Sunday, April 22, 2018

AFGHANISTAN suicide bombing death toll rises to 63 - VIDEO

At least 63 people killed in bombings targeting voter registration centres in Kabul and Baghlan province, officials say.

Bombings at voter registration centres in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and in Baghlan province have killed at least 63 people and wounded more than a hundred others, health officials said.

At least 57 people were killed in Kabul when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the doorway of an ID distribution centre in the city on Sunday, officials said.

Six more people were killed later in the day in Baghlan's Pul-e-Khumri city, when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb near another voting centre. All six were from the same family.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group said it carried out the Kabul attack, but no group has claimed responsibility for the Baghlan blast yet.

The Kabul bombing occured in the Dasht-e-Barchi area, where many of the country's Shia Hazara minority reside.

Among the victims were many women and children, witnesses said.

"After I heard a bang, I rushed to the site of the blast and, when I arrived at the scene, we helped many wounded people by carrying them to hospital," Bashir Ahmad, a witness, said.

"Many of the victims were women and children who were here to get their identity cards and register for elections," Ahmad added.

Wahid Majro, spokesman for the public health ministry, said five small children and 21 women were killed in the attack. The toll could still rise, he told the Associated Press news agency.
Afghan president offers to recognise the Taliban

In a separate development on Sunday, a traffic incident reportedly involving a convoy of foreign forces killed a child near the US embassy in Kabul, prompting protests in the area. Witnesses reported heavy gunfire near the embassy.
October elections

Attacks have multiplied in recent days in advance of the long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections scheduled for October 20 this year.

Last week, a voter registration centre was attacked in Ghor province, according to Tolonews, a local news website.

In that attack, unidentified gunmen, which a police spokesperson said belonged to the Taliban, kidnapped two police officers on site as well as three IEC workers.

Al Jazeera's Abdullah Shahood, reporting from Kabul, said there was uncertainty about the government's ability to secure the polls.

"Elections are scheduled to be held in many areas that are under Taliban control. There is no chance that free polls could be held there, even as the government says it is trying to implement law and order there to allow people to vote and exercise their constitutional right," Shahood said.

Voter registration offices opened just last week as part of the long process to get Afghans properly registered for the October polls.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) says it hopes as many as 15 million people will register for the polls, but the election commissioner admits registration turnout so far has been low.

President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack and said it "cannot divert us from our aims or weaken this national democratic process".

Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN's top official in the country, condemned the attack, saying he "feels a deep sense of revulsion".

"Compounding the callous disregard for the lives of civilians, the killing appears to be part of a wholly unacceptable effort by extremists to deter Afghan citizens from carrying out their constitutional right to take part in elections," he said in a statement.


A man cries beside a wounded girl at a hospital after the attack in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Relatives of victims carry an injured man outside a hospital in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Relatives of the victims mourn at a hospital in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Security forces stood guard at the site of the attack in Kabul's Dasht-e-Barchi [Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

AFRICA: Libyan coastguards recover bodies of 11 migrants

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan coastguards recovered the bodies of 11 migrants who died off Libya’s western shore during an attempted crossing to Italy on Sunday, a spokesman said.

More than 80 migrants survived the incident off the city of Sabratha, about 70 km (44 miles) west of Tripoli, and coastguards brought them back to the nearby city of Zawiya, said naval coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem.

The migrants were from various sub-Saharan African countries, he said.

A second boat, carrying 200 migrants including 38 women and one child, was intercepted off Zliten, about 135 km (84 miles)east of Tripoli, Qassem said. As well as African migrants, the vessel was carrying Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians.

Libya is the most common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. More than 600,000 crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy in the past four years, the vast majority from Libya.

Since last July there has been a sharp drop in crossings as Libyan authorities backed by Italy pressured local groups to stop smuggling and supported Libya’s coastguard to intercept those who do leave.

European powers have also pushed to reduce flows into Libya from the south and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has flown back 25,000 migrants from Libya to their home countries since the start of last year.

Some 5,330 migrants had crossed from Libya to Italy between Jan. 1 and April 20 this year, about 85 percent lower than during the same period in 2017, according to Italy’s interior ministry.

NORTH KOREA: No sanctions relief till nuclear arms dismantled

U.S. wants North Korea to dismantle nuclear arms for sanctions relief: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump will not be willing to offer North Korea substantial sanctions relief before Pyongyang has substantially dismantled its nuclear programs, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing administration officials.

“When the president says that he will not make the mistakes of the past, that means the U.S. will not be making substantial concessions, such as lifting sanctions, until North Korea has substantially dismantled its nuclear programs,” it quoted a senior Trump administration official as saying.

RWANDA weeds church plants, closes over 6000 of them

Image: Mike Ellis

CHRISTIANITY TODAY - Thousands of churches closed in attempt to curb bad buildings—and bad preaching.Authorities have closed more than 6,000 churches across Rwanda, including 714 in the capital city of Kigali, in the span of two months for failing to comply with health, safety, and noise regulations.

Underscoring the seriousness of the campaign, a lightning strike killed 16 worshipers and injured 140 at a Seventh-day Adventist church that had not installed a mandated lightning rod.

Lawmakers are now debating new regulations in an attempt to prevent fraudulent behavior among the East African nation’s mushrooming churches.

President Paul Kagame welcomed the shutdowns but was stunned at the scale: “700 churches in Kigali?” he said during a government dialogue in March. “Are these boreholes that give people water? I don’t think we have as many boreholes. Do we even have as many factories? This has been a mess!”

Kagame said his country doesn’t need so many houses of worship, explaining that such a high number is only fit for bigger, more developed economies that have the means to sustain them.

Many church leaders disagree, and six Pentecostal pastors were arrested for organizing protests. Rwandan authorities maintain the churches were in such poor physical condition that they threatened the lives of churchgoers.

The majority are small Pentecostal gatherings. Many are shepherded by charismatic preachers who draw followers with promises of signs and wonders. Often, such churches meet in houses, tents, or crude structures that lack adequate water systems. They often blast sermons down streets through megaphones and loudspeakers.

Rwanda Weeds the Church Plants

Thousands of churches closed in attempt to curb bad buildings-and bad preaching.

TANZANIA: UAE issues travel alert to Tanzania

Image Credit: Supplied picture Serengeti means ‘endless plain’ in Masai.

The UAE Embassy on Sunday warned travellers over torrential rainfall that hit east African country

DUBAI (GULF NEWS): The UAE Embassy has issued a weather advisory to passengers travelling to Tanzania, announced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC).

The ministry took to Twitter to make the announcement on Sunday, as it cautioned Emiratis over torrential rainfall and bad weather that has affected the eastern coast of Africa during the last few days.

وزارة الخارجية

تنوه سفارة الدولة في #تنزانيا المواطنين الكرام بأخذ الحيطة والحذر عند السفر إلى #تنزانيا وذلك بسبب الأمطار الغزيرة وسوء الأحوال الجوية التي تشهدها البلاد حاليا

Emiratis are urged to call the ministry’s 24-hour “my presence” hotline number 800 44444 in the event of an emergency.

Travellers were also reminded to sign up to the Tawajudi “my presence”, where Emiratis can register their locations while travelling, on a secure and confidential ministry website, which would allow the government to assist them in emergencies.

Since last Wednesday, 14 people have died as a result of days of torrential rains and flooding in Dar es Salaam, according to AFP.

"The balance sheet has worsened. This morning, we have reached 14 killed," city police chief Lazaro Mambosasa told reporters.

The number of deaths have been slowly rising as heavy rains lashed out against the east African nation in the weekend.

KENYA: China loans to Kenya could hit KEs. 1tn as state funds Uhuru's Big Four

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects the construction of the Nairobi-Naivasha standard gauge railway (Phase 2A) - Ngong Tunnel at Embulbul, Kajiado county /VICTOR IMBOTO

NAIROBI (THE STAR) - The government's desire to achieve the big four agenda is likely to see China's credit to Kenya hit Sh1 trillion by 2022.

This follows a pledge by the Asian economic giant to support Jubilee's blue print for the next five years that is aimed at improving the living conditions of an estimated 47 million Kenyans.

Currently , China is one of the leading bilateral donors with cumulative official development assistance to Kenya standing at Sh730 billion comprising grants of Sh27.9 billion and loans of Sh702.1 billion.

“The big four will cost quite a lot. Our expectation is that some of it will come from government some of it from the private sector and so we are in the process of strengthening our public private partnership,” the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of National Treasury and Planning Kamau Thugge said on Friday last week.

He further said that the government is currently using Chinese credit to construct the Nairobi to Naivasha SGR project, the construction of Nairobi Inland Container Deport yard, Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital, construction of Kibwezi-Kitui road among other projects. “ There are other hosts of projects in the pipeline...,” Thugge said.

The government’s Big Four Agenda was launched last December by President Uhuru Kenyatta with the aim of addressing the most pressing issues faced by Kenyans.

The Agenda is aimed at raising the share of manufacturing sector to 15 percent of GDP; ensure that all citizens enjoy food security and improved nutrition by 2022 ; achieve universal health coverage; and deliver at least five hundred thousand (500,000) affordable housing units.

In the first phase of building the houses, which was carried out in Mavoko, transport and infrastructure cabinet secretary, James Macharia said that they had 65 companies expressing their interest in building the homes with 35 of them being Chinese firms.


To further achieve the laid down agenda, the government seeks to maintain inflation rate within the band of 2.5 per cent on either side of the five per cent target.

This comes as it slows down ministerial expenditure, while implementing various measure to boost domestic revenue mobilization, strengthening the tax administration by funding it more and expansion of the tax base.

To this effect , the government last week proposed an overhaul of the current Income Tax act that seeks to improve the cost of living.

Other laid down measures aiming at raising revenue to realise the big four include reducing government deficit by three per cent to the Gross Domestic Product ( GDP) by financial year 2021/2022 from the current 9.1 per cent of GDP, and the nominal public debt on net basis targeted to reduce from the preliminary 51.9 per cent of GDP to 43.2 per cent in 2022.

KENYA seeks share of billions of shillings made from lake

DAILY NATION - The cloud behind alleged exportation of enzymes from Lake Bogoria by a foreign university is set to be lifted with the government demanding full disclosure of the details.

The water resource, known for its flamingoes, contains an unusual variety of microbes and micro-organisms from which enzymes have been produced for use in antibiotics and cleaning products.

Tiny organisms found in the lake are the basis of a multi-million dollar global biotech industry.

And now Environment Chief Administrative Secretary William Kiprono says the Baringo County government must demand full disclosure of all the money from the royalties deal.

Mr Kiprono said local communities stand to benefit from such discoveries in line with the Nagoya Protocol, on access and benefit-sharing with regard to genetic resources and their use, which Kenya is a signatory of.

“It will be heartbreaking if researchers are really making millions yet nothing is ploughed back into the community which is grappling with a myriad of challenges. We feel that the community was shortchanged in the deal,” said Mr Kiprono.

Lake Bogoria in Baringo County, which is known for flamingoes and contains an unusual variety of microbes and micro-organisms from which enzymes have been produced for use in antibiotics and cleaning products. FILE PHOTO | NMG

He spoke at Maji Mazuri in Eldama Ravine Sub-County during a national tree planting exercise.

In 1992, a researcher from a British university harvested some micro-organisms illegally from the lake, and in 1995 sold them to companies in the Netherlands and the US.
The firms were later sued by the Kenyan government for not sharing the financial benefits of their subsequent innovations.

Among living organisms collected from the lake during the research included an enzyme that would later be used by a company to develop an extremely successful line of Tide bleach for stonewashing denim clothes.

In 2004, the Kenya Wildlife Service went to court seeking a share of the hundreds of millions of dollars generated from the sale of the popular detergent and bleaching agent manufactured in the US whose active ingredients were acquired from the lake illegally.

According to Mr Kiprono, the community was later given a paltry Sh2.3 million by the Dutch bio-enzyme company which they used as bursaries for over 200 local students.

“Such kind of resource should have been of great benefit to the community. The county government should revisit to see if the amount paid to the community living around the lake is commensurate with the billions of shillings the bio tech industries are getting from the enzymes,” said Mr Kiprono.

The lake has a deep spiritual and cultural significance for the minority Endorois people, who have been its custodians for centuries. But it is only in the last few years that they have realised they are sitting on a potential gold mine.

“Relevant authorities should ensure that the community receives a fair share of any resources from the lake,” said the official.

Endorois Welfare Council chairman Wilson Kipkazi said companies that conducted research at the lake never involved the community.

“We learned then through the media that multinational companies have made millions of dollars through genetic resources extracted from Lake Bogoria. This made the community furious,” said Mr Kipkazi, adding that foreigners have made a killing from the water resource while locals continue to wallow in poverty.

The community which numbers about 70,000 people got a boost in 2010 after the African Union Court sitting in Banjul ordered that their ancestral land around Lake Bogoria Game Reserve be referred back to them by the Kenyan government.

Among other issues, the government had also been ordered to compensate the community for include evicting them and withholding royalties from the revenue being generated from the reserve.