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DR Congo awaits repatriation of former opposition leader’s body3 minutes read

Felix Tshisekedi has vowed to repatriate his father’s remains and bury them in his home country

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DR Congo awaits repatriation of former opposition leader's body

The Democratic Republic of Congo awaited Thursday the delayed return of the remains of former opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, an emotion-laden moment for the country after his son, Felix became president this year.

A revered opponent of authoritarianism in the DRC, Tshisekedi died in Belgium in February 2017 at the age of 84 and was unable to witness his son’s victory in the country’s bitterly-contested presidential election.

Felix Tshisekedi has vowed to repatriate his father’s remains and bury them in his home country, a goal that faced multiple roadblocks under his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

But the return of the body, which had been scheduled for early Thursday, was delayed after a last-minute hitch over the late-night flight from Belgium, a member of the Tshisekedi family said.

The funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

An official in Brussels said the late-night depature had been “cancelled for today due to issues over the organisation of the flight”.

The overnight flight “had to be cancelled at the last minute because of logistical reasons,” the Congolese government said in a statement issued after a crisis meeting.

“This situation is totally beyond the control of the Belgian authorities and the funeral organisers,” it said.

Two hundred and fifty people planning to accompany the body were left stranded at the Melsbroek military airport near Brussels.

Belgium had planned a military ceremony for the departure of the funeral party at the airport in the presence of Belgian Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders.

Details about the reason for the postponement were sketchy.

The Belgian news agency, Belga said the organisers’ initial plan was to rent an Airbus A330, with the capacity to take 270 passengers as well as the coffin. The passengers included veteran members of the Tshisekedis’ party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).

Thorn in dictator’s side –

The programme of mourning includes a display of the body, mass and rally on Friday at an 80,000-seat stadium in Kinshasa, followed by a funeral on Saturday in Nsele, on the eastern outskirts of the capital.

Etienne Tshisekedi spent decades in politics but never reached the top job.

He served as interior minister in the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko, before joining the opposition, where he was a persistent thorn in the dictator’s side.

He co-founded the UDPS in 1982 after a stint in prison and in the 1990s was appointed prime minister several times, each time falling out with Mobutu after a matter of days or even months.

In 1997, Mobutu was ousted in a rebellion led by Joseph Kabila’s father, Laurent. Tshisekedi quickly became an opponent of the new regime — a stance that continued after Laurent Kabila’s assassination in 2001 and the rise of his son, Joseph.

Tshisekedi refused to recognise Kabila’s legitimacy to the very last. He boycotted the country’s elections in 2006 on the grounds of fraud, and was beaten in the 2011 ballot, which was tainted by massive irregularities.

Almost two years after his death, on January 24, Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as president after elections that saw Kabila step down after 18 years in power.

It was the first peaceful transition of power since the DRC gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

The handover, however, was marred by allegations of election rigging and by Kabila’s continued domination of politics after amassing extensive clout during his years in office.

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Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality

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Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.

Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.

The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.

The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.

Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.

The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.

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Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement

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Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.

The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.

“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.

AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.

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Uganda approves return of over 2,500 nationals stranded abroad

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Over 2,500 Ugandan nationals stranded abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic can now return home as approved by the Ugandan cabinet.

The cabinet on Monday, agreed that Ugandan nationals trapped in 66 countries can return home at their own cost.

The government is making arrangements with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to fly the stranded citizens home, Judith Nabakooba, the country’s minister for information, communication technology and national guidance says, adding that all the returning citizens will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine. 

President Yoweri Museveni last month, directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to study the possibility of evacuating dozens of citizens stranded abroad amid Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions. 

To contain the spread of Covid-19, the country on March 22 suspended all incoming flights, except cargo flights. 

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