The Treasury said a network of armed groups, smugglers and companies generate illicit revenue from the gold industry through forced labor, smuggling or other means. It said the illicit movement of gold provides revenue to armed groups that threaten peace and security in Congo. Image:123RF.com/alexlmx / File photo
The US on Thursday imposed sanctions on Belgian businessman Alain Goetz and a network of companies tied to him that it accused of being involved in the illicit movement of gold from Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The US Treasury Department, in a statement, said among the targets was the African Gold Refinery in Uganda, which Goetz operates, and several other companies he owns or controls. It accused Goetz and the companies of being involved in illegal gold exports valued at hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
In a statement, Goetz said his inclusion on the US sanctions list “seems to be based on misinformation”. He said he has not been to Congo in more than 20 years and has not kept any active contacts within Congo.
Goetz said he was asked to set up East Africa's first gold refinery in 2014, adding that “nothing has made me prouder than to see the impact that African Gold Refinery has had on the gold industry in the Great Lakes region”.
The Treasury said a network of armed groups, smugglers and companies generate illicit revenue from the gold industry through forced labour, smuggling or other means. It said the illicit movement of gold provides revenue to armed groups that threaten peace and security in Congo.
“Conflict gold provides the largest source of revenue to armed groups in eastern DRC where they control mines and exploit miners,” the Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement.
“Alain Goetz and his network have contributed to armed conflict by receiving DRC gold without questioning its origin.”
The Treasury said Goetz's network sources gold from Congo, Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Goetz said the Treasury's Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had presented no documented evidence to back up their claims, and that he was confident this “mistake” would be swiftly rectified.
The Ugandan government did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Others designated on Thursday that the Treasury said were owned or controlled by Goetz include United Arab Emirates-based Agor DMCC and UAE-based Goetz Gold LLC.
Agor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Goetz Gold LLC and the African Gold Refinery could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Treasury said that since 2016, the African Gold Refinery, considered one of the largest gold refineries in Africa, has sourced illicit gold from mines in regions of Congo that are controlled by armed groups, including the Mai-Mai Yakutumba and Raia Mutomboki militia.
Thursday's move freezes any US assets of those designated and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.
“This strong action by the US will send shock waves throughout the global gold supply chain,” Sasha Lezhnev, policy consultant at non-governmental organisation The Sentry, said.
“Turning a blind eye to conflict gold now carries a heavy price.” By DAPHNE PSALEDAKIS, Times Live
FILE: President Uhuru Kenyatta, Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga (partly hidden) and other leaders at Jacaranda Grounds on Saturday March 12, 2022. Image:FREDRICK OMONDI
ODM is also the most preferred party in Mombasa with 46 per cent support.
• The survey conducted between 9-12 March showed that Azimio was supported by 51 per cent of the respondents.
• Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by deputy president William Ruto came in second with 23 per cent.
Azimio La Umoja coalition led by ODM leader Raila Odinga is the most preferred coalition in Mombasa county, a survey by Infotrak indicates.
The survey conducted between 9-12 March showed that Azimio was supported by 51 per cent of the respondents.
Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by deputy president William Ruto came in second with 23 per cent. One Kenya Alliance that signed a deal with Azimio bagged the support of 3 per cent of the respondents.
The survey showed that the ODM party led by Raila is also the most preferred party with 46 per cent of respondents rooting for it.
Ruto's UDA party came in second with 24 per cent. Jubilee was third with 2 per cent.
In the Presidential contest, Raila maintained the lead as the most preferred candidate.
Ruto came in second with 29 per cent of the respondents supporting him.
The study said 52 per cent of registered voters in the county would pick Raila for the presidency.
Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza Alliance got the support of 29 per cent of the respondents.
Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka came in third with just one per cent of the respondents saying they would vote for him.
ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Safina counterpart Jimi Wanjigi scored 0.1 per cent. The survey indicated that Raila remains the most influential leader in Mombasa followed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho.
Ruto came in fourth as the most influential leader. The study was commissioned by Haki Africa. A total of 2400 respondents participated in the Survey. By Bosco Marita, The Star
LONDON - The Commonwealth Secretariat has held the second session of its Marlborough Dialogues in London today. The dialogues are a new forum for discussion with political leaders and thinkers from within the Commonwealth.
Today the Marlborough Dialogues, welcomed the former Prime Minster of Kenya, the Rt Honourable Raila Odinga to London to speak on democracy and peace in Africa in the context of the forthcoming election in Kenya.
The Marlborough Dialogues, which take their name from the historic headquarters building of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, provide an international platform for member states to explore solutions to their biggest challenges and the opportunity to discuss key issues affecting the development of free and democratic societies.
Moderated by His Excellency George Brandis, High Commissioner of Australia to the UK, the session with former Prime Minister the Rt Honourable Raila Odinga examined democracy in Africa and peaceful transfers of power in the region - with a particular focus on Kenya's general election later this year.
Ahead of the event, former Prime Minster the Rt Honourable Raila Odinga said:
“Commonwealth values talk about good governance transparency and accountability of member states to their citizens we think that these are the core foundation of democracy, and we should not be judged by lower standards. The Commonwealth can ensure that as a member country Kenya adheres to these values and the Commonwealth Charter.
Speaking on the upcoming Kenyan general election Mr Odinga added:
“If the elections are free, fair, and verifiable, I give my undertaking to accept them, whether we win or we lose. We have a record of respecting court decisions and for the rule of law. We will not resort to violence or incitement but will only use legal and constitutional means to resolve any election disputes, if they arise.”
The Marlborough Dialogues is one of a series of tools the Secretariat is using to deepen its interaction with member states, providing a forum to articulate their priorities, and to better align the Secretariat’s work to member states’ needs and aspirations. It is embedded within a whole-of-election cycle approach, whereby the Secretariat seeks to support democracy in member countries at all times and not only in election periods.
Speaking at the event the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland said:
“These sessions are an important opportunity for us to come together, and reaffirm our commitment to strengthening the culture, process and institutions of democracy.
“Together, we work continually, and across the entire election cycle for sustainable democracy. We do not give up. These Marlborough Dialogues are underpinned by this same spirit of togetherness and integration, and in our shared commitment to peace.”
The Government of Uganda has made tremendous progress in advancing gender equality and women empowerment as a key driver of inclusive economic growth and social development.
While presenting a paper at a dialogue held on the sidelines of the ongoing 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York on Thursday, the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Amongi Betty Ongom observed that a host of progressive laws, policies, programmes and interventions had been instituted to support the drive.
“As a country, Uganda has entrenched a clear belief system which recognizes that societies where women and girls are treated as inferior to men and boys are a recipe to establishing and perpetuating a vicious cycle of limited education, poor employment opportunities, ill health, forced marriages and all too frequent violence and exploitation.” Amongi said.
She added that more attention had been directed to eliminating cultural and religious practices that subjugate women and perpetuate multiple forms of discrimination, oppression and violence.
She called for studies on how to liberate women who remain custodians of protecting and reinforcing such practices.
The Minister however decried the slow progress at global level noting that of the 72 million children of primary-school age still excluded from school systems, two-thirds are girls while women hold only 18 percent of the world’s parliamentary seats and throughout the world, too many women live in fear of violence.
“In too many countries, policies, legal frameworks and social justice systems are just not adequate. Of all the Sustainable Development Goals, the one where we have achieved least success is on maternal health,” she noted adding, “Each year, between 10 to 15 million women suffer long-term disability due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Every year, more than a million children are left motherless”.
The Minister said the Gender Ministry in Uganda is prioritizing economic empowerment for women because research has shown that women face greater hurdles than men in almost all spheres of economic activity including; access to finance, assets, technology, good-quality jobs and peer-to-peer networks.
She pledged to develop a comprehensive approach to reducing gender inequality, repealing laws that discriminate against women and girls, increase protection against violence, close the gap in girl’s education and digital technology, guarantee full access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights, and end the gender pay gap.
“We are making sure that women have equal representation in peace processes, and strengthen our work on the links between violence against women and international peace and security,” She added.
Amongi was optimistic that women’s equal leadership and participation is fundamental and with the quotas that have been in implementation, there is a growing shift in balance of power and that dividends are starting to show towards gender parity in Government, Parliament, Corporate Boards and Institutions across the world.
“We are now moving to a very exciting time in history where the world now expects diversity, equity and inclusion. The world notices its absence and celebrates its presence.” She observed.
Meanwhile, the Minister has held bilateral meetings with Ministers and executive officials from South Africa, UN AIDS, Oman and Norway on a cross section of issues.
Thediscussions revolved around the need to increase peer-to-peer learning programmes between Uganda and South Africa. The South African Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Hon. MaiteNkoana-Mashabane also pledged more cooperation on Gender and Equity budgeting as key empowerment strategies for women and girls.
The Norwegian State Secretary for International Development, Bjorg Sandkjaer pledged more financial support to Uganda in areas of sexual and reproductive health for pregnant girls, the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation and the gender equality programming.
Oman pledged to work closely with Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to ensure that Ugandan girls working as housemaids are safe and their rights are protected while the UNAIDS Africa Director, Anne Githuku-Shongwe pledged collaboration with Uganda on scaling up the campaign for reduction of HIV infections arising from the COVID-19 impact, especially among young girls. By Marion Ayebazibwe, The Tower Post
Nairobi, March 17, 2022 — Ugandan authorities should unconditionally release The Alternative Digitalk television journalists Norman Tumuhimbise and Faridah Bikobere, drop any pending investigations against seven other journalists from the online media outlet, and rigorously investigate allegations that at least two of these journalists suffered serious physical abuse while in the custody of security personnel, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On the afternoon of March 10, a group of armed police and military officers raided the offices of The Alternative Digitalk, arresting the nine and confiscating equipment, including cameras, laptops, and books, according to mediareports, a statement by the local press rights group Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U), as well as police and court documents reviewed by CPJ.
The journalists arrested that day are Norman Tumuhimbise, The Alternative Digitalk’s executive director who is also an activist and a published author; programs director Arnold Mukose; TV host Faridah Bikobere; producer Jeremiah Mukiibi; presenters Lilian Luwedde, Teddy Teangle Nabukeera, Tumusiime Kato, and Rogers Tulyahabwe; and an intern, Jacob Jeje Wabyona, according to Tumuhimbise’s brother Innocent Ainebyona, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and the HRNJ-Ustatement.
On March 15 and 16, seven of the journalists were released on police bond, but are still under investigation on charges of sedition and cyberstalking, according to human rights lawyer Eron Kiiza and the HRNJ-U-appointed lawyer Geoffrey Turyamusima, both of whom are working on the case and spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Two journalists, Tumuhimbise and Bikobere, remain in jail, and were charged with cyberstalking and “offensive communication,” during a court hearing in the capital Kampala on March 16, according to Turyamusima andcourt documents reviewed by CPJ. During the hearing, Bikobere and Tumuhimbise told the court they had been severely physically abused while in state custody, Ainebyona and Turyamusima told CPJ.
“Authorities should unconditionally release Norman Tumuhimbise and Faridah Bikobere, drop all charges against them, end all investigations against other The Alternative Digitalk journalists, and return their confiscated equipment. Allegations that these journalists have been severely physically abused should be investigated credibly, holding anyone responsible to account,” said CPJ sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo. “President Yoweri Museveni, whose name has been invoked in these proceedings, should also declare that he is against arbitrary detentions of the press and condemn acts of abuse by security personnel.”
Cyberstalking and “offensive communication” can carry prison terms of up to five and two years respectively under Uganda’sComputer Misuse law. Sedition can carry up to seven years, according to the penal code.
Kiiza and Ainebyona told CPJ that The Alternative Digitalk is an offshoot of Alternative Uganda, an activist group headed by Tumuhimbise and of which Ainebyona is also a member, which campaigns for better governance in Uganda. On itssocialmediaaccounts, the group defines itself as a “non partisan (sic) and non-violent social movement” campaigning for “youth led change.”
CPJ’s review of The Alternative Uganda’s YouTube channel, where it has about 2,700 followers, and Facebook page, with over 24,300 followers, shows that it publishes The Alternative Digitalk’s programming, such as interviews, including with politicians and government officials, analysis of current affairs as well as entertainment and lifestyle programming.
In the court documents, police allege the offenses were committed by the journalists between January 2020 and March 9, 2022, against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the form of content published by The Alternative Digitalk about two of Tumuhimbisi’s recently published books. The books, “The Komanyoko Politics: Unsowing the Mustard Seed” and “Liars and Accomplices,”are sharply critical of the Museveni government, according to mediareports, Kiiza, and CPJ’s review of “The Komanyoko Politics.” [Editor’s note: Komanyoko is a vulgar insult originally from Kiswahili.]
In severalYouTube andFacebookposts in late February and early March made by The Alternative Uganda, which streams The Alternative Digitalk’s content, The Alternative Digitalk advertised Tumuhimbise’s books and announced the planned March 30 launch event in Kampala. On March 1, the outlet published anhour-long interview with a retired judge who wrote the foreword to “The Komanyoko Politics.”
In that book, excerpts of which CPJ reviewed, Tumuhimbise’s commentary describes Uganda’s political culture as “vulgar” and full of “malice, fights, insults, greed.” He also alleges that the president “only tells the truth by mistake” and criticizes government appointments for Museveni’s family, including his son, Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and wife, Janet Museveni.
Copies of this book were among those confiscated by the security officers who raided the media outlet’s offices, according to a police search certificate, a document outlining how the search was carried out and listing those who witnessed it, reviewed by CPJ. The officers also confiscated four cameras, microphones, several laptops, hard disks, as well as CDs and a company vehicle, according to that same document.
On March 16 and 17, when seven of the journalists were released on bond from the police’s Special Investigation Division in Kireka, a suburb of Kampala, two of them were limping, Ainebyona told CPJ. CPJ was unable to immediately communicate with the released journalists, whose phones were confiscated when they were arrested.
During the March 16 court hearing, Bikobere said she needed medical attention because she had been beaten by officers and was passing blood in her urine, according to Turyamusima. A video clip posted on YouTube shows part of Bikobere’s testimony in which she says she feels pain in her stomach, back, and chest; has bruises all over her body; and offers to “undress” so that her injuries can be put on record.
Tumuhimbise also told the court that he had been beaten, saying he was punched in the head and forced to drink and unknown substance, according Ainebyona and Turyamusima. Both journalists were remanded to Luzira Prison in Kampala until their next hearing on March 21.
Uganda military spokesperson Brigadier General Felix Kulayigye told CPJ by phone that the military’s involvement in the raid on The Alternative Digitalk was in support of a police operation and referred CPJ to the police for comment. Kulayigye declined to answer questions on allegations of torture, saying the journalists had not been in the army’s custody.
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