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The changing tides of Kigali’s fashion scene2 min read

Rwandan designer, Matthew Rugamba, long had dreams of designing for Hollywood’s biggest stars.

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The changing tides of Kigali’s fashion scene
Photo credit: Junior Nyongo - Instagram

Rwandan designer, Matthew Rugamba, long had dreams of designing for Hollywood’s biggest stars. Since 2011, he has built a loyal following for his House of Tayo brand, fusing African heritage with contemporary designs to create brightly coloured, mixed-print items like bow ties and infinity scarves. But he had struggled to break out from the local fashion scene.

In 2018, he got his break. Lupita Nyong’o agreed to wear a three-piece design of his sketches. After Lupita posted a photo of her brother wearing the suit to her 7.8 million Instagram followers, tagging House of Tayo and using the hashtag #FromRwandatoWakanda, thousands flocked to the brand’s social media accounts. “It was huge,” Rugamba remembers. “It was great for credibility.”

Rwanda is a nation of 12 million people, but has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with aspirations of becoming a middle-income nation by 2035. And Rugamba is the beneficiary of one of a series of homegrown initiatives aimed at sustaining high and inclusive growth in different industries, including the country’s nascent fashion scene.

‘Made in Rwanda’

One of those initiatives is “Made in Rwanda,” launched in 2015, which aims to recapture parts of the Rwandan market from imports while improving the competitiveness of Rwandan exports globally. How? By boosting private businesses and the manufacturing sector, augmenting garment and leather production, reducing operation costs, and helping small businesses, like Rugamba’s, get finance from the government or commercial banks.

As part of this strategy, Rwanda this year will totally ban imports of Western hand-me-downs after years of raising tariffs on such goods in a bid to boost its own domestic textiles industry. Second-hand clothing is a multimillion-dollar industry in Rwanda that employed up to 22,000 people as of 2016, according to a study by USAID.

Despite the enthusiasm, manifold challenges hinder Rwanda’s fashion industry from floating away on a nimbus of success just yet. Designers are particularly concerned with the prohibitive requirements set for them to obtain financing. Rugamba, for instance, says he initially couldn’t get a bank to issue him a point of sale gadget because they didn’t think his business would make money.

In the first two years since the launch of “Made in Rwanda,” the government said total export receipts increased from $559 million in 2015 to $944 million in 2017. To build momentum, Rwanda could learn from challenges facing countries like Ethiopia. Its “Made in Ethiopia” shoe and garment-making sector has been beset with complaints of low wages, inhospitable working environments, and inadequate training at factories.

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East Africa News

Drama as Kenyan traffic officers accidentally shoot female colleague

Sources say that one of the traffic officers attempted to fire at the EACC detectives but, instead, shot a female colleague in the thigh

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Drama as Kenyan traffic officers accidentally shoot female colleague

A melee ensued on Wednesday morning in the lakeside city of Kisumu, Kisumu County in Kenya after traffic police officers at a roadblock opened fire on Ethics and Anti-Corruption (EACC) officers.

The fracas broke out following a sting operation conducted by the EACC detectives targeting police officers suspected of receiving bribes at the Mamboleo roadblock as well as the Kisumu International Airport area.

Sources say that one of the traffic officers attempted to fire at the EACC detectives but, instead, shot a female colleague in the thigh.

WATCH: Kenyan traffic officers accidentally shoot female colleague during gun battle

As at the time of this report, she had been taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. One of the other officers attempted to escape by jumping from the Mamboleo flyover but broke a leg and had to be assisted to the police station. A total of five officers were apprehended and will face various charges.

That a traffic officer was armed raises significant questions given that police officers assigned to traffic duties in Kenya are generally not armed.

None of the EACC detectives were injured during the incident.

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Ethiopia’s Sidama ethnic group votes in referendum on statehood

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states — with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth

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Ethiopia's Sidama ethnic group votes in referendum on statehood
Men wait in a queue to vote during the Sidama referendum in Hawassa, Ethiopia, on November 20, 2019. Polls opened on November 20, 2019, in Ethiopia's ethnic Sidama region in a referendum for a new federal state, a critical vote in a tense region that could embolden others to follow. Michael TEWELDE / AFP

Polls opened on Wednesday in Ethiopia’s ethnic Sidama region in a referendum for a new federal state, a critical vote in a tense region that could embolden others to follow.

The Sidama push for statehood already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia’s southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police.

But the mood on Wednesday morning in the regional capital, Hawassa appeared calm.

READ: Ethiopia set to vote on breakaway state

People formed long queues at polling stations at dawn, with some 2.3 million people registered to vote.

Away from the polling stations, the streets of Hawassa were much quieter than usual, with Wednesday declared a holiday for the vote. Heavily armed police and soldiers patrolled the streets.

“The voting process is inclusive, smooth, transparent and exciting,” said 27-year-old Fantahun Hatiso, after casting his ballot.

“I voted for a decision that I believe will work towards development, peace and personal well-being.”

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country, Africa’s second-most populous, with more than 100 million people.

READ: Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians decry rise in persecution ahead of major holiday

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states — with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth.

The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity.

The Sidama — who number more than three million — have agitated for years to leave the diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region.

READ: Four killed in Ethiopia during secessionist protest

The dream gained fresh momentum after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, took office last year.

“I stayed up until late in the night,” Hatiso added. “The excitement of waiting for this day, which will bring liberty and peace to my people, kept me awake.”

At least ten other groups in the south of the country have already launched plans for self-determination similar to that of the Sidama. Analysts fear it could unleash further ethnic violence.

Polls opened at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) and close at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT). Preliminary results are expected on Thursday.

READ: Political party delays creation of new state in Ethiopia

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Gunmen ambush and kill 8 Burundian soldiers

Dozens more soldiers were missing in the ambush on their base, one of largest and deadliest attacks for several years

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Gunmen ambush and kill 8 Burundian soldiers

Burundian soldiers were attacked in a night jungle ambush near the border with Rwanda, Burundi’s defence ministry said, with military sources on Tuesday reporting at least eight soldiers’ deaths.

Dozens more soldiers were missing in the ambush on their base, one of largest and deadliest attacks for several years, senior army officers said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“A group armed with rifles from Rwanda attacked a position of Burundian soldiers on Mount Twinyoni,” defence ministry spokesman Major Emmanuel Gahongano said on state television on Monday.

“This armed group has withdrawn to Rwanda.”

He did not give details of casualties or the identity of the attackers.

READ: Burundi arrests 4 reporters for “undermining” state security

Burundi has been in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza defied constitutional limits to seek a third term in office, winning re-election in 2015.

Burundi has repeatedly accused neighbouring Rwanda of supporting rebel groups in its territory, a claim Kigali denies.

Rwanda on Tuesday denied any role in the attack.

“It is not true that the attacks were made from people who came from Rwanda,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, State Minister for Regional Affairs, told reporters.

“These are unfounded allegations being made from Burundi — as they have done previously for the last four years. We have other things to do.”

The attack, some 100 kilometres north of the capital Bujumbura, in thick forests 10 kilometres from the Rwandan border, took place in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Around 90 soldiers were reported to be in the base before the attack. 

But when reinforcements arrived hours later, they found only the bodies of eight comrades, including of the company commander, a senior officer told reporters.

READ: Burundi receives almost 600 refugees from Tanzania

Later, 15 soldiers were found alive, some of them wounded.

“The rest of the company is still missing,” the officer said. Their fate is unknown.

The military source reported that attackers were well-equipped.

“Our soldiers were surprised by assailants wearing bullet-proof vests and night-vision goggles, which completely wiped out the position,” the officer said, a report confirmed by two other military sources.

“We believe that it is not mere rebels who are responsible for it.”

No Burundian armed group has claimed responsibility.

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