this franchise.

Java, with 2,500 employees in total and 50 restaurants in Nairobi alone, plans to reopen gradually after the government last week approved a supervised resumption of restaurant activity.

To comply with the new rules, employees must be tested for Covid-19 and customers must undergo temperature screening.

Once inside, no more than two people can sit at tables which have been spaced out to allow for physical distancing.

3:00 pm, Foodplus supermarket

Grocery stores, one of the few sectors still booming during the pandemic, have also had to make changes.

Masks are required, thermal screening takes place at the entrance and shopping carts are regularly wiped down with disinfectant.

At the registers, markers on the ground indicate where customers must stand to keep an appropriate distance.

“They’re more than cooperative,” Daniel Mutuku, the manager of the Foodplus store in the Kilimani neighbourhood said of customers.

5:00 pm, La Tasca tapas restaurant

Normally open from noon “until the last customer leaves”, Maurizio Fregoni’s restaurant in upscale Lavington is almost completely dead.

The 7:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew imposed since March 25 has brought Nairobi’s nightlife to a standstill.

The restaurant is currently relying on a limited takeaway business and hoping for better days for its 14 employees, most of whom are taking unpaid leave.

Fregoni, an eternal optimist, says the quiet period has given him “time to rethink the menu”.

7:00 pm, Kibera slum

This settlement in the heart of Nairobi, home to hundreds of thousands of Kenyans and often billed as the largest slum in Africa, continues to buzz with activity.

Cans of soap and water have been set up in front of stalls and masks are common, though some wear them around their chins.

A handful of cases of the virus have cropped up here and in other slums in the capital, sparking fears of a massive outbreak in the crowded settlements where social distancing is near impossible.

It is residents of such areas who have been hardest hit by the economic slump the virus has caused.

George Juma, a 39-year-old electrician, has not had work in a month.

“Everybody is afraid of the disease so they don’t want to bring you in their home,” he says.

Juma managed to convince his landlord to let him pay rent “when it’s over”.

In the meantime, his family of four is scraping by thanks to a food donation from a

NGO and the benevolence of vendors who sell to him on credit.

As curfew approaches, a police helicopter shines its spotlight on Kibera.

Joel, 45, rushes to pack up the stall where he sells fried fish—which used to stay open until 9:30 pm.

With the curfew in place, his earnings have been cut “around 25 percent”.

9:00 pm, downtown Nairobi

The city centre is deserted. At the headquarters of the Nation Media Group, a sign broadcasts prevention messages: “Stay home”, “Wash hands”.

Lilian, one of the few people around to actually see the sign, sweeps the streets of the capital.

She will finish at midnight, then sleep for a few hours in a shelter before curfew lifts at 5:00 am so she can take a share-taxi home.

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Since Kenya confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 13, authorities have adopted various measures to curb the spread of the virus while stopping short of imposing a full lockdown. […]

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Misinformation flood hampers fight for virus vaccine in Africa

The task of introducing a vaccine for the coronavirus faces an uphill struggle in Africa, where a flood of online misinformation is feeding on mistrust of Western medical research. Across the continent, Facebook, WhatsApp and other platforms have been swamped by messaging that characterises vaccine research as harmful or even part of a plot to kill black people.

The world’s poorest continent—and the most vulnerable to the disease, given its poor health infrastructure—Africa has recorded more than 48,000 Covid-19 cases, 1,900 of which have been fatal, according to an AFP tally as of Wednesday. The toll is below that of other continents, although the true figure may be considerably higher, given the lack of access to testing. The absence of a cure has sparked a flurry of claims for purported remedies.

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The task of introducing a vaccine for the coronavirus faces an uphill struggle in Africa, where a flood of online misinformation is feeding on mistrust of Western medical research. Across […]

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Somalia, Djibouti cases soar as porous borders become new threat.

Somalia and Djibouti’s covid-19 cases could become the new worry for regional neighbours already fighting their local battles against the scary virus disease. As at Wednesday, Djibouti had reported 1,120 cases as Somalia filed 835 incidences of infections. Both countries have a common language and common cultural practices with neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia. But a rise in their cases was directly affecting neighbours. On Wednesday, Ethiopia reported 17 new cases of the virus disease.

Dr Lia Tadesse, the Ethiopian Health Minister indicated that 13 of those had recently returned to Ethiopia, illegally, from Djibouti and Somalia; reflecting the porous borders between the countries.Four other people were residents of Addis Ababa with no travel history, indicating a community spread something officials had dreaded weeks ago. Ethiopia now has 162 total cases with four deaths and 93 recoveries.

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Somalia and Djibouti’s covid-19 cases could become the new worry for regional neighbours already fighting their local battles against the scary virus disease. As at Wednesday, Djibouti had reported 1,120 […]

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EAC member states lack cohesive plan to fight pandemic

Failed attempts by EAC Heads of States to hold a virtual conference on the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the widening ideological rift between member countries. Current chair of the East Africa Community and Rwandan President Paul Kagame last week said the lack of co-ordination at the presidential level has exposed the region to a wider, cross-border spread of the virus.

President Kagame had convened a virtual Heads of States summit on April 15 to discuss joint responses to the pandemic, which has so far infected more than 3.2 million people and killed over 233,000, but only two other presidents were ready to take part. “The Summit did not happen because a number of countries—three specifically—were not able to connect with the rest of us and all members have to be available for the virtual meeting to take place,” said President Kagame at a Monday press briefing. While Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda were ready for the meeting, South Sudan, Tanzania and Burundi were not.

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Failed attempts by EAC Heads of States to hold a virtual conference on the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the widening ideological rift between member countries. Current chair of the […]

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Burundi should reconsider its upcoming poll

The trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa by and large continues to reflect a rising case burden, even factoring in isolated pockets of remission. The number of confirmed cases on the continent had risen from 450 on March 17, when aggregate data on the pandemic’s course began to get captured, to 37,391 on April 30. Amid a debate over what approach Africa should take to stop the pandemic, many countries have played safe by employing strict social distancing and hygiene measures that appeared to work elsewhere, especially in China. A few exceptions have bought into the argument that with its relatively very young populations, lockdowns would have limited benefits in Africa from a public health standpoint, yet exact a heavy economic toll. With only about 11 confirmed cases so far, Burundi appears to be sold on that viewpoint. Bujumbura has imposed only minimal restrictions to movement, which appear to prevent importation of cases or rapid community transmission. With an election around the corner, the country has launched into full campaign mode. As mass events that are typically preceded by a lot of movement between geographical locations and close physical contact between people; electoral campaigns represent a lot of unknowns in the context of the fight against Covid-19. Matters are compounded further by the fact that nobody, at this point, knows why the pandemic’s spread has been varied, with low resource countries such as South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda reporting quite low numbers. Optimists interpret that trend would seem to validate the idea of a lower risk in those specific countries. On the flipside however, one cannot ignore the near exponential growth in the case load in Tanzania and Kenya in recent times. In reality, the varied outcomes across the region demonstrate what is working and what may need adjustment.The one constant from what is happening in the region and what has happened elsewhere, is that Covid-19 is deadly. Without variations to approach, attempting an election in the present circumstances is similar to a high-wire act. And it could be all it will take to alter the pandemic from its largely benign course in Burundi. Although some countries, notably South Korea have pulled off an election in the midst of the pandemic, it is worth noting that the contenders did not hold mass rallies. On the other hand, Bujumbura appears to have thrown all caution to the wind, opening up the field in traditional fashion.Elections are important but they should not be taken as a matter of life and death. If they cannot wait, are they worth the risk of unmitigated spread that could overwhelm already shaky national health infrastructure? And if they must be held, are open campaigns the only way of conducting an election? Bujumbura should carefully weigh the inherent risks in proceeding with its election campaigns. It should choose to err on the side of caution. Despite the obviously divergent interests between politics and science, Burundi should heed health experts’ advice.

The trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa by and large continues to reflect a rising case burden, even factoring in isolated pockets of remission. The number of confirmed cases […]

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Press freedom: The new threat to media in Kenya

“If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” Said the 26th American President, Theodore Roosevelt. It is sad that capitalist cronies have literary used this words to take control of the media in Kenya. The media industry is controlled by a network of State and private entities, under a state capture, which is defined as a political project in which a well-organised elite network constructs a symbiotic relationship between the constitutional state and a parallel shadow state for its own benefit. On Sunday we marked the World Press Freedom Day against the backdrop of the fact that the current threat to media freedom in Kenya is not just upsurge in harassment and attacks on journalists perpetrated by security agencies, but also ownership and control of advertisement revenue by the State. Growing up, I remember the first thing we viewed on our small, black-and-white television, on the only public broadcaster, was the image of then President.I grew up believing the President was the only newsmaker—it was all about where he went, what he said or even what he ate. Everything else was secondary. As participatory democracy grew and airways liberalised, more television and radio stations came up, unleashing new realities and opinions. Freedom was nigh. While we were busy enjoying watching a sprout of local productions, crafty businessmen and greedy politicians went on a purge on free radio frequencies.Everything was stolen, including frequencies set aside for public broadcasting. Those in power were awarded licenses without following proper procedure. By 2019, there were 127 TV and 194 radio stations in Kenya, according to the latest Kenya Economic Survey. Most of these stations are owned or run by politicians or their kin, ready to be used as propaganda or election campaign tools. This gave birth to the formation of a new battle ground for politicians. Political divisions would be visible on either side of media stations, carrying or interpreting headline stories differently, depending on who is being favoured. Some radio stations were accused of spreading hate speech and incitement to violence during the hotly contested 2007 elections. A spotlight was then beamed on the media, and a myriad of activities took place trying to control the sector, including laws regulating free speech. Since 2013, new control of media, which human rights organisation, Article 19, refers to as Soft Censorship, has been gaining traction. In this type of censorship, government being the biggest advertiser, applies indirect financial pressure on media organisations, by giving or denying ad revenue to the media that give (or deny) favourable coverage to the State and public affairs. In 2015, the control got worse. The Government Advertising Agency was established, publicly fashioned as a body that will take charge of consolidating procurement and payment functions of all government advertisement requirements, seemingly to rationalizse and manage advertising expenditure. But it later turned out to be a silent beast, awarding “loyal” media houses with advertisement. Disparity grew among the debt owed to media houses, with suspicion that government leveraged advertisement to influence editorial policy. This is the new battle for free press in Kenya; professional journalists toiling to investigate crime and corruption in private or public sector, versus dwindling advertisement revenue, threatening to bring down newsrooms .Media houses are held ransom by their own government and private conglomerates. The situation has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. Media houses have reported losses in revenue, and journalists have had their pay reduced, all while standing on the frontlines to continue exercising their watchdog role. Journalists are also battling hate and disinformation to help deliver accurate news to citizens on the virus.A government that truly works for the best interest of its citizens, will support the growth of media by supporting its existence by promoting a competitive business environment.

“If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” Said the 26th American President, Theodore Roosevelt. It is sad that capitalist cronies have literary used this […]

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Protecting School Feeding Programmes to suport children during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Last week, millions of children and young people should have been returning to classrooms after the Easter break. But with more than half of the world’s population forced into lockdown to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, many are unable to even leave the confines of their homes. The impact on education is a major concern for governments and institutions across the Commonwealth, many of whom have responded with measures such as online lessons, video-conference classes and the distribution of laptops to ensure everyone, including disadvantaged children, can keep learning. The effect on access to education is not the only worrying consequence of the Covid-19 crisis. For many children, attending school is not just an opportunity to learn, but their only chance to eat a hot meal. The School Feeding Programme is used across the world to protect some of the most vulnerable children, alleviating short-term hunger, improving nutrition and cognition of children and transferring income to families. In some poor households, it represents about 10 per cent of their monthly income. Across the Commonwealth, we have great examples of school feeding programmes offering a lifeline for poor and marginalised children and those in remote areas. They provide free food grains, nutritionally balanced meals and innovations such as digital school meal planners. The grave concern is that, despite these strategies, many children are missing out, particularly at a time when an increasing number of families are dealing with unemployment and income loss. Worrying statistics The World Food Programme estimates 368 million children across the world are currently not receiving school meals, up from 300 million in mid-March. And, in the Commonwealth, more than 133 million children are thought to be missing out. Alternative solutions As governments battle with the unprecedented scale and impact of the crisis, we are seeing alternative solutions emerging that can be shared and replicated across the 54 member countries. These include: • Voucher schemes to support schools which are unable to use their usual suppliers, such as in-house and private catering teams, and local authority catering services; • Arrangements to deliver food grains or cooked meals directly to the homes of beneficiaries; • Depositing money directly into parents’ accounts during the period that schools remain closed; • Using locally-sourced provisions, which can be easier to access and healthier than imported options; and • Ensuring emergency programmes created in response to the coronavirus crisis include vulnerable school children and their families. What have we learnt? As we continue to create strategies to protect and improve school feeding programmes during the Covid-19 pandemic, here are some points to consider: • Studies show the strongest and most sustainable programmes are those that respond to a community’s needs, are locally owned and incorporate some form of parental or community involvement. • Engaging communities is important in securing transparency, accountability and effective implementation. So, programmes should bring in different degrees of community involvement, covering both cash and in-kind contributions. • School feeding programmes provide an entry point to reach households in the wider community through campaigns for improving hygiene, health and nutrition practices at the household level. A nutrition and healthy consumption practices campaign should be included in the preparedness and response approaches to the pandemic. • It is important to ensure the benefits of programmes reach poor and vulnerable children, including orphans who were already food insecure before the crisis impacted incomes. • With many governments likely to suffer budgetary constraints, targeting the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable children requires setting clear criteria and practical guidelines. • The efficiency and effectiveness of feeding programmes will depend on how well programme designs and implementation are tailored to countries’ specific systems and resources. • We need a multisectoral approach to school feeding. The success of programmes is dependent on collective effort and partnership, including working with the private sector, and alongside the health sector’s efforts to avert disease spread. A rough situation Without school meals, millions of children will become susceptible to malnutrition and other health risks as their immunity diminishes. Effective school feeding programmes also provide indirect benefits to communities, such as employment opportunities in school kitchens, increased income and skill acquisition opportunities for smallholder farmers, and complementary school feeding activities such as community nutrition volunteers. These factors should be considered given that the pandemic has had negative impacts on food security, especially for vulnerable populations including children, women, the elderly and the poor. Experience from previous health crises, such as the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014 when rice and cassava prices skyrocketed by 30 and 150 per cent respectively, indicates that many countries are exposed to the risk of rising domestic food prices. Sustainable healthy diets that contain sufficient fruits and vegetables are crucial in protecting people’s immunity. This is a particular concern for those already at risk of, or suffering from food insecurity, such as the 23 African countries severely impacted by the current locust plague. Food insecurity may lead vulnerable households to resort to negative coping mechanisms that include reduced number of meals, increased school drop-out rates, inability to cover health expenditures, gender-based violence, selling of productive assets and child labour. It is critical that we work to protect our school feeding programmes during the coronavirus crisis, by collaborating across borders and sectors and sharing information, ideas and solutions.

Last week, millions of children and young people should have been returning to classrooms after the Easter break. But with more than half of the world’s population forced into lockdown […]

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Tanzania parliament suspended as another lawmaker dies.

The speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai yesterday suspended parliamentary sessions following the death of Sumve MP Richard Ndassa in Dodoma. Ndassa is the second legislator to have died in the past 10 days in Tanzania. Ndassa who was aged 61, died in the early hours after a short illness, Speaker Ndugai confirmed but he did not reveal the cause of death. President John Magufuli sent condolences to the grieving family and the speaker, describing the late Ndassa as a friend and counterpart in his political career. “I recall in 1995 when Ndassa and I became members of Parliament. He was an MP for Sumve constituency and I was the MP for Biharamulo East which is now known as Chato constituency. May his soul rest in peace,” said a statement issued by the Directorate of Presidential Communications, quoting President Magufuli. According to the Speaker, the Parliament was in consultation with his family and government over his burial which is expected to take place today. He said Parliament will do all that is in its powers to make sure the legislator is buried in Sumve, a constituency that he has represented since 1995 on the CCM ticket.Ndassa’s death comes 10 days after the ruling party CCM lost another MP, the Reverend Gertrude Rwakatare, who died in Dar es Salaam.

The speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai yesterday suspended parliamentary sessions following the death of Sumve MP Richard Ndassa in Dodoma. Ndassa is the second legislator to have died […]

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Tanzania parliament suspended as another lawmaker dies.

The speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai yesterday suspended parliamentary sessions following the death of Sumve MP Richard Ndassa in Dodoma. Ndassa is the second legislator to have died in the past 10 days in Tanzania. Ndassa who was aged 61, died in the early hours after a short illness, Speaker Ndugai confirmed but he did not reveal the cause of death. President John Magufuli sent condolences to the grieving family and the speaker, describing the late Ndassa as a friend and counterpart in his political career. “I recall in 1995 when Ndassa and I became members of Parliament. He was an MP for Sumve constituency and I was the MP for Biharamulo East which is now known as Chato constituency. May his soul rest in peace,” said a statement issued by the Directorate of Presidential Communications, quoting President Magufuli. According to the Speaker, the Parliament was in consultation with his family and government over his burial which is expected to take place today. He said Parliament will do all that is in its powers to make sure the legislator is buried in Sumve, a constituency that he has represented since 1995 on the CCM ticket.Ndassa’s death comes 10 days after the ruling party CCM lost another MP, the Reverend Gertrude Rwakatare, who died in Dar es Salaam.

The speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai yesterday suspended parliamentary sessions following the death of Sumve MP Richard Ndassa in Dodoma. Ndassa is the second legislator to have died […]

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Kenya Truck Drivers Protest Uganda Border rules.

Kenyan truck drivers and transport companies have protested a decision by the Ugandan government to stop them at entry points and make them hand over to Ugandan drivers. The proposal will see Ugandan drivers deliver the cargo to its final destination within the country or hand it over to another driver in case the truck is still on transit. The decision follows a spike in the number of foreign truck drivers testing positive for Covid-19. This has raised fears that while Ugandans have been locked in their homes, foreign truck drivers have become the real threat to efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Recruit Ugandan drivers On Friday, Ms Robinah Nabbanja, the State minister for Health in charge of general duties, said the Ugandan government had asked companies to recruit local drivers within three weeks to implement the new directives. “They can have a chance to recruit Ugandan drivers and other country drivers because they (companies) had one, two or three drivers…policy now requires that when you come to the border, the vehicle continues with another driver,” she said. However, members of a Kenyan transporters association have protested the decision saying it will raise the cost of transporting goods. They have also said that the security of goods and trucks will be compromised. Additional expenses “This would drastically increase the cost of transportation to the trucking companies while the business has been affected due to reduced cargo volumes and longer transit times. Transporters would also incur additional expenses in providing accommodation for additional drivers,” a petition signed by Ms Mercy Ireri, the chief operating officer of Kenya Transporters Association reads. Ms Ireri said they have instructed their members to adhere to all regulations enacted by regional governments in the fight against the coronavirus by providing face masks to the truck drivers, sanitisers, handwashing soap and water as they travel. “The drivers are under firm instructions not to carry any passengers on the way, sanitise after handling any documents which should be done while wearing gloves.Most importantly, the drivers are under instructions to self-quarantine within their trucks to avoid interactions while undertaking a trip to a given destination,” she said. Cargo safety She said the security and safety of the cargo would be compromised by using multiple drivers in a single haulage. Ms Ireri added that the changeover of drivers would create inefficiencies and that truckers would face challenges in tracing drivers’ responsibilities on truck misuse, damages and theft of fuel. She also said the relay driving would raise insurance challenges as any accident or theft would likely be challenged by the insuring companies. Uganda is yet respond to the petition. Attempts to get a clarification from Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde on how her ministry will respond to the petition were not successful. Gen Jeje Odongo, the Minister for Internal Affairs, and Gen Katumba Wamala, the Works minister, did not respond to repeated calls from the Daily Monitor. Mandatory testing The Kenyan trucker’s association has proposed that drivers undergo mandatory Covid-19 tests at the border. According to the proposal, if a driver is found to be Covid-19 negative, he or she should be allowed to proceed with the trip to its destination while those who test positive should be put in isolation in accordance to the World Health Organisation regulations. The transporting company should be informed to make arrangements for another driver to proceed with the journey after undergoing Covid-19 testing.

Kenyan truck drivers and transport companies have protested a decision by the Ugandan government to stop them at entry points and make them hand over to Ugandan drivers. The proposal […]

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Uganda plans phased lifting of countrywide lockdown.

The Ugandan Cabinet has agreed to lift in a phased manner the lockdown which started on April 1 aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. In a meeting chaired by President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday, the Cabinet agreed that each sector of government will develop a plan for the phased reopening of the country.A source who attended the meeting said President Museveni tasked the ministers to present the sector plans at a special Cabinet meeting on May 2 which will review them and decide on the phased implementation when the current lockdown ends on May 5. In an effort to tackle the spread of the coronavirus into the country from neighbouring states, the Cabinet ministers reportedly agreed that each truck will be allowed to have only a driver and he or she will be tested at the border before entering the country.Later on Tuesday in a televised address, Museveni said stringent measures had helped in containing the spread of the disease. “Ugandans should separate anger from logic,” Museveni said during his 12th address to the nation on the pandemic. Nearly all the new cases of Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks have been cargo truck drivers bringing in essential commodities from Kenya and Tanzania. Kenya has announced that it has started massive testing of all truck drivers to ensure that they do not spread the virus to different parts of their country and the region. Monitor borders Another source said the Ugandan Cabinet agreed to concentrate its efforts at the borderline where they will heavily deploy security officers to ensure no one enters the country without undergoing testing and being quarantined. Truck drivers are among the few workers who were allowed to continue working during the lockdown as they are considered essential to the survival of the economy. Last week, Internal Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo said truck drivers will operate in a relay.A foreign transport company whose trucks enter Uganda must have a specific driver who will drive it in the country upon reaching the border.However, the borders will remain closed to non-cargo traffic until the coronavirus is defeated in Uganda and in the neighbouring countries. Public gatherings On March 18, President Museveni suspended public gatherings, closed schools and worship centres, pubs and cultural meetings for 32 days.All people arriving from abroad were subjected to 14-day quarantine and could only be released if they tested negative to the coronavirus.Following the first Covid-19 case recorded on March 21, the airport and all borders were on March 22 closed to passenger traffic except cargo. The president on March 27 suspended public transport for 14 days. This was later followed by suspension of private transport, only allowing cargo trucks and essential delivery vehicles to continue operating.On March 30, a curfew was imposed and a total lockdown declared for 14 days. The lockdown was extended for another three weeks up to May 5.

The Ugandan Cabinet has agreed to lift in a phased manner the lockdown which started on April 1 aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. In a meeting […]

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DISSIDENTS AND CRITICS BEAR HEAVY BRUNT OF INCREASING RESTRICTIONS ON EXPRESSION

Tanzania continues to suffer a dramatic decline in press freedom under President John Magufuli, as basic freedoms are restricted through repressive laws and presidential decrees. At least three newspapers were banned in 2019 for alleged criticism of the President, while violation of LGBTIQ rights continues. In June 2016, President Magufuli announced a ban on political gatherings until 2020 – the ban remains in force with general elections scheduled for October this year. In practice, it has affected opposition parties wishing to hold rallies. Expression On 2nd April 2020,exiled opposition leader Tundu Lissu spoke out against President Magufuli in the lead-up to the October 2020 elections and questioned whether free and fair elections will be allowed, considering Magufuli’s assertion that there will be no opposition in the upcoming vote and threats to imprison critics of his government. He called on the international community to diplomatically censure the government and impose travel bans and asset freezes on officials who have carried out political suppression. Lissu has been in self-exile in Belgium since 2018, after he was flown from Nairobi in 2017 for further treatment following a failed attempted assassination in Tanzania where unknown gunmen shot him 16 times. On 23rd March 2020, journalist Khalifa Said was dismissed by Tanzanian media house Mwananchi Publications a day after he published a post on his twitter account criticising President Magufuli’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Said had challenged Magufuli’s insistence that citizens continue to attend places of worship amid the outbreak and had called on citizens to organise rallies to get the government to respond to their demands. In separate developments related to the above, on 22nd March 2020, the Prime Minister of Tanzania, Kassim Majaliwa released a statement warning the public against publishing, forwarding or creating “fake news” and “misinformation” about the coronavirus in the country. He directed the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to follow up on those who fabricate news through social media, threatening prosecutions. On 24th February 2020 journalist Erick Kabendera was released after seven months in prison, following a plea bargain with the prosecution. Kabendera had been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and leading organised crime – all non-bailable under Tanzanian law. The journalist, who has a reputation for reporting on issues deemed sensitive, including regarding public authorities, has written for several British publications, including The Independent, The Guardian and The Times, as well as for newspapers in Tanzania and the wider region. As previously reported on the Monitor, his arrest was seen as an example of rising repression against the press and critics of Tanzania’s President John Magufuli. It showed Tanzania’s continued trend of arresting and detaining journalists in 2020, despite international concern raised throughout 2019, including from the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), who expressed concern over “the unprecedented number of journalists and opposition politicians jailed for their activities” in November 2019. Conditions of the plea bargain are exorbitant and it remains unclear whether Kabendera will be able to pay the agreed fines, which amount to thousands of US dollars. While welcoming the news about his release, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, noted: “Tanzania must stop misusing laws to violate people’s rights to liberty, freedom of expression and information, peaceful assembly and association. The country must publicly commit to ensuring that everyone can freely exercise all their human rights and stop the politically motivated persecution of dissidents and journalists like Erick Kabendera.” Rights commission warns against use of hate speech After much delay, new members of the Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) were appointed in late 2019. Following months of initial work, on 5th February 2020, they raised concern about the use of “hate speech” by some politicians against those with opposing ideologies, saying that it signalled a violation of human rights and good governance pillars. They called on political parties to prohibit the use of inflammatory language by their followers, which may lead to human rights violations. Application against draconian online content regulations quashed In January 2020, the High Court sitting in Mtwara quashed an application by civil society organisations, including the Legal and Human Rights Centre, trustees of the Media Council of Tanzania and the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, challenging the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations (EPOCA). As reported previously on the Monitor, the regulations came into force in March 2018 and give the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority wide discretionary powers in regulating content published online, thus impacting bloggers, radio and TV stations streaming online, and other online platforms. Plans to block unregistered sim cards cause concern In mid-January 2020, government officials announced plans to block all sims cards not biometrically registered by 20th January 2020 in what they said was a bid to tackle escalating cases of cybercrime. The registration exercise aims to link sim cards with either a national identity card or foreign passport, and fingerprints. There was concern however from citizens who worried that those who cannot or are afraid to register risked losing out on vital communication channels. It may also pose a potential risk for human rights defenders (HRDs) and members for the LGBTIQ community, who try to use untraceable SIM cards as a protection mechanism against state surveillance and monitoring. Opposition party members also expressed concern that this would hamper campaigns ahead of the October 2020 general elections. Opposition party member receives death threats for criticising government policy In late January 2020, opposition party member of parliament Zitto Kabwe of the Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT) party received death threats and was targeted by the ruling party for his criticism of a controversial US$500 million World Bank education loan. Kabwe had written to the bank opposing the loan, citing the government’s failure to lift its education ban on pregnant students and adolescent mothers, worsening gender inequality and human rights violations in Tanzania. In a parliamentary session held on 31st January 2020, the speaker of the Assembly called Kabwe’s letter ‘treasonous’ while Abdallah Bulembo from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) called for Mr Kabwe’s killing. On 30th January, the World Bank board of directors postponed their vote on the loan following concerns raised in Kabwe’s letter. Association Human Rights Watch report documents systematic attacks on LGBTIQ community. On 3rd February 2020, Human Rights Watch published a report on Tanzania’s anti-LGBTIQ crackdown and its impact on the right to health. The report titled “If We Don’t Get Services We Will Die’: Tanzania’s Anti-LGBT Crackdown and the Right to Health” documents a systematic crackdown by the government on the LGBTIQ community and community organisations that support them, since 2016. The report found that organisations have been barred from assisting LGBTIQ people, meetings have been raided by police and drop-in centres have been closed down. There are also claims that LGBTIQ activists and lawyers have been subjected to forced ‘anal examinations’, a brutal technique that purports to seek “evidence” of same-sex intercourse, but is unscientific, invasive, and amounts to a form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBTIQ rights researcher at Human Rights Watch said: “The Tanzanian authorities have orchestrated a systematic attack on the rights of LGBT people, including their right to health. Manufactured threats around the so-called ‘promotion of homosexuality’ have displaced best practices and evidence-based approaches in guiding HIV policy in Tanzania… authorities should ensure that not one more Tanzanian is arrested for being gay or trans – or for attending an HIV education session.” Government official banned from travel to the US for targeting LGBTIQ community. On 31st January 2020, a Tanzanian official who launched a surveillance squad dedicated to hunting down LGBTIQ people was banned by the US from entering the country. The US state department said Paul Makonda, the Regional Commissioner (administrative chief) of the capital, Dar-es-Salaam, was involved in “gross violations of human rights”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that Mr Makonda’s ban came amid concern about the “deteriorating” state of human rights in Tanzania. As previously reported on the Monitor, in 2018, Makonda announced plans to form a government taskforce to hunt down people believed to be from the LGBTIQ community, although the government distanced itself from those remarks, terming them “personal opinion”. On 21st January 2020, human rights groups called for the release of human rights activist Tito Magoti, who was arrested on 20th December 2019 in Dar es Salaam in what is believed to have been retaliation for his human rights work. He is charged with non-bailable offences of economic crimes: leading an organised criminal racket, possessing a computer program designed to commit an offence, and money laundering. Magoti works for the leading Tanzanian non-governmental organisation Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) who said that the police questioned Magoti about his online activism and his involvement with other rights activists and opposition members. Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Africa said: “It is outrageous that the Tanzanian government continues to abuse the criminal justice system by detaining critics on unbailable offences for weeks and months on end under the guise of investigating cases. This is an outright abuse of due process of the law and a perversion of justice.” He remains in pre-trial detention at the time of writing, following repeated postponement of his hearings. The next hearing is expected to take place in mid-April. Peaceful Assembly On 10th March 2020, a magistrate’s court in Dar-es-Salaam sentenced eight senior members and one former senior leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party, CHADEMA, to five months imprisonment, or fines totalling 350 million Tanzanian shillings (USD 152,000) on charges including sedition and unlawful assembly. The nine defendants were found guilty on 12 out of 13 charges relating to a demonstration which they held in February 2018 which had been banned by president Magufuli. According to UN Human Rights Office, the sentences denote an ongoing strategy by the government to use the criminal justice system to target its critics by imposing large fines or jail terms on opponents, journalists and civil society figures.

Tanzania continues to suffer a dramatic decline in press freedom under President John Magufuli, as basic freedoms are restricted through repressive laws and presidential decrees. At least three newspapers were […]

Continue reading "DISSIDENTS AND CRITICS BEAR HEAVY BRUNT OF INCREASING RESTRICTIONS ON EXPRESSION"

Opposition Activist Found Dead in her House

An opposition activist, Barbara Alimadi, was on Monday found dead in her house, located in Kiwatule, a Kampala suburb. One of her closest friends, the Nakawa LC III Happy Nasasira told New Vision that Alimadi’s death was a shock as she did not hear her complaining of any sickness.She added that the deceased has been staying alone. “For sure, I have run short of words because I talked to you Barbara, and you were fine, what could have killed you!” she wept. Alimadi came into limelight in 2012, when she stripped half-naked at Kampala Central Police Station, protesting the manner in which her colleague Ingrid Turinawe, had been arrested by Police. Turinawe was arrested while heading to Nasana, where the ‘For God and My Country’ (4GC) political pressure group, had organised a rally. In 2012, the then, Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander, the late Andrew Felix Kaweesi, arrested Alimadi, alongside others including; Happy Nasasira, Harriet Nakiyemba, Winfred Nakajubi, Aisha Nagudi, and Teo Namutebi. Later, they were cautioned and released on condition that they do not repeat their actions. In addition, she (Barbara Alimadi) staged another demonstration on June 25, 2012, at Parliament, demanding the resignation of the then, prime minister, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, accusing him of corruption. At the time of her death, she has been the Secretary for International Affairs, at the national executive council, of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT). She has also been ANT- coordinator in the diaspora, a position she scooped on May 22, 2019. On Tuesday, the ANT President retired Maj.Gen. Mugisha Muntu, posted her photo on his social media platforms, in solidarity. Alimadi holds a degree in engineering from the UK, and also a master’s degree in human rights, from Makerere University. She was born to the former Ugandan Prime Minister, the late Erifas Otema Alimadi, of Patiko-Gulu, district.

An opposition activist, Barbara Alimadi, was on Monday found dead in her house, located in Kiwatule, a Kampala suburb. One of her closest friends, the Nakawa LC III Happy Nasasira […]

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Tough Measures for Cargo Truck Drivers

After the recent confirmed COVID-19 cases being of cargo truck drivers, the Government has stepped up vigilance to nip the challenge in the bud. The sub-committee resolved to bar cargo truck drivers from stopping at all certain hitherto popular points in the country in a number of towns. The truck drivers will have a few designated stop points. During a meeting held on April 24, the sub-committee, agreed that certain stop points should be declared out of bounds for cargo truck drivers and they should only stop at 12 major points.

Under the proposed measures, truck drivers will be barred from stopping at Tororo, Mbale, Lira, Corner Kamdini, Mbiko, Naluwerere, Sanga, Ruti, Migeera, Lyantonde, Namawojolo and Luwero. Speaking to New Vision on Saturday,  Uganda works minister Gen. Katumba Wamala said the sub-committee’s resolutions will be tabled before Cabinet today for approval before implementation. Cabinet is expected to consider the measures ahead of President Museveni’s address to the nation tomorrow.

“This is just a proposal. Once Cabinet approves, we shall announce it to the general public,” Katumba Wamala said.
President Museveni on Friday, while handing over vehicles to the health ministry, said he would give an update on the fight against COVID-19 on  Tuesday (today). He said cargo truck drivers were now the new front line in the war against the coronavirus.

Uganda has in the recent weeks registered a spike in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. This is due to long-distance truck drivers from Kenya and Tanzania, who are now posing a challenge to the country’s efforts to flatten its coronavirus curve.

So far, the country has registered 20 positive cases among the drivers. This brings to 75 the number of cases as of Saturday evening. Forty-six of these have so far recovered. It is against this background that the trade and transport sub-committee of the COVID-19 national taskforce met and agreed on measures to be implemented immediately.

The committee also wants each truck to have one driver for the next four weeks, after which, the proposed relay system for drivers will be adopted. However, the transporters who are ready, are urged to start employing the system. For domestic trucks, they proposed a maximum of two people; a driver and owner of the cargo.

 

Stop points

 

The sub-committee also agreed to designate a maximum of three stop points per route for the truck drivers. Those from Kenya, will be required to only stop at Namboole, Lukaya and Ntungamo/Ishaka, while the trucks on the second route from Kenya will stop in Soroti and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) offices at Corner Kamdini.

Trucks from Tanzania heading to South Sudan will stop in Kampala, at Karuma and Pakwach. Those from Tanzania heading to DR Congo will stop at Namboole, Mubende and Fort Portal. For the last route to DR Congo, trucks will stop at Ishaka and then proceed to the border.

“All cargo, inbound and outbound transit cargo trucks should follow  the same journey management plan indicated above,” reads the resolutions.

The sub-committee also agreed that all agencies, including the health ministry work 24 hours at Malaba, Mutukula and Busia to reinforce border patrols and surveillance at all illegal entry points. They also agreed that freight forwarders commit to paying for the testing kits. The modalities for payment will be worked out between the private sector and the health ministry. The sub-committee wants the Government to procure more 5,000 e-seals for the regional cargo trucking system for URA.

Truck drivers will be required to have and use personal protective equipment and sanitisers.

On Saturday, Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said URA had been given seals to monitor truck drivers who should only make stopovers at the designated points, avoid contact with locals and observe all guidelines issued by the Government.

Kenya  transporters body views 
The Kenya Transporters Association Ltd (KTA) protested the proposed relay driving for cargo transporters, saying it will lead to additional expenses that could cripple the transport industry. The KTA agreed with rest of the proposed measures, including designated stops, same journey plans, no diversion of trucks from designated routes, one driver per truck and use of PPEs. However, the organisation called for review of proposed relay driving. Relay driving, which is yet to be agreed on by the Cabinet, will involve a driver from a neighbouring country handing over the truck to a Ugandan one at the border, after the vehicle has been sanitised.

The Ugandan driver then takes the cargo to the frontier, where a driver from that country takes over, after the vehicle has been sanitised and drives on to the merchandise’s final destination.

In their petition dated April 25, KTA said the proposed system will require new drivers’ recruitment and training, which would drastically increase the cost of transportation to the trucking companies, yet the business has been already affected by reduced cargo volumes and longer transit times. Through their chief operating officer, Mercy Ireri, they argue that transporters would also incur additional expenses in providing accommodation for additional drivers. They argue that the security and safety of the cargo would also be compromised by multiple drivers involved in a single haulage

“The relay driving changeover by drivers would create inefficiencies. Truckers would face challenges in tracing driver’s responsibilities when it comes to trucks misuse, damages and theft of fuel,” Ireri said.

She said it would also pose a challenge in the matter of insurance since any accident or theft would likely be challenged by the insurance companies.

They proposed that drivers undergo mandatory COVID-19 tests at the borders and if one is found negative, they be allowed to proceed with the journey to the destination.

Those found positive, should be put in isolation and the transporter informed so that they make arrangements for another driver to undergo tests and complete the journey.

They said currently the freight drivers are under strict instructions not to carry any passengers, sanitise themselves after handling documents, and to self-quarantine within their trucks in order to avoid interactions in the course of a journey.

https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1518341/tough-measures-cargo-truck-drivers

After the recent confirmed COVID-19 cases being of cargo truck drivers, the Government has stepped up vigilance to nip the challenge in the bud. The sub-committee resolved to bar cargo […]

Continue reading "Tough Measures for Cargo Truck Drivers"

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