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Passengers arriving at Entebbe airport. Photo The Observer


The government has banned flights to and from India following a sudden increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the Asian country.

India has so far recorded more than 18 million cases of COVID-19 with over 218,000 deaths. The country is also in a crisis with an acute shortage of essential supplies such as oxygen and ventilators for the overflowing critical cases to health facilities. Today, Sunday India recorded another 3,072 new coronavirus deaths and 350,715 new cases. 

Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng told journalists on Friday that Uganda has so far recorded one case of the Indian strain of the COVID-19 virus that is feared to be lethal. She said starting May 1, only those Ugandan nationals will be allowed back in the country. 

The ban also affects travelers that have traveled through India in the last 14 days. For travelers arriving from India Aceng says they are expected to have a negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate conducted 120 hours from the time of sample collection and will undergo another mandatory PCR test on arrival.

Once found positive, Aceng says they will be isolated at their own cost in a designated hotel whereas those that test negative will undergo self-quarantine at their residences. The only exempted flights from the ban are cargo flights, technical stops where travelers don’t leave the flight and operations related to humanitarian work, medical evacuation, or approved diplomatic flights.  

Currently, there are five circulating strains of coronavirus in Uganda including the Ugandan strain which has already been seen in 34 other countries. The other strains include the South African, Nigerian and the one from the United Kingdom. 

Considering these circulating strains, the ministry of Health has also recommended that travelers coming from UK, United Arab Emirates, the US, Turkey, South Africa, South Sudan, and Tanzania which countries they named category two should consider postponing non-essential travel to Uganda.  

She however noted that travelers who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to test on arrival in the country. Currently, while India has vaccinated 11 per cent of its entire population, Uganda has only vaccinated 0.7 per cent of the population with the first jab in an exercise that is only picking up now with fears of resurging infection.

Dr. Yonas  Tegegn Woldermariam, the World Health Organization country representative said even with such small vaccination figures Uganda is among the countries performing well as far as uptake in Africa is concerned. He urged countries not to be worried about the circulating news of vaccine expiries noting that countries that have destroyed or returned their jabs have only wasted them. - URN/The Observer

Photo International Organization for Migration


Bujumbura – More than 30,000 people have been affected by flooding across Burundi’s coast due to the rising waters of Lake Tanganyika. An assessment by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) reveals that local villages on the shores of Rukaramu and Gatumba zones, in Mutimbuzi commune (Bujumbura Rural province) are among the hardest hit.

Thousands of families have been forced to leave their flooded homes in the last week. Most of the 6,239 households, including 5,208 from Gatumba and 1,121 from Rukaramu, are being sheltered either by host families or in houses under construction and at collective centres. Some families remain in their homes despite being partially submerged.

“They don’t know where to go. Some try to get the water out using bowls and pans, whatever they have.
People have spread out in the area so it can be very difficult to collect data quickly,” said Innocent Kwizera, IOM’s DTM focal point from the Burundian Red Cross.

The situation is likely to worsen as the number of affected people continues to grow along with the lake’s water level which began to rise gradually over a year ago and reached a tipping point for many coastal villages over the last week. IOM in collaboration with the local administration, have deployed a team made up of mainly Red Cross Volunteers throughout the area to collect data to find out how many are affected and some of the most urgent needs.

Host families whose resources are already strained run the risk of falling into the vulnerable category, thereby increasing critical humanitarian needs. Most of Gatumba and Rukaramu’s affected inhabitants are farmers or fishers who have lost their food stocks for the year and whose essential field crops are now destroyed.

According to the Geographic Institute of Burundi, the cause of Lake Tanganyika rising is two-fold; unseasonal heavy rainfall across the sub-region in countries bordering the Lake (such as Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and the Lukuga river that is overflowing - a tributary of the Lualaba River in the DRC that is normally an outlet for the Lake. According to meteorological projections, the rains are expected to continue until mid-May.

Gatumba is already under considerable strain. Around the same time last year, torrential rains caused the banks of the Rusizi river to overflow, causing a similar flooding emergency that affected roughly 50,000 people. Nearly 20,000 of the most vulnerable displaced persons were given shelter in four displacement sites in the area. Although these camps are currently being decommissioned by the Government of Burundi with help from partners, IOM anticipates additional localized emergencies – further to last week’s – which will perpetuate urgent needs.

“This emergency is unprecedented for Burundi. We must act now to urgently respond to the most basic needs of the most vulnerable people – such as safe shelter, clean water and protection,” says Vijaya Souri, IOM’s Chief of Mission for Burundi. - International Organization for Migration


KAMPALA, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Experts from member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) held a meeting here Wednesday to find ways to prevent a further escalation of conflict in the Horn of Africa.

Present at the meeting were experts from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda under the Conflict Early Warning Mechanism Committee of Permanent Secretaries.

Conflicts are decimating the lives of ordinary people in some parts of the region, Workneh Gebeyehu, executive secretary of the IGAD, said at the meeting.

The tension along Ethiopia-Sudan border and developments in Somalia are all matters of great concern, he said.

Somalia is facing a crisis after the government mandate expired on Feb. 8 without an agreement to hold long-delayed presidential and parliamentary elections.

The IGAD chief said all these active situations are unfolding against a backdrop of the perennial threat of violent extremism.

The latest IGAD's Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism report, said Gebeyehu, shows that there has been a significant spike in violent incidents across the IGAD region.

"In 2020 alone, 10,000 of our brothers and sisters lost their lives in conflict-related situations. This is alarming, and it is no longer tolerable," he said.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, unpredictable weather patterns and successive invasions of desert locusts that have threatened food and livelihood security also lead to conflict, he added.

Jeje Odongo, Uganda's minister of internal affairs, said the pandemic has had a devastating impact compounded by the locusts invasion, floods, landslides and conflicts, resulting in loss of lives.

These challenges have kept the region in a vicious cycle of poverty, he said.

According to the experts, despite the precarious situation in some parts of the region, there is also progress towards peace and stability.

Sudan has made strides towards peace and democratic transition with the signing of historic peace agreements and re-engagement with the international community, said Gebeyehu.

"Even in South Sudan, we are witnessing progress towards implementing the peace agreement, in spite of a number of existing challenges," he said.

The IGAD chief said the meeting will sharpen the bloc's conflict response strategies collectively "to react to evolving regional situations and more effectively, to address the existing peace and security challenges."

During the meeting, Gebeyehu urged member states to invest in conflict early warning mechanism. "Greater investment in conflict prevention and peace-building is without doubt the most cost-effective approach to save lives."

"Regional cooperation on conflict prevention through early warning and response has never been more urgent," he said. "By safeguarding ourselves against future conflict, we are safeguarding our youth and the future of our region." - by Ronald Ssekandi, Xinhua

Police officers patrol at the Lamu Port following the arrival of the first batch of equipment on April 28, 2021. Photo KEVIN ODIT/NMG


Officials will start testing operations of the new Lamu port at the end of next month ahead of the June 15 commissioning.

The first batch of equipment including low load trailers, extension cargo handlers and trailers to be used at the multibillion-shilling facility arrived at the port on Wednesday.

The second batch including rubber tyred gantries, forklift and utility vans are expected by mid-next month.

Lamu Port general manager Abdullahi Samatar said testing of the equipment will begin on May 20 before the first vessel from Maersk makes a maiden call to the facility.

“We have complied with all port requirements and have temporary International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code to use in our berth number one,” said Mr Samatar.

The viability of the port, which has seen the first three berths completed at Sh5.1 billion ($48 million) has been put into question over low demand as it was expected to attract transshipment business, mainly from Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The port is a key part of the wider Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor, which is being implemented at a total cost of Sh2.5 trillion ($24 billion).

Mr Samatar sought to allay fears the port could become a white elephant project, saying a number of shipping lines have visited the port and were willing to use the facility

Commissioning of the port has been delayed thrice over the past two years on funding shortages and operationalisation of all three berths is likely to be pushed to end of the year as authorities seek at least Sh9.5 billion for the purchase of basic equipment to run the berths.

To make berth 2 and 3 operational, there is a need for the full establishment of the port structure and acquisition of new equipment.

Due to constrained budget, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is transferring some equipment and staff from Port of Mombasa to Lamu.

According to an official document from KPA, 263 staff will be deployed to run the facility, the majority of them from Mombasa. - Anthony Kitimo, The EastAfrican

Philip Ochieng during the launch of his biography written by Liz Gitonga-Wanjohi at The Stanley on August 21, 2015. The veteran journalist died on Tuesday evening. File | Nation Media Group 

  • You would never catch him without a book. His lunch companion was always a book, at the same time, same restaurant.
  • He ate alone, reading, and it isn’t that he objected to company, it was just that he enjoyed his lunch more with a book than company.

At exactly 5pm, he would rise to his feet. A slim man without a speck of fat in his tall frame, immaculately encased in the best tailoring in the world, the suit — Savile Row, naturally — maybe grey pinstripe with a paisley handkerchief, his tie neatly clasped to his shirt chest high, his sleeves held back at the elbow with silver thingys, the cuffs never folded. You could apply makeup with his shoes, they gleamed like mirrors, Crocket & Jones maybe, the type that are make to fit and to last. 

He would remove his glasses, allowing them to hang on his chest on their thong. His eyes dramatically on the ceiling, the very image of a great brain in full deployment, his left hand would be dangling over his heart, like a kangaroo’s short arm fondling a baby sac, his right twirling the grey hair at his temple.

He would march the entire length of the newsroom, turn on his heel and start back and then stop two paces short of my desk. By now, both hands would be retracted like two kangaroo short arms meeting over his sternum, the chest would pump out, the chin would smash down, his eyelashes beating a rapid tattoo, the eyes behind flashing mischief and laughter, like Morse Code lights on the deck of a ship in a dark night. Then he would bark: “Where is the editorial?” only he would pronounce it, “IDI-tori-AH” with a stubbornly African accent, not even the lightest hint of the years he had spent in the US in the 1960s.

This ritual played out at exactly the same time, five days a week for many years until I could “see” him with the back of my head, retract my arms, do the chest thing and demand the “IDI-tori-AH” in exact harmony with him. He, I and another character of an editor, Matthew Gathigira, did the same job. We were revisers, the last editors on a page before it went to press. But I was basically a kid while they were hard boiled veterans who had seen many things.

We didn’t just love him, we worshipped him. First, he knew everything. He had a thesaurus and a few editions of the dictionary on his desk and he used them. If you wanted to know the correct spelling or pronunciation of Valery Giscard d’Estaing, you shouted the question and he walked over to your desk, dictated the spelling and a lecture on French politics. In the world where tautology is a worse crime than murder, he was the encyclopaedia that kept you out of jail. 

Master of the one-liner

Second, his wit was like a perpetual stream. We called him the master of the one-liner. His comebacks had no peer. When he rose uncharacteristically early one day, I shouted in surprise, “You are going home?” He stopped mid-track, thought about it for a beat and shot back, “Eventually”. And on another occasion he appeared in the office with his arm in a sling, his shoulder bandaged and bruises on his face. “What happened?” I asked in shock. He thought for a moment, then a wolfish grin split his battered face as he presented a full account of what he could recall: “It had something to do with whiskey.”

When he was writing or editing, he would march up and down, rehearsing the sentences, confirming the rhythm of the words, worrying and poking them until they were perfect. He would walk around, trying to get in trouble, pickpocketing other journalists and digging his hard, deformed fingers – after a lifetime of banging a manual typewriter, the last joint of his pointing finger could not extend – and he sometimes would pick the most fierce, stressed person around. It would all end in laughter and a fit of giggles.

Thirdly, he was a reader and generous with his books, at least to me. He would spend a whole decade reading one genre and he would read until there was nothing left to read. He introduced me to Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov and a whole range of science fiction greats. We talked about Spice Melange, the Bene Gesserit and the search for the Kwisatz Haderach.  

Lunch companion always a book

He, an atheist, introduced me to the early history of the Christian Church, the controversies of the Conference of Nicaea, the mysteries of the Red Sea Scrolls and the search for the Holy Grail. He introduced me to the genius of P.G. Wodehouse. You would never catch him without a book. His lunch companion was always a book, at the same time, same restaurant. He ate alone, reading, and it isn’t that he objected to company, it was just that he enjoyed his lunch more with a book than company.

Finally, he wasn’t just a left-brained person, he was a left AND right-brained person. Logical, analytical, clinical one minute, colourful, robustly creative and whimsically poetic the next. He judged and judged harshly and never refrained from expressing himself freely. There is a famous cartoon of his head on a platter I think by Maddo that I found in the newsroom.

Part comedian, part scholar, part dictator but a full-bloodied baddest of the bad-ass journalists: Philip Ochieng Otani (single L, no apostrophe and drop the last name).

What a guy.   By Mutuma Mathiu, Daily Nation

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