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KENYA-MAASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE-ANIMALS | COASTWEEK

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Lion cubs play at the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Aug. 28, 2017.  XINHUA PHOTO: LYU SHUAI

Kenya’s Supreme Court overruns President Kenyatta’s victory


NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Supreme Court on Friday declared the Aug. 8 presidential election null and void and ordered a repeat of similar exercise within 60 days.

Chief Justice and President of Supreme Court David Maraga said the election where the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner had gross irregularities which affected the integrity of elections.  

 

UN Security Council extends AU mission in Somalia

UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution to extend the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until May 31, 2018 and authorized a downsizing of troops.

The council decided to reduce the level of uniformed personnel to a maximum of 21,626 by the end of this year, with a further reduction of uniformed personnel to 20,626 by Oct. 30, 2018, unless the Security Council decides to accelerate the pace of the reduction.

The current maximum deployment level is 22,126 uniformed personnel, as set out in Resolution 2355.

“The long-term objective for Somalia, with the support of its international partners, is that Somali security forces assume full responsibility for Somalia’s security,” said the newly adopted resolution.

It noted that AMISOM remains critical to security during this transition. One of the strategic objectives of AMISOM is to enable the gradual handing over of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somali security forces contingent on abilities of the Somali security forces and political and security progress in Somalia, said the resolution.

  

Egypt, UN urge political settlement to Syrian crisis

CAIRO, (Xinhua) -- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura discussed on Wednesday Syrian crisis on the phone, stressing negotiations between Syrian warring parties.

In a press statement, the ministry said that De Mistura phoned Shoukry and briefed him with the United Nations assessment of the current efforts for uniting the Syrian opposition and resuming political talks in Geneva.

Shoukry stressed Egypt’s support for the UN role in fostering negotiations between the Syrian parties.

He said Egypt has been supporting a political settlement to the Syrian crisis in a way that ends bloodshed in the country and maintains the unity of its territories.

Recently, Egypt worked with Russia to broker an agreement to create a de-escalation zone in the northern Homs countryside and also brokered an earlier deal to de-escalate conflict in Eastern Ghouta region in Damascus.

Since its eruption in March 2011, the Syrian crisis has claimed lives of about half a million people, as well as displaced and wounded over 14 million. 

  

Egypt puts 296 Muslim Brotherhood defendants on terror list

CAIRO, (Xinhua) -- An Egyptian court decided on Wednesday to place 296 defendants loyal to the banned Muslim Brotherhood on the country’s terror list for three years, official MENA news agency reported.

The defendants admitted during investigations that they joined the group, which was deemed as hampering the rule of law and harming national unity through temptations to topple the ruling authority, according to the Cairo Criminal Court.

The defendants confessed committing acts of violence against people and vital facilities of Armed Forces and police.

On Tuesday, the court has made a similar decision against 56 brotherhood defendants.

Egypt has been launching a massive crackdown on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group since former President Mohammed Morsi, a brotherhood leader, was removed by the military in July 2013 after mass protests against his one-year rule.

A later dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in the capital and nearby Giza left about 1,000 killed and thousands more arrested and facing mass trials.

Since then, growing anti-government terror attacks left hundreds of police and military men killed, with most of them claimed by a Sinai-based militant group loyal to the regional Islamic State (IS) group.

A judicial panel in charge of the group’s capital chain has previously seized funds of several Brotherhood-run businesses including supermarkets and private schools. 

  

Zimbabwean ruling party supporters hold rally in support of First Family

HARARE, (Xinhua) -- A rally organized by the Zimbabwean ruling party Zanu-PF in solidarity with First Lady Grace Mugabe Wednesday ended up being held to show support to the First Family as a whole, with the party’s secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo being the guest of honor.

Messages delivered at the gathering hovered around the issue of internal party squabbles and ignored the diplomatic tiff the First Lady was involved in while in South Africa two weeks ago.

The First Lady had to invoke diplomatic immunity cover to evade court after she allegedly assaulted 20-year-old model Gabriella Engels whom she had found in the company of her two sons in their room.

With the South African police wanting to interview her and human rights group AfriForum pushing for her prosecution, the South African government said it recognized her diplomatic immunity status and allowed her to leave the country.

Grace left with President Robert Mugabe who had been attending a SADC summit there.

While commissar for Harare Province, Shadreck Mashayamombe denied Tuesday that the solidarity rally had anything to do with what transpired in South Africa, one of the placards displayed at the rally—written in a mixture of English and the vernacular Shona—said Masvingo Province had declared that “Engels is not an angel.”

Many Zimbabweans had however expressed concern over a possible backlash by militant South Africans who could attack their loved ones there if the rally turned out to be supporting the First Lady over the South African incident.

Chombo spoke on the need for discipline in the party and preparations for the 2018 elections.

“If we love our President and the First Lady, just as we have displayed by today’s meeting, let’s take the same enthusiasm and energy to our provinces and vote so that we deliver all the constituencies to Zanu-PF. The First Lady and President Mugabe will be very happy,” he said.

He also criticized some war veterans for engaging in divisive activities in the party. 

 

Medical charity slams ambush on its staff in South Sudan

JUBA, (Xinhua) -- International medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Wednesday denounced attack on its staff in South Sudan which resulted in injuries of two staff members, a loss of medical equipment and assets.

MSF said the ambush on Aug. 24 outside the town of Pibor forced the suspension of some of MSF’s medical programs in the area.

“We simply cannot turn a blind eye to incidents like these or start believing that they are in anyway normal, despite the alarming frequency with which they have occurred,” Marie Cleret, MSF Head of Mission said in a statement issued in Juba.

The convoy, consisting of an MSF vehicle, a tractor and a team of four staff members, was en route to conduct a medical assessment in a nearby village when it was ambushed by a group of armed men speaking the local language.

The medical charity said two members of the team were beaten, leaving them with minor injuries.

“The team’s personal affairs were stolen, alongside MSF property, including the team’s vehicle. The team was then left temporarily stranded, but was able to return to MSF’s facility in Pibor later the same evening,” it said.

MSF, which is the only humanitarian organization providing healthcare in Pibor, Lekongole and Gumuruk, said the latest attack represents yet another serious risk to its ability to safely provide medical care in Pibor.

“People are heavily reliant on the assistance we provide for their survival, and are already incredibly vulnerable due to the ongoing conflict,” Cleret said.

Following the incident, MSF said it had no choice but to suspend part of its outreach activity in Pibor, due to the increasing insecurity of traveling by road.

This is the third attack on MSF’s medical facilities in Pibor in the past nine months which has forced MSF to suspend the provision of much-needed medical care.

The attack comes just days after the charity called for the need to protect civilians and respect their access to medical care in South Sudan. Over the past 18 months, 24 MSF facilities and assets have been attacked in the country.

“MSF again calls on all armed actors to protect civilians and refrain from targeting medical facilities, which deprives people of a vital lifeline when they absolutely need it most,” said Cleret.

“This incident puts the local population even further out of the reach of lifesaving medical care.”

According to the UN, over 80 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the beginning of the December 2013 crisis, including at least 12 killed in 2017, and at least eight humanitarian convoys have been attacked already this year.

Under International Humanitarian Law, intentional attacks against humanitarian relief personnel may constitute war crimes.

  

Rwanda’s new prime minister sworn in

KIGALI, (Xinhua) -- Rwanda’s newly appointed Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente was sworn in on Wednesday at Parliament in the capital city of Kigali.

Ngirente was appointed as the prime minister by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame earlier in the day.

Presiding over his swearing in ceremony, Kagame said he trusted the new prime minister’s ability, will and determination to serve and achieve what Rwandans expect of him.

He thanked Ngirente for accepting to serve his country as prime minister.

“Our government is about being inclusive. Our aim is to ensure that every Rwandan feels represented by their government. Our way of working is about working together and complementing each other,” said the president.

He commended the outgoing prime minister Anastase Murekezi, who has been in office since 2014, for his hard work and contribution to the central African country.

Under Rwanda’s Constitution the prime minister is appointed within 15 days from the day of the swearing in of the new president, other cabinet members shall be appointed within 15 days after the appointment of the prime minister.

The cabinet is appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister, according to the constitution.

 

Malta donates 25,000 euros to Libya

VALLETTA,  (Xinhua) -- Malta’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Ministry has contributed 25,000 euros (29,806 U.S. dollars) towards water supply and health care services in Libya.

Support will be given in the form of reparation of water infrastructure and health facilities, providing water treatment material, and giving material support to primary health care centers.

This donation follows an appeal to support Libya that was made on July 12 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during the launch of the Libya Budget Extension Appeal in Geneva.

The ministry said it supported the work being carried out by the ICRC and believed that the contribution should assist in the implementation of their response plan.

  

Nigeria nabs 10 drug traffickers in northeast state

LAGOS, (Xinhua) -- Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has arrested 10 suspected drug dealers in northeast state of Adamawa, an official said Wednesday.

The suspects were arrested within the past one week following the renewed war against drug dealers by the agency, Wale Ige, the NDLEA state commander told reporters in Yola, the state capital.

“We have put in place a network of measures to ensure that drug dealers who are bent on coming to Adamawa State to ensnare youths with illicit substances are caught in NDLEA dragnet,” Ige said.

Ige told reporters that the anti-drug agency arrested 127 suspects and seized 1,763 kg of narcotic and psychotropic substances from January to date.

“The arrested suspects are made up of 124 males and 3 females while the monthly average of the arrests is about 16 persons per month,” he added. 

  

Study: common antidepressant may worsen tinnitus

SAN FRANCISCO, (Xinhua) -- A study by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) researchers indicates that a common antidepressant medication may worsen a condition, known as tinnitus, that millions of people suffer.

People with tinnitus have the constant sensation of ringing or buzzing in the ears, creating constant irritation for some and severe anxiety for others. A common class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been used to alleviate symptoms of moderate to severe depression and anxiety.

SSRIs work by increasing the level of serotonin, a chemical compound that acts as a neurotransmitter thought to be responsible for maintaining mood balance.

Detailed in a paper recently published in the journal Cell Reports, the OHSU researchers examined brain tissue in mice, specifically the dorsal cochlear nucleus where sensory integration and tinnitus occurs. They discovered that neurons known as fusiform cells within this portion of the brain become hyperactive and hypersensitive to stimuli when exposed to serotonin.

Senior author Laurence Trussell, a professor of otolaryngology in the OHSU School of Medicine and scientist in the OHSU Vollum Institute, said they saw “the activity of those neurons went through the roof.”

The finding suggests that SSRIs prescribed to treat anxiety or depression may sometimes worsen patients’ tinnitus, which is defined as the chronic perception of sound when there is no internal or external acoustic source.

Lead author Zheng-Quan Tang, a senior postdoctoral fellow in Trussell’s lab, was quoted in a news release as saying a review of existing scientific literature indicated that many patients reported an increase in tinnitus soon after they began taking SSRIs.

The authors are interested in exploring another area of research to focus on a type of ion channel in the membrane of neurons that is activated by serotonin. If they can determine a way to deactivate those channels, it may be possible to allow the beneficial effects of antidepressants while limiting the severity of tinnitus. 

 

New app to use smartphone selfies to screen for pancreatic cancer

SAN FRANCISCO, (Xinhua) -- University of Washington (UW) researchers are developing a software application, or app, to allow people to screen for pancreatic cancer and other diseases by snapping a smartphone selfie.

With a five-year survival rate of 9 percent, pancreatic cancer has one of the worst prognoses in part because there are no telltale symptoms or non-invasive screening tools to catch a tumor before it spreads.

The app, BiliScreen, uses a smartphone camera, computer vision algorithms and machine learning tools to detect increased bilirubin levels in a person’s sclera, or the white part of the eye.

One of the earliest symptoms of pancreatic cancer, as well as other diseases, is jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. The blood test currently in use to measure bilirubin levels is typically not administered to adults unless there is reason for concern.

“The problem with pancreatic cancer is that by the time you’re symptomatic, it’s frequently too late,” Alex Mariakakis, a doctoral student at UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, was quoted as saying in a news release. The ability to detect signs of jaundice when bilirubin levels are minimally elevated could enable an entirely new screening program for at-risk individuals.

“The hope is that if people can do this simple test once a month - in the privacy of their own homes - some might catch the disease early enough to undergo treatment that could save their lives,” explained Mariakakis, who as lead author of a paper will present the app at Ubicomp 2017, the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, in Maui, Hawaii, on September 13.

In adults, the whites of the eyes are more sensitive than skin to changes in bilirubin levels, which can be an early warning sign for pancreatic cancer, hepatitis or the generally harmless Gilbert’s syndrome. Unlike skin color, changes in the sclera are more consistent across all races and ethnicities. Yet by the time people notice the yellowish discoloration in the sclera, bilirubin levels are already well past cause for concern.

Wondering if computer vision and machine learning tools could detect those color changes in the eye before humans can see them, the UW team built BiliScreen on earlier work from the university’s Ubiquitous Computing Lab, which previously developed BiliCam, a smartphone app that screens for newborn jaundice by taking a picture of a baby’s skin. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed BiliCam provided accurate estimates of bilirubin levels in 530 infants.

The new app uses a smartphone’s built-in camera and flash to collect pictures of a person’s eye as they snap a selfie, then calculates the color information from the sclera and correlates it with bilirubin levels using machine learning algorithms.

To account for different lighting conditions, the team tested BiliScreen with two different accessories: paper glasses printed with colored squares to help calibrate color and a 3-D printed box that blocks out ambient lighting. Using the app with the box accessory led to slightly better results.

In an initial clinical study of 70 people, BiliScreen correctly identified cases of concern 89.7 percent of the time.

  

S. Africa culls 60,000 birds as avian flu lands

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) -- South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said Wednesday that it is contemplating the option of vaccination to stop the spread of avian flu.

The latest province to be hard hit by a highly contagious strain of bird flu is the Western Cape. The country has registered 16 outbreaks since two occurred in Mpumalanga and Gauteng in June.

“Approximately 60,000 birds have been culled on the farm,” Ziyanda Majokweni, director of Poultry Disease Management Agency at the South African Poultry Association, said Wednesday at a media briefing in Johannesburg.

She added that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus was detected on a commercial layer poultry farm on Aug. 17.

DAFF said the department was considering vaccinating most of the affected areas.

“It is a decision (vaccination) that should be based on scientific research for the long-term benefit of the sector and the country. But we are considering it, as the impact is wide,” said Senzeni Zokwana, DAFF minister.

A final decision about vaccination will be made available at the end of next month, the minister said.

Meanwhile, DAFF has adopted stringent measures to halt the spread of bird flu from the affected areas, including placing farms under quarantine, destroying the eggs and depopulating the affected sites.

In South Africa, outbreaks of the virus have been reported in various parts of the country. Ten of the outbreaks were in the area of commercial chickens, three in ostrich, three in backyard chickens and eight in wild birds and pet birds.

According to the World Health Organization, no human cases have been reported as caused by bird flu.

“The World Organization for Animal Health and World Health Organization have both confirmed that the specific strain does not affect human beings,” Zokwana said.

In June, DAFF suspended the sale of live chickens in the country following the outbreak of the highly pathogenic strain. 

  

Kenya pledges dialogue with manufacturers to end row over plastic ban

By Christine Lagat NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government on Wednesday reiterated its commitment to hold dialogue with manufacturers to end stalemate over enforcement of a plastic ban.

Director General of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Geoffrey Wahungu, said that structured discussions with industry will commence soon to find an amicable solution to rows linked to a plastic ban that came into force on Monday.

“Our doors are open to manufacturers of plastic packaging materials seeking clarity on the ban that came into force two days ago. We have maintained that the ban only affects a limited component of plastic bags and have no intention to close factories that employ thousands of Kenyans,” said Wahungu.

He spoke in Nairobi during a meeting with members of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) who expressed reservation on the implementation of the ban.

Wahungu said the state will in future hold a series of dialogue forums with industry to shed light on the legal framework governing a ban on manufacture and use of plastic bags.

“The plastic ban that has received overwhelming support from the public is part of a national solid waste management and is not meant to stifle industrial progress in the country,” Wahungu said.

He said the plastic ban exempts industrial packaging, fast-moving consumer goods, pharmaceutical products and large polythene bags used for garbage collection in cities.

Kenya enforced the historic plastic ban on Aug. 28 earning the East African Nation an enviable position in green stewardship.

The manufacturing sector, however, was opposed to the plastic ban, terming it a threat to job creation and income generation.

A court case filed by the manufacturing lobby was suspended last week, paving way for its enforcement.

KAM CEO Phyllis Wakiaga said investors were not opposed to the plastic ban but wanted clarification on how it will impact on businesses.

“As manufacturers, we have always supported a balance between environmental sustainability and economic growth. We look forward to fruitful dialogue with the state to clear the air on contentious issues surrounding the plastic ban,” said Wakiaga

KAM Director and Head of the Legal Committee, Mucai Kunyiha, added that it is important that new terminologies that are being introduced as part of exemptions or new directives are understood uniformly by all stakeholders.

“The issue of waste is a complicated matter that needs the collaboration of all stakeholders. If a body like NEMA does not have the capacity to manage waste nationally, it is impossible for us as the business community to do it solely, as expressed in the extended producer responsibility directive issued by NEMA, just last week,” Kunyiha said.

  

Kenya should embrace China’s growth strategy to achieve prosperity: expert

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya should borrow lessons from China’s economic miracle that came to light three decades ago thanks to policy reforms and modernization of agriculture and manufacturing sectors, an expert said on Wednesday.

Alex Litu, an analyst specializing in informal economy, said in an article published by the People newspaper on Wednesday that China could offer Kenya valuable insight on how to leapfrog from an agrarian economy to an industrial one.

“The route taken by China is one which Kenya can borrow a leaf from when looking for ways to transform and grow its economy through agriculture and manufacturing,” Litu remarked.

An estimated 75 percent of Kenyan population relies on agriculture for income generation while industrial take off is yet to be realized thanks to infrastructural, personnel and financing hiccups.

Litu noted that a transformed agriculture sector that underpinned China’s stellar economic performance could provide inspiration to Kenya as it embarks on a transition from subsistence farming to advanced manufacturing.

“The significant improvement in agriculture helped China release labor from land to industry and service sectors,” said Litu.

Kenya should take a cue from China and embark on policy reforms alongside technology adoption in order to sustain its status as a regional economic and industrial hub.

Litu hailed sweeping reforms that China undertook to realize phenomenal economic growth that spread benefits across the globe.

“Over the years, China has managed to turn around its economy by instituting certain reforms which have seen the country’s economy grow exponentially into a global economic powerhouse,” said Litu.

He noted that the development of a vibrant informal economy could help address poverty and unemployment crisis in Kenya. 

  

Kenya’s bourse major indices fall as key shares decline

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- All key indices of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) declined on Wednesday as local investors trading dropped 20 percent and key shares fell.

Local investors’ participation stood at 49 percent, down from 70 percent on Tuesday while foreigners accounted for 51 percent of the trading, mainly selling.

The NSE 20 Share Index declined 3.22 points to close at 4,038.86, sustaining a negative trend registered Tuesday where it fell 46.92 points.

Similarly, the NSE All share Index (NASI) was down to 171.21 points from 172.75 in the previous session.

Market turnover stood at 6 million U.S. dollars on a volume of 19 million shares from 34 million worth 8.5 million dollars.

The most traded counters were Safaricom, Barclays Bank, Kengen, Kenya Commercial Bank and East African Breweries Ltd after moving 9.8 million, 2 million, 1.9 million, 1 million and 529,500 shares respectively.

Among top losers were Safaricom (2 percent), Barclays Bank (0.5 percent), Deacons (8 percent), Mumias Sugar (4 percent) and HomeAfrika (4.4 percent)

Investors’ wealth, measured by market capitalization, similarly declined significantly to 24 million dollars from 25 million dollars in the previous session.

At the bonds market, however, turnover rose to 25 million dollars from 19 million dollars in the previous session.

  

Feature: Kenyan herders find respite in insurance payouts amid biting drought

By Ejidiah Wangui NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Whenever drought ravages Kenya, images from the northern parts of the country are those of dusty plains dotted with carcasses of livestock that succumbed to the harsh elements.

Cattle herders in these regions are the hardest hit as their only source of income is wiped out by natural calamities they have no power to control.

But amid the misery and despair, efforts to cushion these herders against the vagaries of weather have started to bear fruit.

Vera Rosauer, a communication officer at the World Bank, told Xinhua this week that the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP), an index insurance that insures vulnerable pastoralists in the northern counties in the East African nation, has so far paid out about 5.3 million U.S dollars to over 20,000 pastoralists in the region.

“In the 2016-2017 season, due to a severe drought, KLIP had two big payouts. One in February to about 12,000 pastoral households of 2.1 million dollars and one in August to 11,500 pastoral households of 3.1 million dollars. This has helped reach about 100,000 people given the extended size of households in the North,” she said.

According to the World Bank official, unlike previous interventions where responses involved mobilizing emergency relief which would arrive too late to save the animals,   

KLIP provides protection starting at the beginning of a season, and if a drought strikes, payouts happen quickly to beneficiaries to allow them to buy water or food to keep the livestock alive.

“It is all about prevention, rather than cure, and speed of intervention. It is also a transparent and predictable way to provide disaster relief which leverages private sector expertise and capital,” said Rosauer.

Kenya is exposed to severe droughts which strike about every three to five years. In northern Kenya, livestock represent 70 percent of households’ incomes.

When drought occurs, households are at risk of losing their livestock, and their main source of food and income.

During the severe droughts between 2008 and 2011, the Kenyan economy lost heavily. The livestock sector was hit hardest.

According to Rosauer, Kenya is one of the very few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where the index insurance program has the potential to scale up to attain commercial sustainability. Ethiopia too has a similar program.

Launched in October 2015 in Wajir and Turkana where about 5,000 pastoral households were covered, the program spread tentacles in October 2016 to cover Marsabit, Mandera, Tana River and Isiolo Counties and insured about 14,000 pastoral households.

The central government, Rosauer said, pays insurance premiums for county-selected pastoralists, and private insurance companies develop the insurance policy and pay claims when they arise.

“In 2016-2017, a pool of seven insurance companies reinsured by Swiss Re provided insurance cover. The insurance only provides cover for the equivalent of five cows, and targets the most vulnerable pastoralists,” she explained.

In the program, counties are broken down into zones with similar climate and soil conditions called “unit areas of insurance.”

A satellite reads every 10 days the level of pasture in these zones to produce a vegetation index, which is used as a proxy for the health of livestock.

When the vegetation index falls below a pre-determined level, all the insured beneficiaries in one zone receive a payout. The payout amount depends on the degradation of the pasture.

“Payments are made primarily by M-Pesa, and by using agents developed by some banks in the northern counties,” noted Rosauer. M-Pesa is the most popular mobile payment choice in Kenya.

KLIP is implemented by the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the County governments.

The World Bank has provided technical support to the government of Kenya to design KLIP in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and Financial Sector Deepening-Kenya (FSD). 

  

Kenya shilling falls slightly pending ruling on presidential poll petition

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan shilling weakened marginally against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday as the market awaited a ruling by the Supreme Court on a poll petition challenging the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The shilling went down 0.01 percent to close the day at an average of 102.2 to the dollar as the currency showed some stability.

The Central Bank of Kenya on Wednesday quoted the shilling at 103.18 down from 103.17 in the previous session.

On the other hand, commercial banks put the value of the currency at between 103.15 and 103.35, which was the same range it had traded in the previous day.

Traders at the financial institutions noted that the shilling was waiting for direction from the Supreme Court as the ruling set for Friday will determine whether it loses or strengthens.

The apex court on Wednesday concluded the hearing of the case after the several parties made their final submissions and the seven judges took a break to write their verdict.

Analysts noted that whatever the direction the shilling takes, they expect the forex exchange reserves level, currently at 7.5 billion dollars, an equivalent of 4.96 months of import cover, to be maintained by expected inflows from tourism, tea and horticulture exports and diaspora remittances.

 

China, Africa step up renewable energy cooperation

BEIJING, (Xinhua) -- Cooperation between China and Africa has seen remarkable progress in renewable energy, showing the determination of developing countries to harness the huge potential of clean energy and combat climate change.

China-Africa Renewable Energy Cooperation and Innovation Alliance, a coalition of financing institutions, smart grid providers and core manufacturers, on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation with Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI).

“Africa has the highest potential for renewable energy, but the least access to it,” said Seyni Nafo, chairman of AREI endorsed by the African Union Assembly.

The MOU will enable the two parties to cooperate in renewable energy generation in Africa, with Chinese smart grid providers and core  renewable energy manufacturers providing technological and financial support.

Pilot projects include helping build micro-grids in some African households and villages, in combination with large-scale power construction.

As part of China’s technology transfer efforts advocated by the United Nations Development Program, the move is expected to better deploy and distribute renewable energy technology in Africa.

The MOU indicates a shared vision to combat climate change and to promote sustainable development, as renewable energy is expected to function as a central pillar of China-Africa cooperation on climate issues, Nafo said. 

  

Pressure on Rwandan franc continues to ease in H1

KIGALI, (Xinhua) -- Pressures on the Rwandan franc against the U.S. dollars continued easing in the first half of 2017, Rwanda’s central bank said Wednesday.

This is owing to improvement in Rwanda’s export receipts and the decline in dollar demand in line with increased domestic production of some of the previously imported goods and the phasing out of some major construction projects, said the central bank’s latest monetary policy and financial stability statement.

The franc depreciated against the dollar by 1.3 percent at the end of June and 1.64 percent by Aug. 13, 2017 compared to 4.8 percent by the end of June, 2016, said the central bank, adding that it is expected at around 3 percent at the end of December this year.

Consequently, the central bank maintained an accommodative monetary policy stance to continue supporting the financing of the economy by the banking sector, given that both inflationary and exchange pressures were expected to decline.

Meanwhile, the Rwandan economy grew by 1.7 percent in first quarter of 2017, down from 8.9 percent recorded in first quarter of 2016, said the statement.

This slowdown in economic performance was mainly due to the completion of big construction projects, which affected the performance of the industry sector, read the statement.

Owing to the long spell of the drought, growth of the agriculture sector slowed to 3.0 percent in first quarter of 2017 from 8.0 percent of the same period of last year, it said. 

  

Roundup: China partners WFP to fight hunger in Zimbabwe

HARARE, (Xinhua) -- The Chinese government is forging a strong partnership with the World Food Program (WFP) to empower rural communities in Zimbabwe to become food self-sufficient and resilient to climate-induced shocks.

Through its partnership with WFP, the Chinese government has since 2009 provided millions of U.S. dollars for immediate food needs and long-term resilience building for vulnerable, poverty-stricken rural communities in Zimbabwe.

According to Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping, China has since 2009 provided millions of  dollars to the Zimbabwe government through the WFP to help the vulnerable cope with food shortages.

Over the past 10 years, the Chinese government provided five consignments of emergency humanitarian food aid to Zimbabwe, worth tens of millions of dollars.

It also provided agriculture machinery and fertilizers in the form of government aid and concessionary loans worth about 100 million dollars.

In 2015, China provided 330,000 dollars for training to small holder farmers in Zimbabwe.

In 2016, the Chinese government gave Zimbabwe 1 million dollars for lean season assistance and productive assets creation after the country suffered one of its worst droughts in 30 years which left a quarter of the rural population in need food aid.

It also donated 24.6 million worth of rice to help the country cope with food shortages. Besides the rice, China also provided 10,000 tons of urea to Zimbabwe and this year provided 12,173 metric tons of rice worth 14.7 million dollars to assist the food insecure.

This week, the Chinese government announced yet another 5 million dollars contribution to the Zimbabwe government through the WFP to assist refugees and resilience building among vulnerable communities in 2017 and 2018.

Ambassador Huang said China-WFP cooperation in Zimbabwe dates back to 2009 when it donated 5 million dollars through the WFP to Zimbabwe for emergency food aid.

Huang explained that China-WFP cooperation was cemented in 2016 when after a decade-long research and consultations, the two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen their partnership in ending global hunger.

With increasing collaboration each year, WFP is working with the Chinese government, leading Chinese companies and the Chinese public to help alleviate hunger within and beyond China’s borders, Huang said.

“China has become an increasingly significant donor to WFP’s global activities, with over 97.5 million in funding from the government of China as of October 2016, in support of WFP’s operations around the globe,” the envoy said.

WFP Zimbabwe country director Eddie Rowe hailed China-WFP cooperation, noting that over the past 10 years, the UN agency had benefited a lot from Chinese aid.

“Last year, through the Government of China and WFP, we established a center of excellence where WFP will be able to tap into the capacity of diverse nature that Chinese people can offer.

“Globally, WFP has more than 50 different projects through which we are enjoying the capacity of China in so many diverse ways,” Rowe said.

Zimbabwe is one of the many countries in the world that are vulnerable to climate change, resulting in frequent droughts and floods which affect food production.

It is only this year after more than a decade that Zimbabwe was able to produce surplus maize of 2.1 million tons against national consumption of 1.8 million tons annually.

Nevertheless, it is estimated that 1.1 million people will require food aid during the peak hunger season from January to March 2018.

Cognizant of its adage which says that “give a man fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, China has begun to strengthen its resilience building assistance in recent years to enhance the capacity of vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe to cope with climate-induced shocks.

One such project that has the potential to alleviate hunger and build sustainable and resilient communities is the half-a-million dollars weir, nutrition garden and orchard project that was handed over to the Shauke community in Zvishavane District of Zimbabwe by the Chinese government on Tuesday this week.

Funded by China, the project is being spearheaded by the WFP in partnership with its implementing local agency, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Zimbabwe (ADRA).

According to Rowe, the Shauke project will support improved crop and livestock production and water access by the community in the semi-arid district, about 344 km south of the capital Harare.

Comprising a 39,000 cubic meter dam, 1.3 ha nutrition garden and orchard, the project’s construction started in June and is set for completion in December.

The dam will benefit 480 households, 800 head of cattle and approximately 600 goats. The garden, which will produce a variety of vegetables for household consumption and for sale, will directly benefit 80 households.

“The Shauke weir community garden and orchard is a prime example of the innovative work that WFP, with support from China and in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe, ARDA and others, is doing in Zvishavane and throughout Zimbabwe to empower people to build their future,” Rowe said.

In 2017, the WFP and its partners will support the creation of eight resilience building projects in Zvishavane, after having completed 17 others over the past two years, Rowe said.

Rowe said its efforts were aimed at ending hunger, improving food security and nutrition and strengthening community resilience in line with Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030.

“With this project, we have kicked hunger and poverty away from us,” said Beauty Jaricha, a villager and vice chairperson of the project implementation team overseeing implementation of the Shauke project.

“This project is very important to us because it will enable us to grow fruits and vegetables not only for consumption but for sale so that we can generate income to sustain our livelihoods. The dam will also protect our livestock as they will no longer go to far away Runde River for drinking water where they were vulnerable to crocodile attacks,” she added.

  

Zambia makes progress towards IMF bailout program: official

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) -- The Zambian government said on Thursday that it has made substantial progress towards reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on an economic program.

Minister of Finance Felix Mutati said the government was confident that the IMF will in the coming weeks finalize a report on consultations done for presentation to the board.

He said the program discussions have so far taken into account the progress which has been made under the Zambian government’s approved economic stabilization and growth program for the period 2017-2019.

The progress involves attainment of a single digit inflation, stability of the exchange rate, rebound of economic growth, reforming and removal of subsidies in the energy sector and developing of a strategy to dismantle arrears and halting accumulation of new ones, according to a statement released by the finance ministry.

The government and the IMF have since agreed to progress discussions in the area of public sector spending and borrowing plans, he added.

The Zambian minister said the two parties have so far concluded talks on protection of social spending over the program period, reforms of laws and regulations and definitions and measurement of program targets.

The two parties have also agreed to continue discussions at the IMF/World Bank Annual Spring Meetings scheduled for October this year.

In June, an IMF Mission was in Zambia to continue discussions for a possible bailout package of about 1.4 billion United States dollars after the cabinet approved for the country to engage the international financial institutions for an economic program at the end of the first quarter of 2017.

The government had hoped the deal could be concluded by August this year.

  

UN advises building resilience to tackle Ethiopia’s nutrition crisis

ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) -- The United Nations has advised building communities’ resilience as a critical impetus to bring lasting solution to address the current food security and nutrition crisis in Ethiopia.

The statement was jointly made on Thursday by the three UN food agencies that are the World Food Programme (WFP), the world Food and Agricultural Organizations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“The current food security and nutrition crisis cannot be resolved by emergency assistance alone. The longer-term solution lies in building communities’ resilience to better withstand shocks and avoid being plunged back into crisis,” the three UN food agencies stressed in a joint statement sent to Xinhua on Thursday.

The three UN food agencies have also affirmed the need to combine efforts to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

“The response led by the Ethiopian government has begun to stabilize the situation, however additional efforts and support is urgently needed to prevent the situation deteriorating further,” the joint statement indicated.

The announcement came as the heads of the three UN agencies are expected to pay a four-day joint visit to the east African country starting from Friday, from September 1 to 4, to highlight the critical food and nutrition security situations in Ethiopia.

The three chiefs, David Beasley, WFP’s Executive Director, Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO’s Director-General, and Gilbert F. Houngbo, IFAD’s President, are expected to hold discussions on how best to strengthen their support to the Ethiopian government’s efforts, it was indicated.  

  

Kenya football coach names squad for Mozambique Int’l friendly

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya football head coach Stanley Okumbi on Wednesday unveiled his travelling squad of 20 for their FIFA international friendly against Mozambique slated for Saturday in Maputo.

As expected, players from domestic top flight leaders, Gor Mahia FC dominated the line-up with four while Amos Asembeka, the breakout forward of another local side, Sony Sugar FC, was the surprise inclusion in the squad.

George Odhiambo who returned to the national team fold after 17 months out in the cold made the cut in the travelling party alongside teammates; Peter Odhiambo, Timothy Otieno and Kenneth Muguna from Gor.

Archrivals AFC Leopards FC who are struggling in 13th place in the 2017 Kenyan Premier League have three players in the squad; skipper Robinson Kamura, Duncan Otieno and Victor Majid.

Eric Johanna and Aboud Omar and the quintet of Clifton Miheso, Mark Makwatta, Jesse Were, Anthony Akumu and David Owino who play in Zambia are among the foreign-based contingent in Maputo.

 

Nigerian leader reward victorious basketball players, officials

LAGOS, (Xinhua) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday received members of the victorious D’ Tigress, the national women’s basketball team which won the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket final in Mali on Sunday.

The players were awarded 1 million naira (about 3100 U.S.dollars) each and the officials 500,000 naira each.

The president, after announcing the award shortly before the commencement of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), urged the team to remain focused.

“You should work toward winning the forthcoming 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain,” he said.

Buhari had on Monday, in a statement, congratulated on the team’s victory which qualified them for the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain.

The president commended the players for displaying “uncommon strength and confidence.”

Earlier, the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, attributed the achievement of the D’ Tigress in Mali to the “silent reforms” embarked upon by his ministry.

He said his ministry was determined to restore the old glory of sports in the country.

The D’ Tigress did not drop a single match on their way to the final and beat Senegal 65-48 to win the title.

The last time Nigeria won the competition was in 2005, after their first win in 2003.

 

Kenya’s Kamworor eager to prove mettle at New York marathon

By John Kwoba NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s World Cross Country Champion Geoffrey Kamworor will return to the marathon distance when he lines up at the New York marathon on Nov. 5 to challenge defending champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from Eritrea.

Kamworor, who opted out of marathon earlier this year to focus on the track competition, has had bad lack in the 10,000m where he finished sixth at the London World Championships in August.

It was a worse performance after claiming silver at the Beijing World Championships where he was beaten by Mo Farah of Britain.

“I have had my time on track now I return to marathon and hopefully, I will win,” said Kamworor on Thursday from Eldoret.

The reigning world half marathon champion is one of the rising Kenyan stars in marathon.

The 24-year-old was the 2015 New York Marathon runner-up and is a four-time world champion, twice in cross-country and twice in the half-marathon.

His personal-best time of 2:06:12 came from his marathon debut in 2012, when he finished third at the Berlin Marathon.

But when turning up in New York in November, Kamworor will seek to clear his credential as being no fluke and confirm he is a strong challenger in marathon when he takes up on Ghebreslassie, who is the sixth fastest entrant in the elite men’s field behind Ethiopians Lemi Berhanu (2:04:33), Lelisa Desisa (2:04:45), Switzerland’s Tadesse Abraham (2:06:40) and Kenya’s Lucas Rotich (2:07:17).

The New York Marathon will have a world-class field representing 27 countries including 22 Olympians, 11 Paralympians and 16 athletes - 10 in the open division and seven in the wheelchair division - who have previously finished on the New York City Marathon podium.

“Having Ghirmay, Marcel, and Mary return to the streets of New York to defend their titles among a group of athletes ... is a true testament to the TCS New York City Marathon being one of the most world-class and universally diverse sporting events,” said Peter Ciaccia, the race director of New York Marathon in an press statement.

Ghebreslassie, 21, became the youngest men’ s winner in the history of the New York City Marathon last year, breaking the tape in 2:07:51.

He posted the third-fastest winning time in history, and was the first Eritrean winner in race history. In 2015, he became the youngest winner in IAAF World Championships Marathon history, and his gold medal was Eritrea’s first ever at the event.

He was fourth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Marathon and owns a personal-best of 2:07:46 from last year’s London Marathon, where he also finished fourth.

“I’m proud to return to New York to defend my title as the TCS New York City Marathon champion,” Ghebreslassie said.

“The crowds along the course are fresh in my memory, and I will work hard to do well again this year.” But that will not deter Kamworor from going for the bounty.

  

Uganda beat Egypt 1-0 in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier

KAMPALA, (Xinhua) -- Uganda climbed to top of Group E in African zone 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after a 1-0 win over Egypt on Thursday.

Tanzania-based Emmanuel Arnold Okwi netted the lone goal after 51 minutes when he beat two defenders and slotted the ball past veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary.

Mahmoud Kahraba also thought he had scored when he finished off Mohamed Salah’s cross after 35 minutes. The goal was cancelled for off-side.

The Egyptians tried to hold onto the ball and pass it around, but the home side stood firm and defended in numbers.

Zambian based defender Jospeh Ochaya also had his attempt miss the target for Uganda, while Uganda’s goalkeeper Denis Onyango was also called to save Salah’s shot after 61 minutes.

“It is the best feeling to score against a strong side like Egypt in a World Cup qualifying match,” Okwi told Xinhua after the game.

He however said they will have to be at their best when they face the seven-time African champions again on Sept. 5 in Alexandria.

The win takes Uganda top of Group E with seven points, while Egypt who beat Congo Brazzaville and Ghana in the previous games is second with six points. Ghana will host Congo Brazzaville on Friday.

Moses Basena, Uganda’s interim coach said it was sweet to pick a win over Egypt.

“We shall continue to work hard ahead of the return leg in Egypt,” he added.

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