Missing Burundi Journalist Yet to Be Found

Missing journalist,  Jean Bigirimana has been missing since  22 July, 2016 and there has not been any evidence that he is dead.

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His colleagues in Iwacu Press Group, recently marked the first anniversary of his disappearance.

Bigirimana’s wife and children are worried, they are at a lose as to what has happened to their breadwinner. Read more…..

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Today, we enter the second day of the 2017 Presidential campaigns.

After very successful rallies in Ruhango and Nyanza Districts yesterday, RPF- Inkotanyi candidate, Paul Kagame is scheduled to meet supporters in Nyaruguru District in the morning and later he travels to Gisagara District for his final rally of the day.

Frank Habineza, the flag bearer and president of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, will be in Nyamasheke District, Western Province.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Phillipe Mpayimana heads to Muhanga and Nyanza districts for the second day of his campaigns. Read more….

Rwanda: New Minerals Found as Govt Steps Up Exploration

Rwanda has far more natural resources than previously thought, an official familiar with the country’s mineral exploration programme has said.

The revelation comes days after the Government established a fully-fledged statutory body to oversee and coordinate all the exploration and mining-related activities in the country: the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board.

Dr Emmanuel Munyangabe, who the Cabinet on February 3 appointed as the Chief Operations Officer of the new body, told The New Times last week that an ongoing airborne geophysics survey has found deposits of several new minerals in different parts of Rwanda, including rare earth elements, gemstones, cobalt, iron and lithium.

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Rare earth elements are essential in developing high-tech devises in the areas of communication, defence, alternative energy, among others.

The ongoing exercise, which started in October last year and is set to be completed later this month, also established that Rwanda is endowed with more deposits of traditional minerals like gold than previously thought, Munyangabe said.

In January, President Paul Kagame said there were new indications that Rwanda could be rich with previously unknown deposits of minerals and assured citizens all the country’s resources will be exploited in the best interest of the people – brushing aside the narrative of resource curse.

Munyangabe was until February 3 the head of geology and mining department at Rwanda Natural resources Authority (RNRA).

The department has since morphed into the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, with the Cabinet naming former Rwanda Development Board chief executive Francis Gatare as the new body’s chief executive.

In the latest reforms, the other departments under the former RNRA (land, and water and forestry) will remain under the Ministry of Natural Resources.

“The newly established board will build on what has been ongoing under the previous framework, in the areas of exploration, licensing, inspection and regulation,” Munyangabe said last week.

The restructuring will also see the new body inherit some of the staff from its predecessor department, he added.

“The whole idea is to optimise the resources that we’ve always known to have as a country and new finds,” the official said. “The public has probably seen an aircraft flying over their home with a loop hanging low, these are airborne geophysical surveys that we will continue to conduct until later this month.”

He added: “There are new finds, including resources that we previously had no idea existed in Rwanda, while in other cases we found extensions of existing mineral deposits like gold… the next steps will include to conduct further surveys and analyses to determine the exact components and quantities of the deposits.”

No oil exploration deal

The official also said that renewed efforts will be put into prospecting for petroleum and gas around Lake Kivu, one of the numerous lakes that form the East African rift valley, with geological surveys in recent years in neighbouring countries showing that the rift is endowed with huge oil reserves.

Lake Kivu is already home to methane gas deposits and exploitation is underway, with a power plant having been inaugurated there last year.

The newly established Board, Munyangabe said, will sustain the momentum in ongoing surveys. “We believe we will have completed the geophysical, geological and geochemical analyses by July this year and that will give us a clear picture of the mining and underground resources that Rwanda has.”

“There’s a commitment to diversify the country’s resources”.

Rwanda’s principal minerals have been known to be tantalum (coltan), wolfram and cassiterite and gold – nonetheless the country has not been known to be resource-rich, which partly informed the Government’s efforts to invest in human resource.

Last year, the country generated $160 million (about Rwf134 billion) from the mineral sector.

However, Munyangabe dismissed recent media reports that a local investment company, Ngali Holdings – through its subsidiary Ngali Mining – had won the tender to renew oil exploration, saying “no company is in talks with the government regarding oil exploration at the moment.”

“Once a decision has been taken and a company identified it will be communicated to the public,” he said.

Homegrown skills

Meanwhile, Munyangabe said the Government plans to step up efforts to process its minerals locally, with a casseterite-processing plant set to open in Karuruma, Gasabo District this year. “We are looking for more experts to work with in this effort.”

Digne Rwabuhungu, the dean of the School of Mining and Geology at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology, welcomed the government’s decision to set up an autonomous body in charge of the mining sector and to have its chief executive as a Cabinet minister.

“It will allow for the country’s vision to easily permeate through the sector,” he told The New Times last week.

He added: “Now that the top leadership has been put in place, what remains is to see how the Board sets up a technical team to implement the institution’s mandate… there is quite a lot to streamline within the sector, for instance, every company that is involved with mining should be supervised closely to ensure that the environment is protected and other standards observed.”

He also called for a deliberate policy to consistently promote homegrown skills in the sector, by among others, including the component of skills transfer in exploration or mining deals that involve foreign firms.

“We need to promote local skills especially among the youth,” he said.

The School of Mining and Geology will hold its maiden graduation in about two years time.

Source : The New Times

Rwanda: Gasabo Youth Makes Fortune From Banana Stems

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Banana is like the tale about seven blind people and the elephant. To some people, it’s food, for a farmer it is fodder for animals, and for alcohol manufacturers; it is a raw material for some gins and beer like Urwagwa.

But for one youth in Gasabo district in Kigali province of Rwanda, the banana plant has a whole new meaning. Every morning, Celse Ngaruye wakes up in the morning to hunt for banana stems which he later makes into a final product: the banana lampshades.

When he has collected enough banana stems for the day, he chops them into small pieces, packs them in a sack and makes his way back to his art studio at Niyo Arts center based in Kacyiru. The banana stems are key raw material for his enteprise.

“Apart from the bulb and sockets, our final product is uniquely Rwandan,” he explains. Ngaruye says since he started the enterprise, he has had steady stream of customers, mostly tourists, who are impressed by the unique lampshades made from local products.

“I sell most of these eco-friendly products during the tourism peak periods, from May to November. This is the time, when many tourists flock into the country,” he says.

He says the lampshades he makes during the other months target local clients.

He adds that his other buyers include big hotels around Kigali, and individuals, who like ambiance the local lampshades create in bedrooms or living rooms.

“I have already started getting bulk orders from key hospitality industry players, like hotels. When they make their orders, they are free to dictate the style of the lampshades. I don’t mind this since I value my clients and their opinions,” says Ngaruye.

He notes that what has also endeared him to customers is the fact that buyers are free to choose their favourite colours.

He explains that the lampshades come in different colours, depending on the hue of the paper and ‘ibitenge’ fabrics used. Each lampshade costs between $100 (about Rwf80,000) and $150 (about Rwf120,000), when he sells to tourists, while Rwandans buy them at a bargain price.

The former visual artist says he has now concentrated on making lampshades abandoning his first love – painting – “because this business is more lucrative.”

“I realised that there’s a lot of competition when it comes to visual arts since many youth are into it. But making banana paper lampshades is a new phenomenon in Rwanda… it’s still a virgin field,” he says.

Challenges

Ngaruye, who is soon holding a banana lampshade exhibition, says since his main buyers are tourists, that “business is low during off season (time when there are few tourists coming into the country)”.

Source : The Independent(Kampala)

Rwanda: Call for Action to End Graft in Public Infrastructure Projects

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The Integrity Pact, that monitors the procurement and tender process of public infrastructure projects, shows that corruption and mismanagement of funds is still rampant.

Transparency International Rwanda (TIR) released the report after monitoring nine infrastructure projects in four districts; namely Musanze, Rubavu, Huye and Kayonza.

It shows that, in most projects, integrity pacts were not signed, participation of bidders significantly increased, contract durations were not respected, and citizens were not involved in various phases.

It was also realised that, some materials were ignored; contracts were not proportional to the works which require amendments, destroyed properties not paid for, among others.

It cites the construction of Rwf375 million phase III handcraft centre in Rubavu District, where only 20 per cent of workers were paid on time while only 36 per cent of the residents were informed about the project.

In Musanze, the distance was miscalculated for the construction of Musanze-Nyakinama road worth Rwf12.3 billion.

Water channels, speed bumps, pavements, among others, were also missing.

Marie Immaculée Ingabire, the chairperson of Transparency International, Rwanda, said that in Public Finance Management they introduced integrity pacts to provide an opportunity for independent procurement monitoring at various stages.

The areas, she said, include planning, bidding, implementation and evaluation of important projects in districts.

She noted that the introduction of ICT component in monitoring as a web-based platform and social audits where citizens can provide their inputs on important aspects will keep the procurement process corruption free, transparent and inclusive.

“Public procurement in Rwanda remains most prone to corruption due to the amounts involved in public procurement, on the one hand, and the imbalanced bargaining power between the service seekers and providers at the decentralised entities on the other,” Ingabire said.

“Limited independent monitoring from non-state actors on public contracts and low level of bottom-up accountability were still prevalent,” she added.

Ingabire warned that the findings from the monitoring show some risks of corruption and embezzlement.

“Mostly those are delays in payment of contractors, unlawful addendums to contracts, and the capacity around the procured projects whose information remains at the discretion of officials in charge of procurement, and very few bidders who are always the ones awarded contracts,” she warned.

Apollinaire Mupiganyi, the executive director of TI-Rwanda, said corruption in public procurement of infrastructure has a negative impact on poverty alleviation and infrastructural development.

“Stakeholders need to join forces for better prevention, government authorities also need to ensure that perpetrators are apprehended and assets recovered,” he said.

The Integrity Pact is a tool developed in the 1990’s by Transparency International to help governments, businesses and civil society to fight corruption in the field of public contracting.

It establishes mutual contractual rights and obligations to reduce the high cost and distortionary effects of corruption in public contracting.

In Rwanda, the integrity pact was introduced in 2012.

Xavier Mbarubukeye, the permanent secretary at the Office of Ombudsman hailed TI- Rwanda, saying it contributes to the fight against corruption and misuse of public funds .

He described the integrity pact as a powerful tool that promotes transparency.

“Unlike other corruption control tools, the integrity pact serves as a preventive mechanism,” he noted.

According to Yves Bernard Ningabire, the director general, planning, monitoring and evaluation, at the Ministry of Local Government, the findings are relevant as they reveal real picture in local authorities’ procurement process.

Source : The New Times

Congo-Kinshasa: Lack of School Drives Girls Into Armed Groups in Eastern Congo – Charity

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Dakar — Dozens of armed groups in eastern Congo prey on locals and exploit mineral reserves, and girls forced to join militia groups for food, money and protection

Girls in conflict-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are joining armed groups because they cannot afford to go to school, while former girl soldiers struggle to return to class amid stigma from their communities, a charity said on Monday.

Many girls in the region join militia groups to obtain food and money, to seek protection against violence, or because their families cannot afford to pay their school fees, according to a report by Britain-based Child Soldiers International (CSI).

Eastern Congo is plagued by dozens of armed groups that prey on locals and exploit mineral reserves. Millions died between 1996 and 2003 as a regional conflict caused hunger and disease.

Around a third of all children in armed groups in the country are estimated to be girls, who are often married off to militants and are vulnerable to abuse and rape, activists say.

“It is deeply shocking that, because their families cannot afford to pay school fees, some girls see joining an armed group as their only option, and decide to throw themselves in harm’s way,” said Isabelle Guitard, director of programmes at CSI.

While primary education is free and compulsory by law, most schools in Congo charge fees for books and uniforms, CSI said.

“Despite the horrific abuse the girls go through while with armed groups, it is the rejection from their families and communities which distresses many of them the most,” Guitard told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from London.

While civil society groups have had some success in getting boys out of armed groups and into reintegration programmes, this shame and fear of rejection back home has kept many girls in the bush, according to CSI’s report.

“If we leave the group, we’re going to be targeted … so many girls accept and continue to live with their bush husband,” said one of the 150 former girl soldiers interviewed by CSI.

Most of these girls said going to school was the best way to regain acceptance from their communities, and that it helped them to deal with trauma suffered while with the armed groups.

CSI said it was working with local partners to help former girl soldiers go back to school, provide catch-up sessions and literacy classes for those who have never been educated or who are too old to start.

Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell

Source : Thomas Reuters Foundation(London)

Rwanda: Yes, Corruption is a Human Rights Violation and Must Be Treated as Such

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Jean Nepo Mbonyumuvunyi, the Commissioner for Inspectorate of Police Services and Ethics in Rwanda National Police, this week said that, in Rwanda, corruption is treated as a human rights violation.

Corruption is one of the biggest challenges to socio-economic transformation of societies. It fuels injustice, breeds inequality, encourages discrimination, deprives vulnerable people of income, and prevents people from fulfilling their political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights.

However, many would be confused if corruption was considered a human rights violation. But a deeper mirror of the grotesque impact of corruption on society and the nation as a whole would change such an opinion. Human rights violations are any action that violates the personal freedom and rights of a human being.

The government has the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. When corruption interferes with these obligations, it blights efforts to protect human rights such as delivery of an array of services, including health, educational and welfare services, which are essential for the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.

Corruption creates discrimination in access to public services in favour of those able to influence authorities to act in their interests, including by offering bribes.

Given Rwanda government’s zero tolerance to corruption, it makes sense that the approach of human rights violation is used in handling graft. This is because if corruption occurs where there is inclination and opportunity, a human rights approach could go a long way in helping to minimise opportunities for corrupt behaviour and make it more likely that the corrupt are caught and appropriately sanctioned.

A human rights approach also focuses attention on people who are particularly at risk, provides a gender perspective, and offers elements of guidance for the design and implementation of anti-corruption policies.

If corruption is shown to violate human rights, it will influence public attitudes. When people become more aware of the damage corruption does to public and individual interests, and the harm that even minor corruption can cause, they are more likely to support campaigns and programmes to prevent it.

Source : The New Times(Kigali)

Congo-Kinshasa: Bemba and Four Associates Convicted for Witness Tampering

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Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba alongside four associates, who include two of his former defense lawyers, have been convicted in the witness bribery trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Their sentences will be announced at a later date.

Upon conviction for offenses against the administration of justice covered by Article 70 of the court’s Rome Statute, judges may impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, a fine, or both. Today judges ordered that those convicted, besides Bemba, would remain on conditional release pending the determination of their penalties.

Bemba and his former lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo were found guilty of corruptly influencing 14 witnesses – D-2, D-3, D-4, D-6, D-13, D-15, D-23, D-25, D-26, D-29, D-54, D-55, D-57, and D-64 – and presenting their false evidence before the court.

Furthermore, Kilolo was found guilty of inducing the giving of false testimony by the 14 witnesses, while Bemba was additionally convicted for soliciting the giving of false testimony. The judges also determined that Mangenda aided in the giving of false testimony by two witnesses and abetted the giving of false testimony by seven witnesses. Mangenda was acquitted of charges of aiding the giving of false testimony by five witnesses.

Congolese Member of Parliament Fidèle Babala Wandu, who is Bemba’s close confidante, was found guilty of aiding in corruptly influencing two witnesses but acquitted of similar charges in relation to 12 witnesses. Babala was also acquitted of charges of aiding in giving false evidence and presenting false evidence.

Meanwhile, Narcisse Arido, a former soldier in the Central African Republic (CAR), was found guilty of corruptly influencing three witnesses but acquitted on charges of aiding in presentation of false evidence and in aiding the giving of false testimony.

The false testimony mostly related to claims by witnesses that they served in the army of the CAR, or in rebel forces, during 2002-2003 when Bemba’s troops were in that country helping the government to fight back a coup attempt. These witnesses claimed Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops were not responsible for the crimes committed during the conflict and that the Congolese troops fell under command of Central African generals.

Judges determined that Bemba, Kilolo, and Mangenda jointly agreed to illicitly interfere with defense witnesses to ensure they would provide evidence in favor of Bemba. They “adopted a series of measures with a view to concealing their illicit activities, such as the abuse of the Registry’s privileged line in the ICC Detention Center, or money transfers to defense witnesses through third persons or to persons close to the defense.”

They said Kilolo and Mangenda secretly distributed new telephones to defense witnesses without the knowledge of the Registry and in breach of the cut-off date for contacts imposed by judges so that Kilolo could stay in contact with them. “They also used coded language when speaking on the telephone, making reference to persons by using codes, or using particular expressions… signifying the bribing or illicit coaching of witnesses,” states the summary judgement issued today.

Today’s ruling brings to eight the number of individuals convicted by the court since its founding in 2002. Those previously convicted are Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga, Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi, and Bemba. Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, a former leader of a Congolese militia group, has hitherto been the only person acquitted by the ICC.

Bemba’s co-accused were arrested on November 23 and 24, 2013, from Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo, France, and The Netherlands. In October 2014, Judge Cuno Tarfusser ordered their interim release, stating that continued pre-trial detention would be disproportionate to the penalties for the offenses charged. Whereas his co-accused were released, Bemba stayed in detention on account of his main trial, in which judges repeatedly rejected his appeals for interim release.

Bemba is currently appealing the 14-year prison sentence handed down to him earlier this year following a unanimous conviction on all crimes charged in his main trial. The appeal raises several fair trial issues arising from the witness tampering case, including the extensive access by prosecution officials to privileged defense communication and the defense strategy, and failure by trial judges to grant the defense in the main case an opportunity to respond to allegations of witness tampering.

Source : Bemba Trial Website

Africa: Rwanda Third Best Place to Be a Girl in Africa

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The Girls’ Opportunity Index report by Save the Children has ranked Rwanda the third best country in Africa to be a girl and 49th globally out of 144 countries studied.

The report released on Monday, just a day before the International Day of the Girl which was marked on October 11, considered five indicators including rates of child marriage, adolescent fertility, maternal mortality women MPs and lower-secondary school completion.

The report states that while most countries are struggling to achieve gender parity among members of parliament (MPs), Rwanda tops the table with 64% of female, followed by Bolivia and Cuba. In contrast, only 19% of MPs in the United States of America (USA) are women and only 29% in the United Kingdom.

USA, the world’s largest economy, was ranked 32nd behind Algeria as 31st globally and first in African followed by Tunisia which is ranked 33rd globally.

The world’s best five countries to be a girl are Sweden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Belgium. Germany is ranked 12th, UK 15th and France 18th. Other big economies like Russia and China are not on the ranking.

Niger was ranked the worst (144th), followed by Chad, Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia as the last five countries. In the region, Kenya was ranked 97th, Burundi 107th, Tanzania 118th while Uganda was 120th. Singling out the US in particular, the report stated that not all rich countries are doing as well as they could for their girls.

“There are things where we do not shine on the U.S. side,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children. One major example she pointed to was female representation in national government.

The US was hurt by relatively high rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality compared to other countries in the same income bracket. Fourteen women died per 100,000 live births in the US in 2015 compared to only three deaths in Poland, Greece and Finland. Women hold 19.4% of the 535 seats in the US Congress while in Sweden, by contrast, women make up 44% of the MPs.

The report indicated that one girl under 15 is married every seven seconds in the world, revealing the scale of the threat posed by child marriage to education, health and children’s safety. “Girls as young as 10 are marrying to much older men in countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Somalia,” reads the report.

Source : Rwanda Focus

African Women Meet At Mount Kilimanjaro to Demand Rights

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Rwandan rural women, together with their counterparts from various countries on the continent, will today convene at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in an effort to advocate for unrestricted women’s rights to land and other natural resources across the continent.

Participants from Rwanda say they are taking part in the cause as a sign of solidarity with women from parts of Africa that continue to be discriminated against with regard to land ownership.

Officials believe that the ‘Kilimanjaro initiative’ offers a unique window of opportunity to unify and amplify the struggles of rural women across Africa.

The three-day event starts today in Moshi town. The women will climb Mountain Kilimanjaro as a sign to show their difficulties in land ownership.

A group of ten women was selected to represent women from various rural cooperatives countrywide, according to James Butare, head of programmes and policy at Action Aid, which is supporting the initiative.

He said the event is expected to be the largest rural women’s land rights assembly ever seen at the foot of Mountain Kilimanjalo.

Women will share experiences on identifying and addressing key barriers to women’s land rights such as early marriage, poor access to information, and unfair inheritance, among others.

Butare said that, while Rwanda has actively promoted equal rights on land, it is worthwhile to share experience with women from elsewhere on the continent, learn from them and share success stories.

Speaking at a news conference in Kigali over the weekend, Butare said that the event is important as it brings together women from various countries to share experiences.

“This is a solidarity action because, if women have land problems in some countries, women elsewhere are also affected. In Rwanda, we have reached 50 per cent when it comes to women rights to land ownership while others still claim just 30 per cent, this would be an opportunity for us to share experience while also learning from each other,” he said.

With 2016 declared by the African Union as the Africa year of human rights with a particular focus on the rights of women, women movements believe that it is time for action.

“At the meeting women will produce a charter on demand for fair and equal rights and the charter will be presented to the African Union and United Nations for action,” Butare noted.

Esperance Nyirahabimana, who hails from Karongi and one of participants, said they expected to learn a lot from the gathering.

“Though land rights in Rwanda have been promoted and women given equal rights as men, the main challenge we still have is a culture where some women still fear to claim their land rights and where some people have a misconception that both women and men can not have equal rights to property,” she said.

“We shall learn from others how this can change.”

The event will be attended by women from 20 African countries.

Catheline Katundu, Action Aid’s land policy manager, said ” The women gathering at Mount Kilimanjaro are saying ‘enough is enough’, we cannot continue to build our nations upon land that is then pulled from under us when it suits the whim of big business, an uncle seeking inheritance or local government.”

A recent research study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation indicated that less than one quarter of agricultural land in developing countries is controlled by women, while low female access and control of land significantly obstructs access to financial assets.

Source : The New Times