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Ugandan court prevents government from suspending journalists

Government says journalists were suspended over national security risks of Bobi Wine’s arrest coverage



Uganda’s high court on Thursday blocked a government bid to suspend dozens of top journalists, on the grounds that their coverage of the arrest of popstar MP Bobi Wine had endangered national security.

The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) earlier this month called for 13 radio and TV stations to suspend their news editors, producers and heads of programming over their coverage of the latest detention of the popular rapper and politician.

Two activists petitioned the court on behalf of the Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) to have the order struck down.

“I am aware of the national security interests, however, regulatory actions cannot be used to trample the rights of people’s freedoms and right to information,” judge Lydia Mugambe Ssali told a packed courtroom in Kampala. 

“The application is allowed and injunction ordered against the respondent (the UCC).”

The ruling was hailed by journalists present in court.

“This is a historical ruling that has shaped the rights and principles of our profession,” the UJA’s head of media safety and human rights Arnold Anthony Mukose told AFP.

“We have been trampled upon by illegal, oppressive and irrational directives not only from UCC but other state agencies. In this case, the judiciary has stood with us,” he added.

UCC lawyer, Abdu Salaam Waisswa said: “We are going to analyse the ruling and see the way forward.”

The UCC order prompted diplomats from the EU, US, and another 14 countries to raise alarm about Uganda’s clampdown on media freedom and protests.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was detained for allegedly staging an illegal protest in 2018 -charges fellow opposition MPs have decried as ridiculous -and later freed on bail.

The popular singer is the figurehead of a new generation who grew up under President Yoweri Museveni but want to see change. 

He has emerged as a real challenger to the veteran president who intends to run for a sixth term in 2021.

Ugandan authorities have frustrated Wine’s efforts to hold concerts at his private club, and have detained him repeatedly for procedural misdemeanours.

His detention prompted protests in Kampala that were broken up by police with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Wine is also facing treason charges along with more than 30 opposition politicians over the alleged stoning of Museveni’s convoy after a campaign rally in the north-western town of Arua in 2018.

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East Africa News

Rwanda to Upgrade Covid-19 Testing to Detect Variants

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, Rwanda has decided to increase the number of tests done daily.



Rwanda is planning an upgrade of its testing capacity to enable the country to trace the new COVID-19 variants in the country. 

The Covid-19 variants which were first identified in South Africa and the United Kingdom are believed to be more transmissible than the original Covid-19 virus, raising concern that the new strains may be more deadly. 

On national television, Rwanda’s Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije said: “We haven’t yet tested and identified a Covid-19 variant…we are still working on this capability, and soon, we will be having it in place.”

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, the country decided to increase the number of tests done daily.

On Saturday, Rwanda resumed mass testing of residents, running a three-day exercise.

On Monday, 336 new positive cases out of the 7,867 tests done were reported in the country, bringing the total number of infections to 12,975. Three deaths and 261 recoveries were also recorded in the country on the same day, bringing total recoveries to 8,420 recoveries and death toll to 174. As of Monday, active positive cases stood at 4,453.

Vulnerable groups, including the elderly, were among those tergetted in the mass testing.

The country’s Ministry of Health set a target of 20,000 people on a cell and village level in the capital Kigali.

The aim of the mass testing is to determining how many infections are in Kigali and linking patients to their residential areas for better management.

“On the first day, among 4,500 tests taken, 200 of them were positive and above 70 years of age. We are confident that once we know who is infected and where they are, treatment will be more effective,” Dr Ngamije said.

Rwandan last week re-instated a 15 days lockdown in Kigali following a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths. Movement remains restricted nationwide.

Recently, the country imported 18,000 doses of the oral drug -Favipiravir which was used to treat influenza in Japan in 2014, that has now been approved for Covid-19 treatment by some countries.

Seven deaths were recorded in Rwanda on Saturday, the highest mortality rate so far in a day though the government is now optimistic that the new treatment will curb deaths.

Rwanda is also expecting the first one million doses of Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccine after acquiring the required refrigeration units. At least 500,000 people are expected to be the first beneficiaries. Frontline workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions are to be among these beneficiaries.

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Conservation News

Kenya, Tanzania Plan to Conduct Wildlife Census



Kenya and Tanzania are set to conduct a joint cross-border count of rhinoceros and other large mammals in the shared Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.

The census is one of the resolutions reached by a joint meeting dubbed ‘the Greater Serengeti Society Platform’

Chaired by chairperson of Tourism and Natural Resources Management Committee of the Council of Governors Samuel Tunai, it had in attendance key tourism industry players from the two countries.

The forum also deliberated on successes in conservation of the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, as well as challenges and the interventions needed.

Attendees at the workshop facilitated by the European union included senior managers and directors from Kenya Wildlife Services, Tanzania National Parks, and Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority.

Others are Narok County, Maasai Mara game reserve warden, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, Grumeti & Friedkin and the Maasai Mara Wildlife Associations.

The meeting saw to the constitution of the committee tasked with the cross-border census. It involved Kenya Wildlife Service, Narok county government rangers, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Wildlife Division of Tanzania and Tanzania National Parks and Environmental activists.

The aerial census seeks to establish the wildlife population, trends and distribution as well as foster cross-border collaboration on wildlife monitoring and management between the two East African countries.

Tunai said data from the census will be used for planning and preparing the management for possible wildlife security and human-wildlife conflict eventualities in the ecosystem.

Researcher Grant Hopcraft said the Tanzanian government has moved about 8,000 persons out of the Speke Game Controlled Area in a bid to conserve Serengeti’s ecosystem as it faces shortfalls in rainfall.

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East Africa News

8.3m South Sudanese in Need of Humanitarian Aid – UN

“Conflict, insecurity and natural disasters have displaced nearly four million people since 2013,” the office said.



UN humanitarians report that the number of people in need of urgent aid in South Sudan has now increased to 8.3 million, from 7.5 million in 2020.

South Sudan, a landlocked country, has a total population of just over 11 million.

Years of conflict, climate change and now Covid-19 for the hike are some of the factors that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) blames for the rise in the numbers.

Among those in need are refugees and asylum seekers numbering 310,000.

“Conflict, insecurity and natural disasters have displaced nearly four million people since 2013,” the office said.

The rate of hunger in the country is steadily growing, with more than 7.2 million people projected to be severely food insecure during 2021, it said in a release. Some of the communities in the country face “catastrophic levels of food insecurity”.

“The already serious humanitarian situation has been compounded by severe flooding, affecting approximately 1 million people each year in 2019 and 2020. The South Sudanese people also continue to be highly vulnerable to epidemic diseases, due to low immunisation coverage, a weak health system and poor hygiene and sanitation.”

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people has been quite devastating and socio-economically multi-faceted.

UN humanitarians said some of the challenges faced include but are not limited to economic contractions, spikes in commodity prices, loss of livelihoods, particularly in urban areas, increased protection risks and disrupted access to basic services.

South Sudan only gained independence in 2011, making the African country one of the countries in the world.

Although the country is richly blessed in oil, South Sudan is one of the poorer nations in the world, ranking 157 out of 194 countries or territories in the International Monetary Fund’s 2020 estimate of the World Economic Outlook.

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