The graft trial of a prominent DR Congo politician resumed in Kinshasa on Wednesday, a week after the sudden death of the presiding judge.
Vital Kamerhe, a key ally of President Felix Tshisekedi, appeared in court for the third time with two co-defendants during a hearing that lasted more than seven hours.
Kamerhe, accused of embezzling more than $50 million (46 million euros) in state funds from a project to build social housing, offered his condolences to the family of Judge Raphael Yanyi, who are awaiting the results of a post-mortem.
Police said last week that Yanyi had died suddenly overnight after suffering a heart attack, while pro-democracy campaigners have called for inquiries into the cause of death.
A new judge was appointed for the hearing, which took place in the courtyard of the capital’s main jail, where Kamerhe has been held in pre-trial detention since April 8.
Kamerhe, once a pillar of former president Joseph Kabila’s rule, and appointed as Tshisekedi’s chief of staff in January 2019, once again denied the charges against him.
The defendants are accused of embezzling public funds for a project to build 1,500 pre-fabricated homes for poor people, under a “100-day” action plan launched by Tshisekedi after he took office.
Kamerhe claims that he never entered a private contract with one of his co-accused, Lebanese contractor Jammal Samih.
He said he inherited a contract signed by the former Minister of Rural Development, Justin Bitakwira.
Bitakwira, meanwhile, denied having signed an amendment to a 2018 contract to bring the total cost of the project to $57 million.
Kamerhe also defended his daughter-in-law, a student in France, who was accused of having received a gift in the form of a piece of land donated by the contractor Samih.
“Neither I nor my daughter, nobody knows about this matter,” he said.
The trial has no precedent in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s recent history.
It takes place in the context of a broader campaign for the “renewal” of the justice system to help root out entrenched corruption.
The biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa, DR Congo has an abundance of natural resources, but two-thirds of its 80 million people live in poverty.
The country struggles with a long history of conflict, poor governance and graft.
Uganda Introduces Fee For Voluntary Coronavirus Testing
Ugandans, submitting themselves voluntarily for coronavirus tests, will now pay $65 (£50) fee, the government said at the weekend.
Uganda, which has 2,900 positive cases, 1,288 recoveries and at least 30 deaths, have so far tested 350,000 people for the virus.
The country’s government said firms sending their workers for tests would also have to pay.
It, however, exempted those exhibiting symptoms of the virus or have been in contact with someone who has contracted Covid-19 from the payments.
The East African country said the fee would contribute to the cost of managing the pandemic but there are fears, in some quarters, that it would disrupt travel and the resumption of tourism, as well as trade.
Meanwhile, the country’s taskforce in the fight to control the disease will review the reopening of schools that were closed in March.
The minister of ICT and national guidance, Judith Nabakooba, said President Yoweri Museveni has ordered a review to see the possibility of a phased reopening of schools, starting with candidate classes and clinical medical students.
He also ordered a review into the status of closed sectors like tourism, reopening of Entebbe International Airport among others.
Nabakooba said the team is expected to report back to the president early next week and thereafter he will address the country on the next steps forward.
Why is Constitution and Constitutionalism in Africa Such a Holy Grail?
Today August the 27th 2020, Kenyans celebrate 10 years since the promulgation of the constitution, joining a growing list of African Countries that have endeavoured to implement democratic and liberal constitutional reforms over the last two decades. The constitution which is hailed as the most progressive document not only in Africa, but the entire world, was a refreshing respite to many Kenyans and a new window of collective optimism to peek through a gilded promising future of justice, equality and the rule of law. Breaking away from the harrowing memories and barnacles of long drawn history of a stifling single-party system, rampant corruption and repressive regime the country had been subjected to under the leadership of the second President of Kenya the late Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi.
But as most Kenyans awoke to a numbingly cold morning today, so did many of their hearts as well, welcome the constitutional historical moment with a somewhat frosty reception and jaded mixed feelings as far as the decade is concerned. Harking back to the last ten years, undeniably much has been accomplished through the constitution, especially since the adoption of devolved system of government which is still shaking into place in most part of the Country. Proximate leadership and development, informed decisions through public participation citizenry. Enhancement of self-governance. Safeguarding interests and rights of the marginalized and minorities. Equitable distribution of resources and so on and so forth. These are all commendable and salutary efforts from the government I must say.
But, dreams, ambitions and aspirations of majority of Kenyans, that had been envisioned by the framers and drafters of the constitution, are unfortunately yet to be realized because of the galling lack of political will to implement the constitution. The most consternating thing, is that even the chief framer and architect of Kenya’s constitution , a constitutional lawyer and touted as the “father of the current constitution” had this to say as his opening remarks in one of Kenya’s local daily:
“’We should not rejoice and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Constitution with great enthusiasm. We have no reason to believe it will now generate better results than in the last 10 years, given the hands into which it has fallen”.
– Prof Yash Pal Ghai .
Quite a chilling statement from one of Africa’s progressive thinker, I muse.
President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke quite movingly and effusively in regard to the 10th anniversary of the constitution, reiterating and reminding Kenyans that 10 years later, the moment to improve the constitution is now. He further implored Kenyans not to succumb to the paralysis of the constitutional rigidity, but must treat it as a living document that must constantly adjust to the emerging realities. I totally agree with him on that
note that the constitution should be nimble, agile and a malleable document that should conform to the ever-changing realities of a country.
The abiding question remains, what happens to a document that has not been fully implemented over the years for lack of political good will? Do you have the lordly right whatsoever to call it rigid? How would you characterize it as rigid if it has not fully known the lay of the land through effective implementation? Why has there been a slow uptake and glacial slowness in implementing it over the decade with a fully constituted constitution implementation parliamentary committee? Is this the providential time to change the document when the general election is around the corner ? Why are you realizing at this moment that the presidential system and its winner takes all mantra does not snugly fit the country’s governance structure?
It’s quite interesting to note, nearly 30 countries in Africa have attempted to amend the constitution especially the removal of term limits since 1998 and this amazingly happened when the countries were girding for elections. Lately we have duly observed this trend creeping back to the African continent. Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi effortlessly come to mind as countries from East Africa which recently amended their constitution to do away with presidential term limits. Egypt has extended it presidential term limit to six years through a referendum and President Sisi is eligible for reelection in 2024, so ideally, he has enough room to swing a cat until 2030.
I had the good fortune recently of hosting Dr Miria Matembe a former member of the 7th parliament in Uganda and the author of the book titled The Struggle For Freedom & Democracy Betrayed: Memoirs Of Miria Matembe As An Insider In Museveni’s Government – quite an interesting read I must say – in a virtual debate on Presidential term limit and consolidating democracy in Africa . She made quite an interesting comment that should act as a pause giver for us.
“African Presidents love the constitution but they don’t love constitutionalism.”
Debarl Inea is a communication consultant at Sapphire Communications Ltd.
Tanzania’s John Magufuli Faces 14 Others in October Elections
No fewer than 14 political candidates will contest against Tanzania’s President John Magufuli in October’s presidential polls, the elections board announced on Wednesday.
Analysts say a divided opposition is likely to ensure he wins a second term.
Magufuli’s main challengers are likely to be Tundu Lissu, who returned to Tanzania last month after spending nearly three years in Belgium undergoing treatment for gunshot wounds and ex-foreign minister Bernard Membe, who was expelled from the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi party in February.
Lissu was shot in an alleged assassination attempt.
The presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for Oct. 28.
Opposition parties are heading to the polls without a coalition or alliance that helped them gain more votes in the last election.
Richard Mbunda, a political science lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) said the lack of trust between parties and their need to use elections as public relations events is the reason there is no alliance.
President Magufuli’s party has ruled Tanzania since independence in 1961. He swept to power in 2015 promising to end corruption and expand infrastructure. But his tough governing style has cemented his nickname – the Bulldozer – originally bestowed on him during his time as public works minister.
Rights groups and the opposition have accused Magufuli of increasing repression ahead of the polls and intimidation of political rivals and the press. The administration has denied these accusations.
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