Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hands off our staff, IEBC tells Nasa and Jubilee on changes

 

IEBC Chairman WafulaChebukati has rubbished attempts by Jubilee and Nasa to demand changes to a proposed team to run the October 17 fresh presidential elections, terming the calls an affront on its independence.

In different letters written to Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju and National Super Alliance co-principal MusaliaMudavadi Wednesday evening, MrChebukati said the commission had all the right to make changes without being directed by any of the political outfits.

“Please note that the commission is an independent constitutional body, which as per Article 249 of the Constitution shall not be subject to direction or control by any person or authority,” MrChebukati said in his letter to MrTuju.

“It is therefore unacceptable for you to provide a list of staff that you direct us not to consider for the project team.”

INDEPENDENT

MrChebukati told MrTuju and MrMudavadi of Nasa to respect the independence of the commission and allow the team to make internal changes as it pleases.

“I welcome your comments that the independence of the IEBC is not negotiable. It is for this reason that I find it unacceptable for you to provide a list of staff that you direct us to “step aside or be suspended,” MrChebukati told MrMudavadi.

However, in the letter, MrChebukati agreed with Nasa that the commission should carry out a full audit of its servers as had been ordered by the Supreme Court.

The court annulled the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ordered a fresh election within 60 days.

PROPOSALS

“I have taken your proposals in the context of technology and will review them.

“I also intend to carry out a full audit of the servers guided by the previous orders of the Supreme Court,” MrChebukati said.

He went on: “The process will be transparent with international experts and representatives from the Jubilee Party and the Nasa coalition.”

BRIEFINGS

The chairman also promised weekly briefings with the presidential candidates, and a different weekly engagement with the civil society and religious leaders.

“I have decided to embed two ICT experts from Jubilee and Nasa in my project team,” MrChebukati said.

However, he said that it will be difficult to change the 290 returning officers in the run up to the poll.

"Given the short period of time before the fresh presidential election, I may not be in a position to train new returning officers across the country,” MrChebukati said in his letter to MrMudavadi which he copied to the Jubilee Party.

However, the chairman promised to review places where the returning officers "may not have discharged their duties effectively”.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Polls open in Angola as Dos Santos ends long rule

 

Luanda, Angola | AFP |Polling stations opened Wednesday across Angola in an election that marks the end of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos's 38-year reign, with his MPLA party predicted to retain power.

AFP journalists reported a slow start to voting at one station in the capital Luanda where Dos Santos and his chosen successor Joao Lourenco are expected to cast their ballots later Wednesday.

Dos Santos's unexpected retirement -- reportedly prompted by ill health -- has triggered the biggest political transition in decades for Angola, a leading oil exporter in Africa.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rodents force Nigerian president to work from home



Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari 

Lagos, Nigeria | AFP | Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will work from home after rodents damaged his official office during a more than 100-day overseas medical absence, a presidential spokesman told AFP Tuesday.

The animals damaged furniture and air conditioning fittings in the president's official Abuja office while he was in London receiving treatment, his media adviser Garba Shehu confirmed.

"These are also general works and it is not uncommon for Nigerian presidents to also work from the presidential villa. He has used the residential office for many years," said Shehu.

"What is important is that the job gets done. Whether he does it from his bedroom or his sitting room or his anteroom -- it does not matter. Let the job be done. And the job will be done," Shehu told the Arise News broadcaster.

Shehu was unable to confirm what type of rodent was responsible for the damage, which occurred during the president's prolonged absence for an undisclosed medical condition.

"I do not have that level of detail," he said, adding that it was unclear how long the refurbishment would last

During his time away, tensions surfaced back home, where calls grew for him to either return or resign.

The Nigerian leader met with his security chiefs at his official residence on Tuesday, ordering them to deal with threats to the unity of the country.

In the weeks before Buhari left for London on May 7, he also worked from the presidential residence -- missing cabinet meetings and having official documents transported to him.

Rumours about his health have dogged Buhari even before he came to power in May 2015. He rejected claims during the election that he was critically ill from prostate cancer.

Buhari did not address his absence or medical situation when he addressed the nation on television on Monday, instead talking about separatism, crime, terrorism and the economy in his first speech since returning.

In an official letter to parliament on Monday relieving Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of his duties as acting head of state, Buhari described his trip as a "medical follow-up".

Clashes between protesters calling on Buhari to return from his recent lengthy absence and the presidents' defenders erupted in Abuja last week.

He first travelled to London in June last year for what aides said was a persistent inner ear infection, returning in January for check-ups, according to his office.

The health of Nigeria's president is a sensitive issue. President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua died in office in 2010 from a long-standing, but previously undisclosed, kidney complaint.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Nigeria's president slams divisions after absence

 

Abuja, Nigeria | AFP |Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took to state TV on Monday in his first speech since returning from a long medical absence in Britain in a bid to dampen mounting separatist tensions in the country.

The 74-year-old, who received treatment for an undisclosed condition in London, looked thin as he read slowly from a prepared statement in which he also vowed to redouble the fight against Boko Haram jihadists.

"I was distressed to notice that some of the comments (in my absence), especially in the social media have crossed national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far," he said.

"The national consensus is that it is better to live together than to live apart," added Buhari, who returned to Nigeria on Saturday after more than 100 days away from the west African nation of 190 million people.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

South Africa gives go-ahead to rhino horn auction

 

Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | A South African court on Sunday gave the go-ahead for an online auction of rhino horns that has outraged conservationists.

South African authorities had moved to ban the three-day auction which they feared would undermine the global ban on rhino trade, refusing to issue a permit.

But the High Court in Pretoria ruled in favour of the auction's South African organiser John Hume, who runs the world's biggest rhino farm.

His lawyer had argued that the permits had been approved but not issued by the authorities in South Africa, where a ban on domestic rhino trade was lifted three months ago.

"We lost the case. We have to hand over the permit that was issued," said environment ministry spokesman Moses Rannditsheni.

Hume's lawyer Izak due Toit said they expected to collect the permit before the auction is due to start at 1000 GMT Monday.

Hume has stockpiled six tonnes of horns and wants to place 500 kilos or 264 horns under the hammer.

"We are happy. I hope that the government has learnt that they can't be unfair to us. The judge expressed his dismay at the conduct of the minister and the department."

Rhino horns are highly prized, estimated to fetch up to $60,000 a kilo on the black market - more than the price of gold or cocaine.

South Africa is home to around 20,000 rhinos, about 80 percent of the worldwide population, but in recent years has suffered record slaughter by poachers.

Hume and some other campaigners say poaching can only be halted by meeting the huge demand from Asia through legally "harvesting" horn from anaesthetised live rhinos.

But animal rights activists charge that the legal sale of rhino horns will only fuel poaching.

Rhino horn is composed mainly of keratin, the same component as in human nails. It is sold in powdered form as a supposed cure for cancer and other diseases -- as well as an aphrodisiac -- in Vietnam and China.

Johan Van Eyk of Van's Auctioneers who will conduct the auction said there is no set opening price because this will be the first ever rhino horn auction.

South Africa has over 300 private rhino breeders who say they have spent more than two billion rand ($150 million) to protect their herds over the past nine years.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sierra Leone mourns 100 children among dead in massive flooding

At least 600 people are still missing in the

At least 600 people are still missing in the capital Freetown [Saidu Bah/AFP] 

By Saidu BAH

Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone began a week of mourning Wednesday as it emerged that 105 children were among more than 300 people who perished in mudslides and torrential flooding, in one of the country's worst natural disasters.

With 600 people still missing in Freetown, President Ernest Bai Koroma described the humanitarian challenge ahead as "overwhelming".

He said flags would fly at half-mast and called for urgent help after visiting the devastated hilltop community of Regent on Tuesday.

Aid organisations meanwhile warned that the rainy season was not yet over and that more flooding could arrive at any moment in the west African coastal city of around a million people.

Officials at Freetown's central morgue said Wednesday that 105 of the more than 300 officially dead were children. An independent but unofficial morgue estimate put the toll at 400 dead.

The government of Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, has promised relief for what the Red Cross says is more than 3,000 people left homeless by the disaster.

The authorities have opened an emergency response centre in Regent and registration centres to count those left on the streets.

Several UN agencies have ramped up efforts in Freetown, including the World Food Programme's (WFP) distribution of two-week rations of rice, pulses and cooking oil to 7,500 people. The first Israeli aid packages arrived and west African governments delivered cash and rice.

- Mass burials to begin -

Speaking to AFP at the mortuary at the Connaught Hospital, technician Mohamed Sinneh Kamara said his team lacked equipment to process and identify the bodies still piling up.

"We have logistical constraints including a lack of gloves, PPE (personal protective equipment) and rain boots," he said as families gathered to identify their loved ones' bodies.

Mabinty Sesay's family had gone to Regent for an all-night prayer session when their church was buried in the mudslide. "I have lost 13 of my family members but was only able to identify two," she told AFP at the morgue.

One woman collapsed after seeing her husband's dead body among the piles of corpses, amid a powerful stench of decomposing flesh.

The Red Cross clarified that burials which took place on Tuesday were of body bags filled with missing parts of corpses. The government said mass burials of unidentified bodies still at the morgue would take place on Thursday and Friday.

"The situation with all the dead bodies now... No one is able to identify anyone. So as the president said, let the mass burials go ahead," said Adizah Conda at the morgue after losing seven members of her extended family.

The victims will be laid to rest in graves alongside those of the country's last humanitarian disaster, the Ebola crisis, in nearby Waterloo.

- Shock to anger -

Adele Fox, national health coordinator for Sierra Leone at the charity Concern Worldwide, told AFP that the search for bodies continued but that survivors were facing difficult conditions.

"There is basic need for food, water, sanitation equipment and medical assistance. Since it is still the rainy season, further flooding is also a possibility," she said.

The prevailing sentiment among those in the disaster areas had shifted from shock and grief to anger at what is an annual problem in Freetown, she said, though never before on this scale.

The British charity Oxfam said it was trying to prevent a cholera outbreak by distributing clean water and hygiene kits to 2,000 households.

"These are some of the poorest areas in Freetown. Water and sanitation in homes is at best very basic, but at worst nonexistent.

"Overcrowding is a serious health risk and a potential breeding ground for the spread of disease," said Daniel Byrne, part of the Oxfam team in the city.

Britain's international development ministry said it was supplying tents and generators, while its military personnel had helped with relief efforts. Food and medicine would follow, it added.

The European Union released 300,000 euros ($353,000) in emergency funds, while Senegalese and Ivorian delegations handed over cash and food to President Koroma, following the lead of Guinea's president on Tuesday.

- Wake-up call? -

There was growing concern that the warning signs had been missed in a city where illegal construction on precarious ground is common.

President Koroma said in a statement released by his office that "relocation and opening up of a new settlement around the Freetown peninsula" would be considered.

Many homes are now without a water supply due to damage to a reservoir near Regent, according to the Guma Valley Water Company.

Three days of torrential rain culminated on Monday in the Regent mudslide and torrential flooding elsewhere in the city, one of the world's wettest urban areas.

Freetown is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain, and in 2015 bad weather killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Sierra Leone ranked 179th out of 188 countries on the UN Development Programme's 2016 Human Development Index, a basket of data combining life expectancy, education and income and other factors.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Three ANC lawmakers face disciplinary action over Zuma vote



President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma 

 

PETER DUBE in Pretoria.Three African National Congress (ANC) legislators who have publicly admitted to voting with the opposition in the no-confidence motion against President Jacob Zuma face disciplinary action.

About 35 MPs from the ruling party supported the motion in a secret ballot that sought the removal of President Zuma from office in parliament last week.

The motion was however unsuccessful after it failed to get enough votes.

The ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, said on Tuesday that the party would punish defectors.

“Three of them have confirmed they voted with the opposition. We will have to deal with that situation because if we don’t we will destroy the essence of being an organisation,” he said.

“We are not going to have lie detectors, but if they come out and say: ‘Yes, I voted with the opposition’, you are no longer following your own conscience, but you are daring your own party,” Mr Mantashe added.

It has since emerged that the decision to discipline the ANC dissenters was taken at a meeting of the party’s national working committee on Monday. A day earlier, President Zuma had called on ANC to identify and punish those who voted against him.

Among those that are seen to be the likely targets for disciplinary action include former Finance minister Pravin Gordhan, and outspoken MPs Makhosi Khoza and Mondli Gungubele. The three had repeatedly backed calls to vote in favour of the motion, saying they would cast their ballots with their conscience.

Party insiders are also said to be seeking the removal of the disciplinary committee chairperson, former Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom who is also suspected to have voted with the opposition. The party said his “tweets put him in a difficult position to chair a disciplinary process”.

On the day of the vote, August 8, Mr Hanekom tweeted: “Dispel the notion of voting with the opposition. We must vote against state capture, massive looting and corruption. Vote for change.”

President Zuma, whose eight years in power have been dogged by corruption scandals, is scheduled to address a parliamentary caucus next week.

He survived his eighth motion of no-confidence in him, in which 177 MPs voted in favour, while 198 were against it.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Suspense as Kenya awaits next move on poll dispute



Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga 

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP |Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga is expected to unveil his next move Wednesday to contest a presidential poll he claims was rigged in favour of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The 72-year-old cried foul shortly after vote counting began in last Tuesday's election, sparking deadly protests in his strongholds that left at least 17 dead and 177 injured.

The unrest quickly gave way to a tense limbo as his supporters wait to hear if their leader will take his grievances to court, as he has been urged to do, or out onto the streets.

Initially his decision had been planned Tuesday, however he pushed this back by a day citing the "complexity and delicate nature" of discussions with his allies in the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition.

His vow that "there is no turning back", and comments by NASA officials that court is not an option have placed the country on tenterhooks over the likelihood of a protracted vote dispute, more violence and economic disruption.

The international community and many within Kenya have urged Odinga to use legal means to express his grievances.

The veteran opposition leader has now lost four elections and cried foul over results in the previous two.

After the 2007 vote, Odinga's supporters took to the streets, and a resulting crackdown coupled with a wave of politically motivated tribal violence left over 1,100 dead.

In 2013 he challenged the presidential results in court and lost.

Any legal challenge must be lodged by Friday.

- 'Can of worms' -

A legal petition can also be filed by members of civil society.

The Kenyan government's NGO Board regulatory body has since Monday moved to shut down two rights organisations, one of which said it was mulling Supreme Court action over election "inconsistencies".

Maina Kiai, board member of both the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG), said the move was politically motivated.

"People who may go to court are being deregistered," he said. "Once you close off avenues for legal, non-violent, peaceful redress, you open up a can of worms."

 

Speaking this week, Kenyatta said that if Odinga chose not to go to court, he was welcome to protest legally.

"Just do it peacefully, orderly... As a government we will not allow loss of life, destruction of property and looting," he said.

While police deny the use of excessive force, outrage is growing over brutality during the crackdown on protesters.

On Tuesday a six-month-old baby succumbed to her injuries after four days in a coma after being clubbed in a police raid on a house during protests on Friday night, her father told AFP.

Among the dead was also a nine-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet when police opened fire in a slum.

The opposition claims the electronic voting system was hacked and the results manipulated.

One of their complaints is that not all of the scanned forms meant to back up the electronic results have been provided to them.

Rights groups such as KHRC had also raised the alarm about votes being streamed electronically before back-up evidence was made available.

The dispute has plunged Kenya into its worst political crisis since the 2007 post-election violence that laid bare decades-old political and ethnic grievances over access to power and land.

Three of Kenya's four presidents -- including Kenyatta and his father -- have come from the Kikuyu ethnic group. The other was Kalenjin.

That has left the Luos -- Odinga prominent among them -- and other major ethnic groups feeling excluded from power and marginalised for over half a century.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

S.Africa police decline to reveal if Grace Mugabe has fled

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe, seen here

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe, seen here with her husband, is accused of assaulting a model at a Johannesburg hotel.PHOTO\AFP 

Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | South African police Wednesday said they knew the whereabouts of Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe, who faces accusations of assault, but declined to say if she had fled the country.

The 52-year-old wife of President Robert Mugabe is accused of beating model Gabriella Engels, 20, on Sunday evening at the Johannesburg hotel where her two sons were staying.

Engels said she suffered deep cuts to her forehead and the back of her head, and on Monday she registered a case with the police alleging assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

"We know where the suspect is," South Africa's police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo told AFP.

"We are still continuing with the investigations. No warrant of arrest has been issued," he added after some reports suggested Grace Mugabe had hurriedly returned to Harare late Tuesday.

The alleged attack threatened to spark a diplomatic tiff between the two neighbouring countries, which have strong political and economic ties.

Grace Mugabe allegedly arrived at the Capital 20 West Hotel with bodyguards and accused Engels of partying with her sons Robert and Chatunga, who are both in their 20s and live in Johannesburg.

- 'Kept beating me' -

Pictures on social media appeared to show Engels bleeding from her head after the alleged assault at the hotel in the upmarket business district of Sandton.

Engels said she had been attacked with an electrical extension cord.

"She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over. I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised… I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away," she told the News 24 website.

Zimbabwe's president is expected to fly to South Africa later this week for a regional SADC summit which opens in Pretoria on Saturday.

Grace Mugabe is 41 years younger than her 93-year-old husband and the couple has two sons and a daughter.

She regularly speaks at rallies in Zimbabwe and is seen as one possible contender to take over from her increasingly frail husband.

Last month she urged him to name his chosen successor, reviving speculation about the race to take over from the world's oldest national leader.

President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from British colonial rule in 1980.

South African Police Minister Mbalula told reporters on Tuesday that "in terms of foreign citizens, they must understand they have responsibilities, especially those who hold diplomatic passports.

"We have had to act in the interests of the victim."

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Zambia opposition chief freed, treason charge dropped: party

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been released from prison, with treason charges against him dropped.PHOTO|AFP 

Lusaka, Zambia | AFP | Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was released from prison Wednesday and treason charges against him were dropped, his party said shortly before his trial was to begin in Lusaka.

"Hakainde Hichilema and his 5 co-accused have been released from prison with the treason charge dropped," the United Party for National Development (UPND) said on its Twitter account.

Hichilema has been in custody since April over an incident in which he allegedly failed to give way to President Edgar Lungu's motorcade.

Lungu, who narrowly beat Hichilema in last year's presidential election, has dismissed allegations of growing authoritarianism and has accused his rival of trying to overturn the election result.

Hichilema and five aides denied the treason charges at a plea hearing on Monday where police officers in riot gear had sealed off the court precinct as scores of UPND supporters waited outside.

The trial had been due to begin on Wednesday morning

Zambia has enjoyed relative stability since its first multi-party election in 1991.

But last year's election was marked by clashes between supporters of Lungu's Patriotic Front (PF) party and the UPND.

Lungu also invoked emergency powers in July, increasing police powers of arrest and detention after he blamed opposition parties for a string of arson attacks.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mugabe’s wife complains about unruly sons

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (C), with

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (C), with his son Robert Jr, smiles at his grandson during his 93rd birthday celebrations. PHOTO |AFP 

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, has confessed that she is concerned about her sons’ wayward behaviour after they were evicted from a plush apartment in Johannesburg over wild parties.

According to a leading privately-owned Zimbabwean weekly paper, Robert Junior, 25, and Chatunga Bellarmine, 21, were caught in a vicious scuffle that involved a gun drama, forcing the landlord to kick them out last month.

“If I am to say women stand up to talk about your children, very few women can be brave enough to talk about that without breaking down,” she told relatives and friends at her sister’s birthday party on Sunday.

“Nowadays there are spirits attacking our children. The spirit of drinking, drug abuse and doing other abnormal things way beyond their age.

“I am telling you because the behaviour of the children does not matter if they are the president’s children or not. All children are mischievous,” she said.

The paper had reported that the First Lady flew to South Africa earlier this month to address the sons’ issue.

The two moved to South Africa this year after Robert Junior was forced to leave Dubai, where he was studying, over allegations of substance abuse. Bellarmine, who had been living in Harare, joined his brother in Johannesburg.

“I have seen parents wearing torn clothes because their kids are demanding top-end trending clothes. In schools and universities, children are competing on fashion and they do not pay heed to parental advice,” Mrs Mugabe said.

President Mugabe, 93, often complains about his two sons’ lack of seriousness but is always full of praise for his only daughter, Bona.

Mrs Bona Chikore, 27, holds a master’s degree in banking and finance and sits in boards of several state-run firms. In 2014, her parents showered with her with money and expensive gifts during her lavish wedding to Simba Chikore, now the chief operating officer of Air Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe has three children with his 52-year-old wife whom he married in 1996 after the death of his first wife, Sally Hayfron.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Accidental internet cut-off hits Somalia hard

Millions of Somalis have been cut off from the

Millions of Somalis have been cut off from the internet.PHOTO|AFP 

Mogadishu, Somalia | AFP |.Last month, a baby was born in the Somali capital Mogadishu with a terrible eye defect that requires treatment abroad.

The infant was cleared for treatment in Turkey but before the paperwork was complete a container ship, believed to be the Panama-flagged MSC Alice, docked outside Mogadishu port, accidentally dragging its anchor through the main fibre optic cable connecting Somalia with the rest of the world.

Since that evening of June 24 most of the Horn of Africa nation has been cut off from the web, costing it an estimated $10 million (nine million euros) a day in lost business according to the government, and freezing the lives of those, like the sick child, whose hopes depend on international connections.

- Internet-enabled diaspora -

There are a wealthy, fortunate few with the wherewithal to get online via satellite link-ups, but the vast majority of the 6.5 million people in Somalia's south-central region are in the dark, said Mohamed Ahmed Jama, chief executive of Dalkom, a Somali telecommunications company that is part of the consortium providing the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System.

The blackout has wreaked havoc in Somalia, where decades of conflict have combined with irrepressible entrepreneurialism to create a far-flung diaspora of almost two million people who earn money abroad and send it home to their relatives. The internet is what connects these Somalis with Somalia.

"In Somalia the telecommunications sector has thrived, even during some of the worst years of conflict," said Ahmed Soliman, Somalia researcher at the Chatham House think tank in London. "Urban Somalis have become increasingly connected online since fibre-optic was rolled out in 2014."

The World Bank estimates that at $1.4 billion annually, international remittances make up a quarter of national GDP.

Habiba Mohamud, a customer relations officer at Mogadishu's International Bank of Somalia, said the international transfers department has been cut off since last month's anchor incident.

Mohamud has been personally affected too. Unable to check her email in recent weeks she struggles to communicate with her family, most of whom live in Nebraska in the United States. With international phonecalls expensive, she commonly gets in touch via the WhatsApp and Viber messaging services.

"It has affected every part of my life: social life, family life, love life, work life," Mohamud said.

- Information means survival -

The internet plays a still more existential role for residents of the seaside capital where al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab insurgents carry out regular attacks and where potentially life-saving information is shared fastest on social media and messaging networks.

Hassan Istiila, chief editor of the local Radio Dalsan, which claims four million listeners, said Twitter is a key tool for gathering and broadcasting information on terror attacks and other events.

Ships dragging anchors through undersea internet cables are not uncommon occurrences along Africa's east coast and elsewhere -- in 2012 six African countries were cut-off in one go -- but they rarely take weeks to fully repair.

More than a fortnight since the blackout the MSC Alice's owner, Geneva-headquartered Mediterranean Shipping Company, said it was looking into the incident.

"Following reports that an underwater cable was damaged, MSC is investigating the incident with other relevant parties and these investigations are at an early stage," the company said in a statement.

The Somali government and Dalkom hope engineers will have the cable fixed and internet services restored perhaps later this week.

It will not come a moment too soon for Somalis whose lives are in limbo such as the sick child's mother, for whom a downloadable visa form and online submission are all that stands between her child and medical care in Turkey.

 

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Zimbabwe's Mugabe in Singapore for medical check:report

Zimbabwe's 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe's 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe is in Singapore for a "routine medical check-up", state media reported Sunday. 

Harare, Zimbabwe | AFP |.Zimbabwe's 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe is in Singapore for a "routine medical check-up", state media reported Sunday.

"President Mugabe on Friday left the country for Singapore for a routine medical check-up," the Sunday Mail newspaper reported.

The paper said the veteran ruler is expected back in Zimbabwe midweek.

Mugabe's medical trips to the Southeast Asia city state have become more frequent in recent years. His previous visit was in May, also said to be for a "routine medical check-up".

In 2011 and 2014 he had eye surgery in a hospital in Singapore.

Mugabe now walks with difficulty and sometimes dozes off during meetings.

His health has been the subject of increased speculation in recent years and authorities in March arrested two journalists over a report alleging that he was "in bad shape"

In 2016, the government had to deny that he had died abroad during his annual vacation.

Mugabe has declined to name a successor and his ruling ZANU-PF party has been riven by factionalism for years.

Despite Mugabe’s advanced age, the party last year endorsed him as its candidate for the 2018 general elections.

The leader is not the only African president currently abroad for treatment for an undisclosed condition.

Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari has been in London since May 7, and his lengthy absence has caused political uncertainty in Africa's most populous nation.

Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos recently spent a month in Spain for medical treatment and on Monday officials announced that he had gone back for what was described as a "private visit".

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Eyeing growth boost, Kenya opens Chinese-built railway

 

By Raphael Ambasu

Mombasa, Kenya | AFP |.Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday inaugurated a Chinese-built railway, the country's biggest infrastructure project since independence that is aimed at cementing its role as the gateway to East Africa.

The boxy red-and-white diesel train left from a gleaming new terminal in the port city of Mombasa, carrying Kenyatta, Chinese dignitaries and citizens from around the country on its maiden journey to Nairobi.

The five-hour journey will take less than half the time to drive between the two cities, a hair-raising trip on a one-lane highway clogged with lumbering trucks and where accidents claim dozens of lives each year.

"Today we celebrate one of the key cornerstones to Kenya's transformation to an industrialised, prosperous, middle-income country," Kenyatta said at the inauguration ceremony.

Dubbed the Madaraka (Freedom) Express, the train can carry 1,260 passengers and replaces the so-called "Lunatic Express" -- a railway built more than a century ago by colonial Britain which was known for lengthy delays and breakdowns.

The old railway, whose construction became the stuff of legend as a pair of man-eating lions devoured some 135 workers, is credited with shaping Kenya into its current form.

- Re-shaping modern Kenya -

The capital Nairobi was a swampy outpost with no particular attraction until it became the headquarters of Kenya Railways.

Recalling the criticism the British government faced while building a "train to nowhere", Kenyatta compared it to the controversy the new railway has faced since construction began in December 2014.

Accusations of corruption, concerns over the impact on wildlife and criticism of the $3.2-billion (2.8-billion-euro) price tag blamed on poor negotiations with the Chinese, have dogged the project.

"Despite a lot of criticism, we now celebrate ... the Madaraka Express ... that will begin to re-shape the story of Kenya for the next 100 years," said Kenyatta.

The president is betting on the legacy project to help get him re-elected in August elections.

While the government has previously said economy class tickets would cost 900 shillings ($8.70/7.70 euros), Kenyatta on Wednesday announced that the price would be 700 shillings, prompting cheers from the crowd.

Shortly before the launch, four people were arrested for vandalising the new tracks and stealing "assorted railway parts", according to court documents.

Kenyatta blamed "economic sabotage" and threatened those responsible with the death penalty -- which has not been carried out since 1987.

"I pray for forgiveness from God, but I will sign their death sentence for them to be hanged," he warned.

- Connecting East Africa -

Kenyatta on Tuesday flagged off the first cargo train, set to cut the cost and time involved in transporting goods to the capital.

The railway is part of a "master plan" by east African leaders to connect their nations by rail, with the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) planned to eventually link Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Ethiopia.

This first leg of the railway is financed 90 percent by China's Export‑Import Bank, while the Kenyan government is providing the remaining 10 percent.

Transport Minister James Macharia said the government expects the railway to boost GDP by 1.5 percent, allowing them to pay back the loan "in about four years".

"I think that is a little bit of wishful thinking," said economist Kwame Owino, questioning assumptions about the volume of cargo available to be carried, while warning high growth rates in east Africa were beginning to moderate.

"My feeling as an economist is that it is going to be a white elephant, but as a taxpayer, I hope not," he told AFP.

The railway will be managed by the Chinese contractor for five years before being handed over to the Kenyan government.

The next leg of the SGR will connect Nairobi with the Rift Valley town of Naivasha at a cost of $1.5 billion, and has caused a furore as it will cut through the capital's iconic national park.

The government is currently negotiating the financing to link Naivasha to Kisumu near the Ugandan border, which Macharia says is expected to cost another $3.5 billion.

 

 

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kenyatta set to flag off new SGR passenger train service

Passengers at the boarding bay at Nairobi

Passengers at the boarding bay at Nairobi terminus on May 29, 2017. President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to launch the train service on May 31, 2017. PHOTO | NMG 

Nairobi. President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday flagged off a cargo train from Mombasa port which will pull 50 wagons laden with containers bound for the Embakasi Inland Container Depot in Nairobi.

Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina said the launch will be a trial run with the actual service expected to start in January next year.

Today, the President is expected to launch the passenger train service between Mombasa and Nairobi which will ferry 1,200 passengers daily both ways.

The cargo train, according to Mr Maina, will transport goods destined to Nairobi and its environs.

The Embakasi depot occupies 29 hectares of land and has a stacking yard with an annual capacity of more than 180,000, twenty-foot containers.

The Ksh22 billion facility will handle big volume of cargo and is expected to play a crucial role in the efficiency of the SGR.

The freight train is projected to haul more than 40 per cent of the 1.1 million 20 feet long containers passing through Mombasa port each year.

Speaking to the Nation by phone on Monday, Mr Maina said the ICD was almost complete.

“We could say construction is at 90 per cent and will be completed in the next few months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is expected to attend the inauguration of the railway to be officiated by President Kenyatta.

The ODM deputy party leader said he will point out the ills bedevilling the country to the President during the launch.

Mr Joho said the Jubilee government had inflated the cost of the SGR project by Sh100 billion in an attempt to siphon public funds.

“We want the President to tell us why they had to inflate the price for constructing of SGR by Sh100 billion despite the Grand Coalition government budgeting for the same project at Sh236 billion,” said Mr Joho.

Speaking in Siaya County, the county chief also said the opposition coalition’s plan to set up a parallel tallying centre is in top gear.

The Wednesday launch of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) linking Nairobi to the port city of Mombasa has sent ripples of excitement among Kenyans from all walks of life.(NMG)

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Uganda, DRC officials hold talks over lakes dispute

L-R.Ms Sophie Osoo Odharu Chief Administrator

L-R.Ms Sophie Osoo Odharu Chief Administrator of Mahagi Territory DRC, Mr Jeanne Pierre Masala Charge D' Affaires of DRC to Uganda Ambassador and Paul Mukumbya, Head of the East African Community (EAC) 

Kampala. A Ugandan government delegation is in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for talks over transboundary disputes and management of Lakes Albert and Edward in the Albertine region in South Western Uganda.

Lake Albert is shared in roughly equal parts by the two countries while DR Congo takes the biggest share of Lake Edward. The frontier area’s security is also undermined by the lawless nature of DRC’s eastern region where militias roam and Kinshasa’s grip is fragile.

The delegation led by Ambassador Paul Mukumbya, Head of the East African Community (EAC) and Ring States Department in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, left on Sunday. The delegation is also comprised of officials from the ministries of Water &Environment, Local Government and Agriculture (Department of Fisheries), Uganda Revenue Authority, and Office of the President.

The DR Congo Delegation which includes the counterparts of the Ugandan team is headed by the Charge D’Affaires at DRC embassy in Kampala, Ambassador Jean Pierre Masala.

In Uganda, the Albertine region covers areas in the Districts of Bushenyi, Rubirizi, Mitooma, Kanungu, Ibanda, Kiruhura, Kamwenge, Kasese, Rukungiri (in Edward Basin) and Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Hoima, Buliisa, Kibale, Kagadi, Masindi and Nebbi Districts (in Albert Basin).

In DR Congo, the Lake Edward is in the North Kivu Province and Lake Albert in the Ituri Province. The total population within the Albertine area is estimated to be about 12 million people. The head of public diplomacy in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Margaret Kafeero, said in a statement the meeting is partly facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the peace and security cluster.

Speaking at the opening of the meeing, Ambassador Mukumbya, said the meeting was a follow-up to the cross-border cooperation meeting of last year. (NMG)

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

S.Africa’s Zuma survives renewed calls to resign

South African ruling party ANC Secretary

South African ruling party ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, addresses the media at a press conference at the party headquarters, Chief Albert Luthuli House in Johannesburg on May 29, 2017. Zuma survived fresh calls within the ruling ANC party for him to resign. PHOTO|AFP 

Johannesburg. South African President Jacob Zuma survived fresh calls within the ruling ANC party for him to resign, party officials said Monday, as they acknowledged support was “drifting away” from the movement.

Senior figures in the African National Congress met over the weekend after Zuma endured months of criticism over his sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

“There was a call made in the national executive committee for the president to consider stepping down,” said ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

“A number of members were of the view that the ANC should listen to this call.”

Mantashe said that the meeting had not backed the resignation demands, and had instead discussed “the need to reconnect with sectors of society that are drifting away from the movement.”

A string of ANC allies have also urged Zuma to go, among them the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC).

Zuma has faced widespread public anger over a series of corruption scandals, record unemployment and a sluggish economy.

The crisis has seen two ratings agencies downgrade South Africa and brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets calling for Zuma’s ousting.

The ANC is due to elect Zuma’s successor as party leader in December, ahead of general elections in 2019.

The party -- which Nelson Mandela led to power in the 1994 post-apartheid elections -- has recently lost popularity, taking just 55 percent of the vote in last year’s local elections, its worst ever result.

A campaign group of anti-apartheid veterans said that Zuma loyalists had “shown they clearly place their own narrow political and financial self-interests above the best interests of the country.”

Zuma retains support from ANC members in many rural areas and has been able to rely on party lawmakers to survive votes of no confidence in parliament. (AFP)

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Kenya unveils first new railway in a century

Kenya unveils first new railway in a

Kenya unveils first new railway in a century.PHOTO|AFP 

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP |.More than a century after a colonial railway gave birth to modern Kenya, the country is betting on a new Chinese-built route to cement its position as the gateway to East Africa.

The $3.2 billion (2.8 billion euro) railway linking Nairobi with the port city of Mombasa will Wednesday take its first passengers on the 472 kilometre (293 mile) journey, allowing them to skip a hair-raising drive on one of Kenya's most dangerous highways.

The railway is the country's biggest infrastructure project since independence, and while it has courted controversy, it is a key selling point for the ruling Jubilee party ahead of August elections.

It is also part of a "master plan" by east African leaders to connect their nations by rail, with the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) planned to eventually link Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Ethiopia.

"There is no country which has ever developed without having a very robust railway system. It was long overdue," Kenya's Transport Minister James Macharia told AFP.

He said not upgrading the railway in over 100 years "has dragged us backwards in terms of development."

- The 'Lunatic Express' -

It was on May 30, 1896, that colonial Britain began building a railway from what is today Kenya's coast to improve access to the riches of Uganda, showing little interest in the wild land in between.

The railway, steeped in tales of swashbuckling colonial adventure and beloved by tourists up until its last, creaking journey in April, is credited with shaping Kenya into its current form.

The capital Nairobi, today a regional hub, was a swampy outpost with no particular attraction until it became the headquarters of Kenya Railways.

The construction of the railway is the stuff of legend, with British and Indian workers terrorised by a pair of lions said to have devoured some 135 men.

The train was later dubbed the "Lunatic Express".

- 'Bad negotiations' -

Some see a touch of folly in its successor too.

In as much as the old line traced the development of colonial Kenya, the new railway has proven a mirror for modern Kenya: dogged by corruption accusations, battling environmental concerns while trying to position itself as the gateway to east Africa.

The World Bank, and others, warned that building a new railway, instead of refurbishing the old one, was by far the most expensive option.

 

However, the government went ahead with the project, skipping an open tender to make a direct deal with China -- whose Export‑Import Bank has loaned Kenya 90 percent of the venture's cost.

"We should ask: 'Why did you negotiate this badly'?" said Kwame Owino, head of the Nairobi-based Institute of Economic Affairs.

He points to similar Chinese-built railways in Ethiopia, Tanzania and elsewhere on the continent which cost much less per kilometre.

Macharia dismisses this argument, saying Kenya's SGR could carry more cargo, and passes through trickier terrain.

He said the government expects the railway to boost GDP by 1.5 percent, allowing them to pay back the loan "in about four years".

"I think that is a little bit of wishful thinking," said Owino, questioning assumptions about the volume of cargo available to be carried, while warning high growth rates in east Africa were beginning to moderate.

He said the government, whose debt has doubled in three years, would be forced to raise taxes to cover the bill.

"My feeling as an economist is that it is going to be a white elephant, but as a taxpayer I hope not," said Owino.

Trucks currently take two days to carry goods from Mombasa to Nairobi, while the train will take eight hours. Passenger trains will take around five hours.

The railway will be managed by the Chinese contractor for five years, with 610 Chinese workers in charge, while Kenyans are trained to take over.

- Environmental woes -

The railway has also concerned environmentalists, as it cuts through a key wildlife migration route.

Ben Okita of Save The Elephants said that while underpasses have been built to allow elephants to cross, the creation of an embankment and fencing around the new railway was creating deadly confusion.

Previously one or two elephants were killed annually, but since 2016, 10 elephants have been hit on the old route.

"They are used to crossing the old line and then they get to the new railway line and they find the fence and they get confused, in the process they are hit by a train," said Okita.

The next leg of the SGR, to connect Nairobi with the Rift Valley town of Naivasha at a cost of $1.5 billion has also caused a furore as it will cut through the capital's iconic national park.

The government is currently negotiating the financing to link Naivasha to Kisumu near the Ugandan border, which Macharia says is expected to cost another $3.5 billion.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Raila cleared for fifth stab at the presidency



Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga 

By Citizen Correspondents @TheCitizenTZ news@tz.nationmedia.com

Nairobi. Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga (pictured) has been cleared by the Kenyan electoral agency to vie for the Presidency on August 8.

Mr Odinga and his running mate, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, presented their papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) yesterday at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

Yesterday’s clearence meant the race for the country’s top Job was earnestly on, with Mr Odinga expected to offer stiff challenge to the incumbent, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.

The National Super Alliance (Nasa) leaders had earlier attended church service at All Saints Cathedral.

It is an apparent search for divine intervention ahead of an election Mr Odinga will be seeking to be Kenya’s president, for the last time.

The leaders, Mr Odinga, his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, all attended the service led by Anglican Church of Kenya Provost Sammy Wainaina.

The five leaders who seek to unseat the Jubilee administration in the August 8 elections will then walk towards KICC where Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka’s papers will be checked by IEBC team led by Chairman Wafula Chebukati.

The choice of the Cathedral, an iconic structure built in the early 20th century, is symbolic because the Church is celebrating 100 years of the Cathedral.

Rev Wainaina, before the service, circulated a bulletin to his congregation in which he called for a “proactive” government in dealing with national challenges.

“Corruption has been with us since the inception of our nation; subsequent governments have not been able to slay this economic dragon. We must change the narrative for a better tomorrow,” he argued in the dispatch.

The cleric spoke widely on economic issues, praising efforts by the national government to improve on living standards through infrastructure development.

“As we embolden the government to spread wide its plan to build Kenya and fast track her economic development, it is worth noting the need for the same government to be proactive rather than reactionary in addressing basic needs of her citizens.

“The recent unga debacle could have been avoided if necessary government institutions were proactive.

“The infrastructural developments are good but so long as the common Kenyan cannot meet the basic needs of housing, food, education and health, our priorities are misplaced,” he said.

Erected in 1917, the imposing building along Kenyatta Avenue is made up of concrete walls but has been modified to suit modern times with the installation of TV screens, audio amplifiers and lighting.

Furthermore, Alliance for Real Change (ARC) presidential candidate Abduba Dida was on Sunday cleared to contest for the Presidency, hours after he had been dealt a blow on by the electoral agency in his bid to be Kenya’s president.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had refused to accept Mr Dida’s nomination papers to vie for the Presidency on account that he had failed to present certified copies of his degree and that of his running mate.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Angolan apartheid troops battle to survive in S.Africa

Jose Lourenco, a former Angolan soldier, points

Jose Lourenco, a former Angolan soldier, points at a picture of him taken during Apartheid, on February 13, 2017 in the desert town of Pomfret, close to the Botswana border on the edge of the Kalahari desert in the North West province of SA. Photo: AFP 

Pomfret, South Africa | AFP |.Angolan soldiers recruited by South Africa's apartheid government to fight against their homeland now live in squalor, forgotten and unwanted.

Without healthcare, jobs or basic services, some 3,000 Angolan-born men call home the town of Pomfret in a far-flung northern corner of South Africa on the edge of the Kalahari Desert.

Dilapidated buildings crumble by the side of the town's sun-baked main road, water and power are cut off, and the asbestos factory that once sustained the region was abandoned long ago.

Former soldier Jose Lourenco, 69, a black Angolan, pointed to yellowing photos of "32 Battalion" -- his elite and much-feared South African unit -- in action in Angola against communist government forces.

"We didn't fear anyone, we were the best unit in the world," he said in his shabby home, one of the few still standing in the town.

In the 1980s, while still living in Angola, he joined the apartheid-era unit that had been formed to fight communism across southern Africa, including in Namibia and Zambia.

It was a cause that meant taking up arms against his mother country, but Lourenco remembers that time with pride, saying he fought in a close-knit, professional unit that won great battlefield honours.

Souvenirs of those years cover the walls and a sniper rifle rests on his dining table "to hunt birds".

A television sits unused in the corner, covered in a white sheet -- a reminder that Pomfret is cut off from the rest of the rainbow nation.

- 'Why are they punishing us?' -

"The government should tell us what we did wrong? Why are they punishing us like this?" he said, speaking in Angolan Portuguese.

"There was no apartheid in 32 Battalion. Where the whites drank, we drank, where the whites slept, we slept," said Lourenco as he gestured to the unit's uniform patches, emblazoned with a stylised black and white buffalo.

When the Cold War ended and as Pretoria ceased its shadowy regional wars against supposed communist threats, 32 Battalion was relocated to Pomfret with the promise that its members would be integrated into the regular South African army.

Life was initially good in the extreme northern outpost.

The town had its own public swimming pool, tennis courts and a large, well-stocked supermarket. Despite its remote location, the community functioned well.

"Here there was a club where the senior men partied. There was even a ballroom," said Makamba Tchimoco, the son of a former battalion member, pointing to a derelict complex of buildings.

 

- Disbanded -

But the whirlwind political change of the 1990s swept away the white-minority government, brought Nelson Mandela's ANC to power and shattered the town's sheltered existence.

The battalion was disbanded in 1993 and a number of the soldiers left Pomfret along with their families.

Many of the men of Angolan heritage waived their right to be incorporated into the reformed army in return for a significant cash handout worth $32,000 (30,000 euros) in today's terms.

Gradually families who had contributed to the small community began to drift away and the town started its slide into decline.

By the 2000s, the government signalled its intention to close the base in Pomfret and to relocate the remaining families. But a hard core of ex-servicemen refused to budge.

"We arrived here with many promises. Then the new government wanted us to go, leaving us without a future. Why should we leave our homes?" asked Lourenco.

The police service left the town, homes were ransacked and the hospital was trashed.

The modest graveyard, which stood as a reminder to the men of 32 Battalion lost in South Africa's "border wars", became overgrown.

- 'Staying is useless' -

Finally in 2014, authorities cut the power to the town. Water is only supplied once a week.

"The biggest challenge for Pomfret is that it's 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the first city," said a white South African, who served in 32 Battalion and now helps Pomfret's remaining residents.

"There's no economy," he said, declining to be named. "Most of the shops have closed and buildings have been destroyed to prevent people from staying there."

Just one school remains open to serve the entire town, educating students up to the age of 18.

Antonio Isaac, an 18-year-old relative of a 32 Battalion fighter, said: "Staying here is useless for me. It's not a good place; after school, I will go."

Many of those who opted to remain feel stranded between South Africa, where their service is scorned, and Angola, where they are seen as traitors.

"Angolans say we killed them. The ANC here think that we killed their fighters," said Alexander Joaquim, a 74-year-old veteran of 32 Battalion. "What are we supposed to do?"

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Let’s close ranks, Raila tells ODM party primary losers

The National Super Alliance presidential

The National Super Alliance presidential candidate Raila Odinga yesterday reached out to those who lost in the ODM party primaries. PHOTO | FILE 

Nairobi. The National Super Alliance presidential candidate Raila Odinga yesterday reached out to those who lost in the ODM party primaries.

He asked them to be patient and not rock the party from within but focus on delivering the presidency.

Mr Odinga told those who lost that they would be considered for jobs in the national government if Nasa wins the election and if the current Nairobi governor, Dr Evans Kidero, is re-elected.

“I know they are many who are aggrieved. We will rectify all the mistakes made during the primaries. Let us aim for the top job. Let us come together and forget what has happened,” Mr Odinga told the party’s Nairobi aspirants at Charter Hall.

The Nasa flag-bearer blamed the dissenting voices coming from the nominations on Jubilee Party for “forcing on the people a draconian party hopping law” that stopped aggrieved aspirants from moving to other parties.

“This battle has been caused by Jubilee because of fear of losing members during the nominations.

“They brought forth a Bill in Parliament blocking those defeated or short changed in the process from going to other parties,” he said.

He claimed the refusal by the government to give parties funds to conduct their primaries properly played a big role in the challenges and cases arising from the exercise.

He said ODM was overwhelmed with the exercise as they had to print ballot boxes, get presiding and returning officers, county coordinators and other staff, and also train their staff just like in the main election but on meagre resources.

“We only had slightly over Sh200 million collected from aspirants’ deposits to conduct the nominations yet IEBC has been given Sh40 billion to conduct the General Election, which is more or less similar to the nominations,” he said.

The ODM party leader defended Dr Kidero’s record in the city and placed blame on the national government, which he accused of frustrating the devolved units by giving them less funds and failing to pay back debts they owed counties.

He dismissed the candidacy of Mike Sonko and Polycarp Igathe, saying residents of Nairobi were not ready for “actors” but wanted a governor who understood devolution.

Meanwhile, Nasa has unveiled a team to steer its presidential campaigns. ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi will chair the National Campaign Committee (Nacaco) that will unleash a multi-pronged strategy to win the polls. (NMG)

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Monday, May 22, 2017

UN decries rise of food insecurity in South Sudan

Juba. The UN on Saturday sounded alarm over the spreading food insecurity and malnutrition across South Sudan amid protection crisis.

Guiomar Pau Sole, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Xinhua that the most critical sectors for the famine response are not only food security and livelihoods, but also nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and protection.

“Beyond the 100,000 people affected by famine, we are deeply alarmed by the protection crisis and spreading food insecurity and malnutrition across the country. We still need nearly 900 million U.S. dollars to tackle famine and the other live-saving needs across the country,” Sole said. Sole added that since localized famine was declared on Feb. 20 in Leer and Mayendit counties in Unity, humanitarian agencies have scaled up their response in a variety of key sectors.

General food distributions have reached more than 320,000 people in 15 locations in Koch, Mayendit, Leer and Panyijiar counties, and rapid response missions have been carried out in at least 17 locations.

However, the UN official regretted that the humanitarian workers in this country are always under attack from the warring factions especially in the northern Unity state.

“We continue to be hampered by conflict, insecurity and access challenges. All parties to the conflict must ensure that the operating environment is conducive to the delivery of aid by ensuring free, safe and unhindered access to all areas, especially to avert the spread of famine,” Sole disclosed.

The UN estimates that about 82 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the onset of the December 2013 conflict.

Humanitarian agencies have faced repeated challenges to reach people in dire need in famine-affected and at-risk areas as a result of clashes, insecurity and access denials, she explained. (Xinhua)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Xi says China willing to boost bilateral relations with Kenya

Chinese President Xi Jinping (top R) and Kenyan

Chinese President Xi Jinping (top R) and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (top L) attend a signing ceremony after their bilateral meeting during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 15, 2017. photo | xinhua 

Beijing. President Xi Jinping said Monday that China is willing to work with Kenya to push forward bilateral ties.

Xi made the remarks when meeting with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, who attended the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that concluded Monday.

Xi said the comprehensive cooperative partnership between China and Kenya has developed rapidly in recent years, and the bilateral ties are at their best time in history.

Kenya is one of the pilot nations in China-Africa cooperation on industrial capacity and plays a leading and model role in China-Africa cooperation, Xi said.

He proposed that China-Kenya ties be upgraded to comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, calling on the two sides to view bilateral ties strategically.

The two sides should keep their high-level exchanges, and continue to support each other on issues related to core interests and major concerns, Xi said.

Via the construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway, the two sides should build a corridor of industrial economy and jointly forge a new pattern of cooperation integrating the railway, Mombasa port and Mombasa special economic zone, Xi said.

He said the two nations should strengthen cooperation on people-to-people exchanges and advance the program of Chinese culture center. He also called for deepened cooperation on peace and security issues and the judiciary, to deal with transnational crimes.

The two sides should increase communication and coordination in international and regional affairs, Xi added.

For his part, Kenyatta said the forum had demonstrated to the world the tangible fruits of the Belt and Road Initiative, providing a historic platform for developing and developed nations to discuss cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit.

Kenya is willing to actively participate in the Belt and Road development and boost cooperation in such areas as trade, investment, energy, tourism and infrastructure, he said, He added that Kenya wants to strengthen coordination and cooperation with China on issues related to African peace and development, and develop a strong Kenya-China comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and robust Africa-China relations.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also met with Kenyatta Monday, saying China is willing to better dovetail its development strategy. (Xinhua)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ivory Coast rebel troops say mutiny over after govt deal

Mutinous soldiers hold an RPG rocket launcher

Mutinous soldiers hold an RPG rocket launcher inside a military camp in Ivory Coast’s central second city Bouake, on May 15, 2017. PHOTO | AFP 

Bouaké. Rebel troops in Ivory Coast on Tuesday said they were ending a four-day mutiny after coming to an agreement with the government over a pay dispute.

“We have found a basis for agreement. We are returning to barracks,” Sergeant Cisse Fousseni told AFP as others said all their demands had been met.

The government offered an immediate payment of five million CFA francs and an extra two million to be paid next month, source among the mutineers said.

Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi announced late Monday that an agreement had been struck with the mutineers, but disgruntled troops had continued to fire their weapons into the air in a display of scepticism.

The four-day mutiny, which spread to barracks across the west African nation, was the latest in a string of protests by angry troops, most of them former rebels who had been integrated into the army.

After a mutiny in January, the government agreed to pay the ex-rebels bonuses of 12 million CFA francs each.

They were given a partial payment of five million francs and the remainder had been due to be paid this month, with the soldiers’ protest resuming when it wasn’t. Heavy gunfire rang out Monday in Ivory Coast’s two biggest cities as a four-day mutiny by disgruntled soldiers spread nationwide but the government claimed a deal to end the crisis had been reached.

Banks, offices and department stores closed in the heart of the economic capital, Abidjan, as shots were fired in San Pedro, the second biggest port in the world’s top cocoa-producing nation.

Border posts closed, halting road traffic to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, while Ivory Coast’s second biggest city, Bouake, was under the control of mutinous soldiers.

The mutiny is the latest in a series of armed protests since January in the West African country, with troops angered by a wage dispute with President Alassane Ouattara’s government. “This is not a coup. We want our bonuses. The president signed a paper saying he agreed with our bonuses. When he pays up, we’ll go home,” said a spokesman for troops at Bouake barracks, the centre of the latest protest.

“We’ll fight to the end. We won’t lay down arms,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity from the city where the protest movement began earlier this year. “8,500 of us brought Ouattara to power, we don’t want him to leave but he’s got to keep his word. (AFP)

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I don’t want opposition in parliament, says Museveni

In an effort to secure another parliamentary

In an effort to secure another parliamentary seat in Busoga sub-region, President Museveni has again hit the campaign trail. photo | FILE 

Jinja. In an effort to secure another parliamentary seat in Busoga sub-region, President Museveni has again hit the campaign trail, this time expressing his dislike against people he believes will stand in his way once elected to the House.

Addressing a rally at Bulugo Primary School in Buyengo Sub-County, Jinja District, last evening , Mr Museveni said should the electorate blunder and vote for opposition whom he said he doesn’t want in parliament, they will be the ultimate losers.

He said: “I am tired of wars. I want you to vote for pro-NRM members of parliament like our party flag-bearer, Mr Moses Walyomu.”

He continued: “I don’t want to go back to the bush to fight again. Don’t send me people who will disagree with me in parliament. I fought in 1986 and I am tired.” According to Mr Museveni, people vying for legislative position should bear allegiance to his ruling NRM party if development is to be fostered.

He said as the reigning President he deserves to work with like-minded people who will not trouble him and his developmental agenda for the country. He said people who are not of his party fear to discuss with him matters that are pertinent to the development of the country. And for that to be avoided, he will need Members of Parliament who share his ideals and vision for the country.

He threatened that should Kagoma voters vote for an opposition candidate, their wish for good roads and other crucial utilities such as power will be no more.

Days before the Kamuli Municipality parliamentary by-election was held last month, President Museveni pitched camp in Busoga sub-region to among other things campaign for the NRM candidate, Ms Rehema Watongola.

His involvement boosted the chances of the NRM flag-bearer who went on to clinch the Kamuli parliamentary seat after facing off with Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate, Ms Salaamu Musumba.

Also in town for the same mission—to ensure victory for the FDC candidate, is President Museveni’s political rival, Dr Kiiza Besigye.

The former FDC presidential candidate who has since challenged President Museveni for the top seat in the last four elections was part of the party bigwigs combing votes for the flag-bearer, Mr Timothy Batuwa Lusala. (NMG)

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hydropower Congress opens talks in Ethopia

The opening session of the 2017 World

The opening session of the 2017 World hydropower Congress in Addis Ababa, May 9, 2017. PHOTO | NMG 

Addis Ababa. The World Hydropower Congress opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia yesterday morning discussing how Africa can learn from the rest of the world and utilizes its hydropower potential effectively to meet its energy starving people.

Representatives from different countries including China, Taiwan, Russia, among others have shared their experience this morning following the official opening of the congress opened by the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia.

“Through this meeting we hope to rich consensus for hydropower development in Africa… Financing marketing and construction are the bottlenecks for developing huge Africa’s hydropower potential. We can construct transmission lines which covers thousands of miles. Through multinational support and global financing,” said Zhou Yuanbing, Deputy Director of China’s Economic and Technical Research Center.

Reports show that out of the total of around 1.2 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity, half of them live in Africa.

“When we meet every two year for this important conference, we challenge each other to find solutions for a better hydropower development and interconnection of the world,” said Ken Adams, President of International Hydropower Association.

According to the Acting Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa for Africa (UNECA), Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, and Africa should take cautious approaches while undertake hydropower development giving special attention to the social and environmental impact.

“Addressing the energy infrastructure gap is considered as one of the priorities of many African governments, development partners and other relevant African institutions.

However, it is equally important to guard against negative impacts of hydropower development and to pay close attention to climate resilience and social inclusion,” he said, mentioning evidences of such problems from experiences of Zambia and Mozambique.

With a total installed capacity of 34 gigawatts, hydropower currently provides the largest contribution of any renewable energy source in Africa.

The organizers of the conference stated that in the coming days the conference will among others emphasize environmental and social aspects during project planning and implementation stages “to better hydro in the age when resources management is more important than ever”.

The high cost for development of hydropower in Africa is also mentioned as the major challenge why the continent hasn’t fully utilized its hydropower potential. (NMG)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Jubilee party aspirants head for nominations

Jubilee Party secretary-general Raphael Tuju

Jubilee Party secretary-general Raphael Tuju addressing the media at Jubilee House in Pangani on March 24, 2017. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Nairobi. Jubilee Party aspirants in Nairobi go to nominations today, with those running for governor having failed to reach a deal on how to share seats.

Meetings between the presidency and leading contenders Mike Sonko and Peter Kenneth bore no fruit and it was finally decided voters will have to make their decision.

The decision to postpone the polls from Friday to Monday was meant to buy time so that a boardroom deal could be reached between the two.

Investigations by Nation showed that the president’s men were divided between the two candidates, while those of the Deputy President were firmly on the voters having the final call.

Pulling the strings were the moneyed Mt Kenya tycoons who were keen to have someone they can call upon at City Hall as the 2022 succession politics came into play.

“The moneyed Mt Kenya tycoons feel with election of Kenneth in Nairobi, he will be in prime position as far as Uhuru succession is concerned, something DP Ruto handlers are not keen on,” said an insider involved in the political machinations.

The most interesting part was that Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, who is also running for governor, was not at the centre of the talks and she went on with her campaigns oblivious of intense negotiations that were going on. She scoffed at suggestions that Team Nairobi that included her, Mr Johnson Sakaja, Mr Sonko and Mr Dennis Waweru, was an attempt to clip the wings of Mr Kenneth.

“I wonder, does he have any wings. No body is trying to clip him, if Nairobi has rejected him that’s the case,” she said.

She added she was not part of negotiations between Sonko and Kenneth.

“Nobody has called me for night or day meetings. I have been campaigning. If you are not invited for a meeting then you don’t attend. There have been so many rumours and I don’t have time for them.” (NMG)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Uganda delays oil, minerals production over disputes

President Museveni speaks to delegates on

President Museveni speaks to delegates on Saturday afternoon the 6th edition of Tana high-level Forum on Security in Africa. At a resort built along the Lake Tana - Bahir dar City, Ethiopia. PHOTO | NMG 

Bahir Dar. Uganda’s government disagreement with international companies has delayed the country from starting production of oil and its minerals resources, President Museveni said.

“We found petroleum 12 years ago. But we haven’t exploited it. I don’t agree with those companies. I say the petroleum stay there until we agree,” President Yoweri Museveni said.

He made the comment on Saturday afternoon speaking at the 6th Tana High-Level Security Forum in Africa being held in Ethiopia. The president also mentioned the reasons on why Uganda has not started producing uranium, gold and iron. “Our iron ore deposit in the soil is one of the finest in the world - 70% pure (iron).

An Indian company gave us 38 dollars per ton to take the soil and process in India. But I didn’t agree because when steal prices are high they get up to 900 dollars for a ton. ” the president said.

“We also have uranium but I don’t allow anyone to take it. When they asked me to I said no. The uranium stays in the ground until we start our own nuclear station,” President Museveni said.

Best practices:

Explaining his government’s stand, “We can’t afford to keep them for years like President Museveni said,” Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia whose, country is planning to start gas production from Ogaden area of eastern Ethiopia, said. “We have to harness these natural resources effectively in a way that can benefit people of Africa and transform the African economy. We have to admit that there are best practices to follow. “I believe countries like Canada, Australia and Norway have best practices from whom we can emulate. We have relations with these countries. I don’t accept the notion that the West is always bad.

There is possibility that we can learn. We should be transparent,” the premier said.

He further noted that many African countries have not benefiting from the mining contracts they signed. “ I recently asked at the G7 meeting how they can assist us to build the capacities of African countries to understand the complex mining contracts before signing them with the multinational companies,” Hailemariam said, posing the same question to the Canadian who was participating in the Tana Forum from whom he later got a businesscard.(NMG)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

US Secretary of Defense Mattis visits Djibouti

US Defence Secretary James Mattis prepares to

US Defence Secretary James Mattis prepares to shake hands with an airman prior to boarding a US Air Force C-17 plane en route to visit a US military base in Djibouti, in the Qatari capital Doha on April 23, 2017. PHOTO | AFP 

Djibouti. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived Sunday for a short visit to Djibouti, a strategically important country on the Horn of Africa which hosts the United States’ only permanent military base on the African continent.

Camp Lemonnier, home to some 4,000 US soldiers and contractors, is vital to US military operations in Somalia against militant groups like Al-Shabaab, and also provides support for US operations in Yemen, where special forces regularly carry out drone strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

China is also in the process of establishing its first overseas military base in the small port country just a few miles from the US camp, which has raised concern in Washington.

Mattis is scheduled to meet with Djibouti’s president, Ismael Omar Guelleh, during his trip as well as with General Thomas Waldhauser, commander of US troops in Africa.

“For (the defense department) Camp Lemonnier and Chabelley are critical in terms of logistics. They support multiple US combat command”, a senior defense official said, referring to an airfield close to the camp, from which the US military operates drones.

Another senior defense official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, also played down any concerns about China’s base construction.

“At this point I don’t see why we should not be able to comfortably coexist with the Chinese presence, the way we do with the Japanese, the French...” the official told reporters last week.

However, Waldhauser assured the US Senate’s armed forces committee in March that he had spoken to Guelleh “and expressed our concerns about some of the things that are important to us about what the Chinese may or may not do”.

With a population of 875,000 people, Djibouti lies on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

The former French colony has launched major infrastructure projects aimed at turning it into a regional hub for trade and services, using money largely borrowed from China.

China has said it wants the base to support its UN peacekeepers in Africa, allow it to evacuate its nationals in a crisis, and to support its anti-piracy activities off Somalia. (AFP)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Enthusiastic crowd gives Uhuru a warm reception in Kisumu

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto address Ruaka residents on April 15, 2017. The president has denied endorsing Peter Kenneth for Nairobi governor. PHOTO | NMG 

Kisumu. President Uhuru Kenyatta was on Tuesday accorded a warm reception in Kisumu, the home turf of ODM leader Raila Odinga.

An enthusiastic crowd along Oginga Odinga Street stopped the President’s motorcade as it made its way from Kisumu International Airport and demanded he address them.

The President underscored the need for democracy and said all Kenyans were at liberty to vote for whoever they wanted.

“Kenyans have a right to elect whoever they want. Whether you are a Luo, Kamba or Kikuyu, you are free to vote for the leader you want.

“We are one nation and peace is the most important. My message to the youth is not to allow yourselves to be misused by politicians. Do not fight because of a politician. If they want you to fight one another, reject their calls and preach peace,” he said.

The Head of State said politicians must convince the people to elect them through their acts and deeds and not by spreading hate. He said he is in Kisumu for the National Drama festivals gala and promised to return to the region.

President Kenyatta arrived at Kisumu International Airport shortly after 11am and was received by Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario, Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, Jubilee-nominated Senator Joy Gwendo and Karachuonyo MP James Rege.

Fourteen teams from pre-primary, primary, secondary, teachers’ training colleges and universities will stage their theatrical pieces to the President during the gala at the Kisumu State Lodge. On Wednesday, the President will visit Luanda Market in Vihiga County to commission a street lighting project.

According to State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu, the President will also review a number of other development projects in Luanda and Emuhaya constituencies.

Yesterday President Uhuru Kenyatta denied endorsing Jubilee Party Nairobi governor aspirant Peter Kenneth for the top city job. In a statement, the party said the Head of State has pledged to remain neutral.

“Our attention has been drawn to media reports suggesting that His Excellency the President, in his role as the leader of the Jubilee Party, has indicated support for a candidate in the Nairobi gubernatorial race.” (NMG)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

South Sudanese rebels call on world to probe genocide

General Alfred Ladu Gore (C), deputy chairman

General Alfred Ladu Gore (C), deputy chairman and deputy commander-in-chief of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), arrives at the Juba international airport on April 12, 2016. Accompanied by a delegation of 61 members of the leadership of the SPLM/SPLA (IO).PHOTO|FILE 

Juba. South Sudanese rebel factions on Tuesday called on the international community to investigate what they term as targeted killings along ethnic lines nearing genocide in the war-torn country.

The SPLA-in opposition (SPLA-IO), Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement - Former Detainees (FDs), National Democratic Movement (NDM), People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC) and National Salvation Front (NAS) said in a joint statement that genocide was being orchestrated by the government as the region and international community kept quiet.

“We urge the region and the international community to urgently investigate, document, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of recent genocide in Wanduruba, Yei, Lainya, Pajok and Kajokeji in Equatoria, Wau in Bahr el-Ghazal, and in all of Upper Nile before appropriate courts or tribunals,” they said.”

As this murderous campaign unfolds, the region and the broader international community, for the most part, has stood by, excused the aggressor and justified the inaction of the world on the intransigence of the perpetrator,” they added.

The rebels also said the tribal killings underway were reminiscent of the December 2013 fighting that resulted into the killings of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic people, to which former Vice President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir belong respectively.

However, President Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny has denied SPLA troops were orchestrating killings along tribal lines.

He added the government can not commit genocide against its people. “The government cannot commit, implement genocide against South Sudanese. The state apparatus can not be used against a particular tribe,” he said.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, as political disputes between President Kiir and his former deputy Machar caused fighting to spread along ethnic lines.The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions of others from their homes, according to the UN. (Xinhua)

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Bodies of Kenyan aid workers killed in S. Sudan arrive home

South Sudan President SalvaKiir. The employees

South Sudan President SalvaKiir. The employees of Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organisation (Gredo), a non-governmental organisation funded by Unicef, were ambushed while travelling from Juba. PHOTO|FILE 

Nairobi. There were emotional scenes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Saturday as family and friends received bodies of three Kenyan aid workers killed in South Sudan a week ago.

The employees of Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organisation (Gredo), a non-governmental organisation funded by Unicef, were ambushed while travelling from Juba to Pibor, a town in the Eastern part of South Sudan last month.

The three bodies of the aid workers arrived at JKIA at 1pm after a requiem mass at Tearfund near Juba hospital.

Among those who received the bodies included Gredo Programme Director Jaffar Mbugua.

Mr Mbugua told the Sunday Nation that the three Kenyans; Samsom Mbugua Chege, David Wainaina Mbugua and Joseph Wanjau Njaaga, had just left the country to be employed in the organisation.

“We moved in a convoy from Juba to Pibor, a town in the Eastern part of South Sudan where they were killed,” he said.

The Kenyans were among six aid workers who were ambushed and killed by unknown gunmen in South Sudan last week. The body of the fourth Kenyan killed in the attack, Sunday Nation learnt, would be brought to the country by road.

Ms Ann Nyokabi Karanja, a cousin to Mr Mbugua, said that she was living with him in South Sudan before she returned to the country recently. When he came back last December, he said that he had been offered another job by GREDO and left the country in February.

Last Saturday, he had called the family and told them that he would be flying to a town called Pibor but they later learned they went by road.

She added that her cousin had lived in Southern Sudan for nine years.Mr Kimani Mbugua lost his brother, Mr Chege, who was contracted by the NGO as an English teacher in the war- torn nation.

Mr Kimani said that he had called to tell them that he was travelling from Juba to a town called Pibor. That was the last time they heard from him.

On Monday, they got a call from the NGO to confirm that he was among the four who had died. According to UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), incident presented the highest number of aid workers killed since December 2013 . (NMG)

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dar entrepreneurs to benefit from EIB’s Sh210bn credit

Equity Group managing director and chief

Equity Group managing director and chief executive officer Dr James Mwangi (centre) speaks during the signing of a new credit line from European Investment Bank for SMEs within East-Africa at Raddison Blu, Nairobi. Looking on are Pim van Ballekom who is Vice President of European Investment Bank and Equity Bank Company Secretary Mary Wamae. PHOTO|THE CITIZEN CORRESPONDEN 

Nairobi. The European Investment Bank has signed two new credit lines for East-Africa for a total of 95 million Euros (about Sh109 billion) to be made available through Equity Bank and HFC Limited to support smaller local projects in Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda.

EIB Vice President Pim van Ballekom, responsible for operations in East Africa, said the credit lines signed will not only benefit people in Kenya, but are meant for people in neighbouring countries as well.

He said the EIB is committed to supporting Kenyan Banks in providing credit to the young and growing population in the region adding that Kenya is increasingly becoming a hub for the region on many levels and we as a Bank must look at this from a very basic point of view : there is a young and growing population with enormous potential, you need credit to support that momentum.”

He said the EIB signed a 75 million Euros (Sh165 billion) credit line with Equity Bank, under which funds are earmarked for three subsidiaries; 36 million Euros (Sh80 billion) for Equity Tanzania, 20 million Euros (Sh44 billion) for Procredit DRC and 19 million Euros (Sh41.8 billion) available through Equity Uganda.

On-lending will be available in US dollar or local currencies with the objective of contributing to job creation and poverty reduction and in In addition, Equity Group will benefit from a 2 million Euros (Sh4.8bn) technical assistance program funded by the EIB to support its strategy of transforming branches into SME business centres.

Equity Group managing director & chief executive officer Dr James Mwangi said ‘With this facility of 75 million Euros we will be in a position to support up to 1000 regional companies with an average loan of nearly Ksh10 million (about Tsh200 million) each thus assisting develop local entrepreneurs to compete at regional level furthering integration and cross border trade.”

Next to this, a 20 million Euros credit line under the EIB’s East and Central Africa Private Enterprise Finance facility was signed with HFC Limited. This line will help HFC in providing the much needed longer term financing to private enterprises and commercially operated public sector entities in productive sectors in Kenya, in line with EU and national development priorities.

In addition, HFC will benefit from EIB funded technical assistance plan aimed at strengthening capacity as per its strategy.

“I am proud to note that the success of the initial funding by EIB, has now brought more opportunities and we are happy to be recipients of another 20 million Euros, which is undoubtedly, an endorsement of the impact HFC is having on the SME sector. This new funding will be channelled towards financing the working capital and expansion of our growing SME customer base.” said Sam Waweru, HFC Managing Director.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Kenya launches gold-backed Exchange Traded Fund



President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta 

Nairobi. Kenya on Monday launched a gold-backed Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), a first of its kind in East Africa.

Principal Secretary in the National Treasury Kamau Thugge told journalists that the NewGold ETF will be traded at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).

“The Kenya shilling ETF will be traded in the same manner as a normal equity security and will be subject to similar tax treatment,” Thugge said.

The securities instrument will enable investors to invest in an instrument that tracks the price of Gold Bullion, he added. (NMG)

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Odinga promises to address the two-thirds gender rule

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga addresses party women aspirants at the Multimedia University, Nairobi. PHOTO | NMG 

Nairobi. Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga on Monday reached out to women, promising that the National Super Alliance (Nasa) will rally Kenyans to address gaps in the Constitution that have frustrated those among them seeking elective positions.

Addressing ODM women aspirants at the Multimedia University, Nairobi, Mr Odinga said women and other vulnerable groups have been unable to fairly compete with their male counterparts as the Constitution envisaged due to failure by President Uhuru Kenyatta to uphold the two-thirds gender rule.

He said Nasa would revive debate on provisions that safeguard the interests of women in the original draft constitution, commonly referred to as the “Bomas draft”, which was updated to the current Constitution.

“After we win the election in August, we will revisit that provision on two-thirds gender rule,” said Mr Odinga. “The issue of Jubilee saying there are more women than men and they can vote for one of their own is foolhardy.”

Mr Odinga said there were many factors that had left women seeking leadership positions a disadvantaged lot and they had little to do with their numbers as they include historical, cultural and ethnic biases.

He said Kenya can borrow success lessons from countries such as South Africa, Rwanda, Germany, Norway, and Sweden, which have women occupying senior positions without being viewed as lesser beings.

“Women are at the centre of our agenda for inclusion as opposed to exclusion,” Mr Odinga said. “Society can’t grow if more than 50 per cent of its population are neglected.”

Citing the NYS scandal, he accused the Jubilee administration of focusing on cutting deals to an extent of giving tenders meant for disadvantaged Kenyans to wealthy people. He lamented that, of all governor, senator, MP and MCA candidates in 2013, women made up only six per cent, or 775 out of 12,488. (NMG)

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Celebrated anti-apartheid icon Kathrada dies aged 87

82-year-old Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid

82-year-old Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid activist and close friend of former South African President Nelson Mandela, poses next to a picture of himself with Nelson Mandela in his house in Johannesburg. PHOTO | AFP 

Johannesburg. Celebrated South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, a Robben Island prisoner and one of Nelson Mandela’s closest colleagues in the struggle against white rule, died early Tuesday aged 87.

Kathrada was among those tried and jailed alongside Mandela in the Rivonia trial in 1964, which drew worldwide attention to the brutalities of the apartheid regime.

He died in hospital in Johannesburg after a short illness following brain surgery, his charity foundation said. Kathrada spent 26 years and three months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island, the notorious jail off the coast of Cape Town. After the end of apartheid, he served from 1994 to 1999 as parliamentary counsellor to President Mandela in the first African National Congress (ANC) government.

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu described Kathrada as “a man of remarkable gentleness, modesty and steadfastness,” hailing him a moral leader of the anti-apartheid movement. “These were people of the highest integrity and moral fibre who, through their humility and humanity, inspired our collective self-worth - and the world’s confidence in us,” Tutu said in a statement. Kathrada’s activism against white-minority apartheid rule started at the age of 17, when he was one of 2,000 “passive resisters” arrested in 1946 for defying laws that discriminated against Indian South Africans. The ANC party was banned in 1960, and two years later Kathrada was placed under “house arrest”. Soon afterwards, he went underground to continue the struggle as a member of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. In July 1963, the police swooped on Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb, where Kathrada and other senior activists had been meeting in secret. At the famous Rivonia trial, eight of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour on Robben Island. His fellow prisoners included Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Denis Goldberg. “The nation has lost a titan, an outstanding leader and a great patriot,” the ANC said in a tribute to Kathrada on Tuesday.

“His life is a lesson in humility, tolerance, resilience and a steadfast commitment to principle. “Uncle Kathy, despite disagreement with the ANC leadership from time to time, never abandoned nor turned his back on the ANC.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation lauded him as “the embodiment of promise” during the apartheid years, saying Kathrada was “a comrade, associate and close friend of Nelson Mandela’s through seven decades.”(AFP)

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Monday, March 27, 2017

EA considers trust fund for reconstruction of Somalia

Somaliaís President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

Somaliaís President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (L) shakes hands with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta on March 23, 2017 at the State house in Nairobi during a meeting to discuss, among other issues, security, trade and investment. PHOTO |FILE 

Nairobi. A regional summit on refugee situation in Somalia on Saturday proposed the establishment of a trust fund to help the reconstruction of the Horn of Africa nation.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who hosted the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Summit on Somalia said mobilization of financial resources is a crucial component in the re-building of social and economic infrastructure in Somalia.

“In this regard, I propose the establishment of a Trust Fund for the reconstruction of Somalia under the auspices of IGAD,” Kenyatta told leaders from Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia. He told international humanitarian agencies to relocate back to Somalia as the Horn of Africa nation embarks on reconstruction path.

Kenyatta said the trust fund would mobilize resources for the provision of adequate housing, education facilities, healthcare centres and livelihood activities among others.

“I urge international community to join us in this initiative. Now that Somalia is stabilizing we must, all, stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” he said.

Kenya hosted IGAD summit that brought together Eastern African heads of state to discuss the situation of Somali refugees in the region, as the threat of pervasive drought and food insecurity in Somalia looms.

The East African nation’s role as host is marred by its continued insistence on closing Dadaab refugee camp, host to over 300,000 Somali refugees, by May.

Kenyatta said the remittances from Somalia’s Diaspora can be tapped as part of a framework for rebuilding.

“We are informed by the World Bank that in 2015, Somalia received 1.4 billion U.S. dollars in remittances, which is almost a quarter of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” he said.

The Kenyan leader told the summit that there is also an available solution in the utilization of accelerated resettlement to third countries, as stipulated in the 1951 Refugee Convention. “It is my hope that partner countries will open their doors to increase their resettlement quarter for Somali refugees,” he said.

(Xinhua)

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Monday, March 27, 2017

South Sudan govt sets new financial policies



South Sudan finance minister Stephen Dhieu Dau

South Sudan finance minister Stephen Dhieu Dau 

Juba. South Sudan has set new policies requiring banks and individuals seeking to transact amounts above 10,000 U.S. dollars to undergo checks and approval procedures from the country’s central bank.

Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Stephen Dheiu Dau said the regulations are intended to combat money laundering, inflation, repatriation of foreign currency and tax evasion or disguise of funds obtained from illegal sources.

Under the new guidelines, all financial institutions and individuals will be required to report any transaction such as withdrawals, deposits and bank transfers above 10,000 dollars to the central bank for approval.

“It is only in South Sudan that people like to keep large quantity of cash in their houses.

This can be a threat to our national security, because it can be used to finance terrorists and encourage the black market,” Dau said.

“We have agreed with the new leadership of the Central Bank to harmonize issues of large cash transactions,” he added.

He warned that any financial institution that violates the provisions shall be subjected to penalties under the country’s Anti-money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing laws.

“After the deadline, anybody who wants to withdraw or deposit money more than 10,000 dollars will be questioned and we will use our available monetary policies to investigate the source of that money,” Dau said.

South Sudan depends on oil revenue for 98 percent of its budget, but production reduced significantly due to the 2013 civil war, causing most oilfields in the country’s northern Upper Nile region to shut down as production fell to below 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 350,000 bpd.

The east African nation is currently struggling with hyper inflation amid shortage of foreign reserves to support imports. (NMG)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Museveni’s boda boda riders remark draws public outrage

President Museveni. The President’s call of

President Museveni. The President’s call of “sorting out boda boda riders” who suspiciously trail people’s cars followed the Friday assassination of the Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi by gunmen moving on motorcycles resembling boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis). PHOTO | FILE 

Kampala. Human rights activists and former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye yesterday castigated President Museveni for asking motorists to preemptively attack any boda-boda rider who is deemed to be following their vehicles in a suspicious manner.

The President’s call of “sorting out boda boda riders” who suspiciously trail people’s cars followed the Friday assassination of the Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi by gunmen moving on motorcycles resembling boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis).

The President made the shocking call on Sunday evening at the home of Kaweesi where he had gone to condole with the family.

He bragged how his government had wiped out killer gangsters of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels and said the current wave of killings is being orchestrated by assailants riding on boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis).

Kaweesi, former police spokesperson, was gunned down on his way to work on Friday morning, a short distance from his residence in Kulambiro, a city outskirt. The killers who rained a volley of bullets on his vehicle and also killed his driver Godfrey Wambewo and bodyguard Kenneth Erau, were moving on boda-bodas.

In response, the President advised citizens that once they see suspicious boda bodas riding behind them, they should “stop and sort them out.”

The President’s statement has triggered a barrage of counter-reactions from various actors including Opposition leader Dr Besigye who branded the remark as “reckless” and “scandalous.”

Dr Besigye added that such reckless statements were least expected from a person of the President given that boda boda riders are all-over the country and wondered whether people with guns should go on a shooting spree of everyone riding a boda-boda behind them.

“Somebody going by the title of the President who is supposed to be in charge of all the security organs and for that kind of person to say that if you see a boda-boda following you, stop and if you have guns sort them out.

I mean this is horrific, horrifying.” Dr Besigye said yesterday shortly after appearing in Nakawa Court over his ongoing treason case. (NMG)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

37 injured as passenger jet crash-lands in S. Sudan

Several people gathered near the plane wreckage

Several people gathered near the plane wreckage after it crash-landed, leaving at least 37 people injured. PHOTO|AFP 

Juba. At least 37 people were injured when a passenger jet crash-landed in South Sudan’s northwestern city of Wau on Monday, government and airport officials said.

There were 40 passengers and five crew members on board the South Supreme Airlines plane that had taken off from the capital Juba, said the airline’s manager Gabriel Ngang.

State Information Minister Bona Gaudensio said an ambulance had brought the passengers from the airport to the hospital, and most of them were released shortly after.

“We had 37 passengers taken to the hospital and so after they were given first aid we have released 31 of them and we will release the rest tomorrow,” Gaudensio told AFP.

He could not account for the remaining eight people who had been on board, but claimed there were no deaths in the accident.

Paul Charles, an engineer at Wau airport, and local radio journalist Lawrence Yunisen both told AFP that some passengers -- not counted among the injured -- had managed to flee the burning plane unscathed.

Charles said the weather in the region had not been good when the plane attempted to land.

“Visibility was not good up to now and (the plane) was landing from the east to west, then it just crashed (off) the runway. The pilot I think was not seeing the runway well,” he said.

“Some of the people got out by themselves, some of them were pulled. Only the back part of the plane remains but the rest was burned,” he added.

Video images obtained by AFP showed firefighters battling to put out the blaze as thick black smoke billowed from the aircraft. The plane was completely burned out except for the tail, which clearly displayed the insignia of South Supreme Airlines, a local carrier.

In November 2015, 36 people were killed when a Soviet-era Antonov plane crashed just after take-off from Juba. Two survivors were pulled from the twisted metal hulk but one later died. (AFP)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Gambian protesters demand ex-spy chief’s execution

Adama Barrow (3rd L) takes part in a meeting

Adama Barrow (3rd L) takes part in a meeting with the French President on March 15, 2017 at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris.PHOTO|AFP 

Banjul. Gambian protesters called Monday for the execution of the former head of the nation’s intelligence agency and eight subordinates, as the men appeared in court charged with murdering a political activist.

Family members, sympathisers and friends of Solo Sandeng, who died in custody in April 2016 after his arrest for leading a peaceful protest for political reform, made the demand outside the Banjul court where the men’s trial opened Monday.

“We need a death sentence” the crowd chanted, also shouting “you bastards have killed all our important people,” as the courtroom filled to capacity for the case.

The main target of their anger is Yankuba Badjie, who headed the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), which rights groups say carried out arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances and torture during ousted strongman Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule.

The NIA’s former director of operations, Saikou Omar Jeng, is also among the nine men who have denied killing Sandeng, a prominent member of the United Democratic Party (UDP).

Gambian President Adama Barrow was treasurer of the UDP, then the largest opposition group in the west African country, until he was selected to lead a coalition of parties in a December election that he won in a shock victory over Jammeh.

Foreign minister Ousainou Darboe still heads the party, and was himself arrested and briefly jailed after demanding answers over Sandeng’s death.

An effective moratorium on the death penalty in The Gambia was broken when Jammeh ordered nine prisoners be executed without warning in 2012, and it remains to be seen whether the new government will make use of the measure, especially in judging Jammeh-era crimes.

An extension was granted on Monday to state prosecutors to find a foreign expert to re-examine Sandeng’s body, and the case will resume on March 27. (AFP)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Europe, N. Africa ministers seek to curb migrant flow

(L-R) Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang

(L-R) Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka, Libya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Tahar Siala, Libya’s Interior Ministry delegate Elaref Elkhuja, France’s Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux, Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti, European Union (EU) Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, Malta’s Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, Tunisia’s Interior Minister Hedi Majdoub, and Slovenian Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar pose following the “Central Mediterranean contact group” meeting on March 20, 2017 in Rome. PHOTO | AFP 

Rome. Interior ministers mainly from the central Mediterranean region met in Rome on Monday to ramp up efforts to curb migration from Libya amid a sharp rise in the number of people trying to cross to Europe.

One year after a controversial deal with Turkey to stop migrants setting out across the Aegean Sea for Greece, the European Union is seeking to reach a similar accord with conflict-hit Libya, despite fierce opposition from human rights campaigners.

Just this past weekend more than 3,300 people were rescued from unseaworthy vessels off the north African country, bringing the number of arrivals in Italy to nearly 20,000 so far in 2017 -- a significant increase on previous years.

The wave of attempted arrivals continued Monday, with the Italian coastguard saying it had coordinated the rescues of about 1,800 people off the Libyan coast.

Interior ministers from Algeria, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Malta, Slovenia, Switzerland and Tunisia took part in the meeting, along with the European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

The group released a declaration of intent which limited itself to promising increased coordination and information-sharing in a bid to tackle the root causes of migration, as well as combat smuggling and strengthen borders.

“The aim is to govern migratory movements” rather than be governed by them, said Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti.

Libya’s UN-backed unity government has requested 800 million euros ($860 million) worth of equipment to help patrol its coast and territorial waters, including radars, boats, helicopters and all-terrain vehicles, boats and helicopters, according to Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily.

There is also talk of a Libya-based operational centre to coordinate rescues in international waters off the coast, relieving the burden on Rome, which has been forced to monitor and intervene well beyond its established maritime surveillance zone.

Experts say some of the equipment requested by Libya would fall foul of a UN embargo on arms imports into the country.

France’s Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux stressed the importance of making sure the Libyan coastguard lives up to its EU training. (AFP)

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Kenya customs alarmed by the rise in import of drones

A drone flies in space. More than 100 drones

A drone flies in space. More than 100 drones being detained at the airport by Kenya Revenue Authority customs officials. PHOTO | FILE 

Nairobi. Senior aviation and customs officials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport have raised the alarm over attempts to import drones into the country.

With more than 100 drones being detained at the airport by Kenya Revenue Authority customs officials, there is growing unease over an increased attempt to sneak the items into the country which is headed for a General Election in less than five months.

Also being held by the officials after recent seizures are four firearms with 71 rounds of ammunition, bullet proof jackets, two-way communication handsets and 20 pairs of handcuffs.

Customs officials said they have been intercepting the items packed as cargo checked into the flights with most passengers simply citing ignorance to the fact that the items are prohibited in Kenya.

Nairobi Region Deputy Commissioner for Customs George Muia told the Nation that through powerful scanners and the vigilant customs officers, the items have been intercepted over time with some as recently as last week.

He said the drones have caused concern given that they have powerful capabilities and tend to form the highest number of prohibited items being seized at the country’s aviation hub.

“We have noticed a trend where people are bringing in drones with high resolution cameras and night vision. We are holding 100 of them because they are items not allowed in Kenya,” he said.

Mr Muia added: “Apart from posing aviation risks, drones are used for spying and one can fly the one with night vision right into your window and record what is happening in the privacy of a room,” Mr Muia said.

Some of the drones intercepted since May 2016 are said to have high technical capabilities, including ability to fly for 25 minutes.

Customs officials alerted the Ministry of Defence after the number of drones being seized shot up. Due to lack of a legal framework, Kenya does not allow any non-military use of drones but there are currently on-going efforts to come up with regulations.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director-General Gilbert Kibe, who also expressed concerns over the influx of the gadgets, said the National Security Advisory Committee chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta has already approved regulations to pave way for their use beyond military operations.

(NMG)

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Uhuru rules out talks with doctors

Doctors who fail to report to work will be

Doctors who fail to report to work will be fired, President Kenyatta warned on Sunday. In statement by State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu on Sunday morning at State House, Mombasa, the president said the government will only engage the doctors after they return to work first. PHOTO |FILE 

Nairobi. There will be no further talks with striking doctors, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

Doctors who fail to report to work will be fired, President Kenyatta warned on Sunday.

In statement by State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu on Sunday morning at State House, Mombasa, the president said the government will only engage the doctors after they return to work first.

Mr Esipisu said that the President stands by his earlier directive that doctors should get back to work immediately and stop the suffering Kenyans have been plunged into for months.

“The President’s stand remains the same that striking doctors must resume duty immediately. If they don’t, there will be no more discussions on the subject. We praise those who have returned to work and urge the rest to do the same,” said President Kenyatta’s statement read by Mr Esipisu.

Last Wednesday, President Kenyatta said the government was ready to sack doctors who refuse to go back to work and that he was not going to sit and watch Kenyans suffer due to lack of provision of health services.

Speaking in Lodwar, the President said doctors should not continue with their strike, now in its fourth month, and that they should avoid being in conflict with the government. He said he would only reopen negotiations once the doctors are back at work.

On Tuesday, the President, while attending the fourth Annual Devolution Conference in Naivasha, had accused the doctors of blackmail in seeking for better terms.

“President Kenyatta has directed that all doctors resume duty before any further negotiations can be convened,” said Mr Esipisu when he addressed the press at State House, Mombasa on Sunday. Mr Esipisu defended the projects being undertaken by the government at the Coast following claims by Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Amason Kingi (Kilifi) that they were initiated by previous regimes and funded by donors. (NMG)

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Envoys slam S.Sudan visa fee

The UN said more than 7.5 million people were

The UN said more than 7.5 million people were in need of aid.PHOTO|REUTERS 

Juba. International aid agencies on Saturday slammed South Sudan’s decision to raise foreign worker visa fees to as much as $10,000, warning it would worsen a humanitarian crisis in the famine-hit country.

“The government and the army have largely contributed to the humanitarian situation,” said Elizabeth Deng of Amnesty International.

“And now, they want to create profit from the crisis they have created.”

The government measure, announced on March 2, would increase work permit fees for foreign workers from the $100-$300 range to between $1,000 and $10,000 per year, depending on the qualifications of the worker. The measure could generate a revenue stream for the crisis-wracked nation, where oil revenues account for the near-totality of government earnings, but aid agencies said it could backfire.

“If this measure is put into practice, it will be impossible for humanitarian workers to pay this kind of sum,” said Julien Schopp, director of humanitarian practice at InterAction, which groups 180 NGOs working worldwide.

Deng said there were hundreds of aid workers operating in the country, and that the new visa costs “could further hinder their critical work on the ground.” South Sudan, formed in 2011 following a split from the north, declared famine in some regions in late February. (AFP)

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Monday, March 13, 2017

African Union launches .africa to join internet domain

 

Addis Ababa. In the beginning was .com, followed by a host of other somethings, but on Friday, 32 years after the world’s first domain name was registered, the African Union has launched .africa for the continent.

Africans who want to register a website will be able to apply for a .africa domain name in the coming months, which outgoing AU commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said would allow the continent’s people and businesses to better reach the world.

“With .africa, I would say Africa has finally got its digital identity,” said Dlamini-Zuma, who will next week hand power to Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat after four years at the helm of the continental body

Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the lowest rates of internet penetration in the world, according to the World Bank, with only around 22 percent of people online compared to the global average of 44 percent.

The AU has vowed to increase broadband internet penetration by 10 percent by next year as part of its ‘Agenda 2063’ development proposal.

As the continent’s largest economy, South Africa dominates African presence online, holding 1.1 million of the two million website registrations on the continent, said Lucky Masilela, CEO of ZA Central Registry, the South Africa-based company that will administer .africa.

High fees are an obstacle to many people who want to register a website, Masilela said.

In some African countries, it can cost as much as $250 but Masilela said .africa addresses will be available at a cut-price rate of just $18 to anyone on the continent. “.africa is going to be a market disruptor and will assist in lowering the cost of domain names,” Masilela said.

The AU is hoping proceeds from the domain registrations will help cover some of its administrative costs and fund the AU commission.

The domain is due to be available to the public in July but it remains unclear how strong demand will be. (AFP)

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