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Religious leaders in Ethiopia oppose gay travel company’s proposed tour2 minutes read

Ethiopia’s Inter-Religious Council warn tour organisers of impending threats

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Religious leaders in Ethiopia oppose gay travel company's proposed tour
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Ethiopia’s religious leaders on Monday urged the government to block a US gay travel company from touring the country’s ancient sites, and one group warned visiting homosexuals could face violence.

The Chicago-based Toto Tours, which describes itself on its website as “the only gay tour company in existence” that has been operating with the same ownership and management for almost three decades, told AFP it has received death threats since announcing a 16-day trip to Ethiopia, which includes numerous historical religious sites.

Their itinerary has sparked ire in Ethiopia, which like many in Africa is deeply homophobic and has strict anti-gay laws, punishing homosexual acts with up to 15 years in prison.

“Tour programmes and dating programmes that try to use our historical sites and heritage should be immediately stopped by the Ethiopian government and we urge Ethiopians supporting these sinful and evil acts to desist from their acts,” Tagay Tadele of the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia told journalists.

The council counts seven Islamic and Christian denominations as members.

An influential Ethiopian Orthodox organisation, the Sileste Mihret United Association, also held a press conference Monday to condemn the tour company.

“Homosexuality is hated as well as being illegal in Ethiopia. Toto Tours are wrong to plan to conduct tours in our religious and historical places,” the organisation’s vice chairman, Dereje Negash, told AFP.

“If Toto Tours comes to Ethiopia where 97 per cent of Ethiopians surveyed oppose homosexuality, they will be damaged, they could even die,” he said.

Dan Ware, the president of Toto Tours, said the company had been “terribly misunderstood”, in an email to AFP.

“Our company is not aimed at spreading values contrary to local cultures when we travel around the world. We are simply an organization where like-minded people can travel comfortably together to experience the world’s most precious wonders.

“We come with only the greatest respect and humility.”

He said the tour had been advertised on the company’s social media pages and spotted within Ethiopia, leading to “death threats”, and called for protection for the tour group from both the US State Department and the Ethiopian tourism ministry.

“This is terrible discrimination, and when word of this spreads internationally, as it is most likely to do, it will have a negative impact on the important tourism industry in Ethiopia.”

He said that by the time the tour takes place in October “the eyes of the entire world will be on the people of Ethiopia to see what happens to us.”

Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Some countries, like Angola, Mozambique and Seychelles, have moved to scrap anti-gay laws.

However, Kenya’s high court earlier this month refused to do so, in a major blow to gay activists on the continent.

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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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