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Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye. Photo Tchandrou Nitanga/AFP Burundi's media have faced a serious crackdown and harassment by the authorities since a 2015 crisis when the government of former president Pierre Pierre Nzurunziza provoked the destruction and shut down of several radio and TV stations and forced over 100 journalists in to exile. Some of the most worrying bans were of the BBC, which has operated in the country without a license since 2019, and Voice of America, which was barred from broadcasting in the local language. In this context, media freedom was one of the most important issues in the presidential election in April 2020. Journalists have suffered increasing attacks and were banned from attending official press conferences on Covid-19 in the Ministry of Health. The coming to power of Ndayishimiye in May 2020 has brought some change in the relationship between the government and media after he asked the media regulator “to sit down with banned media and find solutions to these disputes so that we can put an end to them once and for all." In December 2020 the president ordered the release of four journalists imprisoned for a year on baseless charges and offered them a presidential pardon. IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We welcome the recent steps taken by Burundi’s government towards a better respect of media freedom and freedom of information in the country. However, we don't take words as actions and urge the Burundi media regulator to immediately lift all the bans imposed on independent and international media and ensure journalists and media can work free from threats, harassment and measures aimed at silencing them". - International Federation of Journalists
ODM leader Raila Odinga during a Sunday service at Sts. Joachim and Anne Catholic Church, Kayole on January 17, 2021. In Summary • This even as he fought off assertions by his critics that he does not believe in God. • The ODM boss urged the leaders to rally their flock behind the intended reforms, saying it is the only sure way the country's challenges will be resolved. ODM leader Raila Odinga has called on the church to lead the country to the promised land - Canaan - by supporting the Building Bridges Initiative reforms. This even as he fought off assertions by his critics that he does not believe in God. The former Prime Minister said the BBI is the sure route to deliver Kenyans to the promised land and called on the church to guide the nation towards that direction by backing the initiative. "I appeal to you to be the Moses and Joshua and lead Kenyans from the wilderness .... and get us to Canaan," Raila said during a meeting with religious leaders at Ufungamano House in Nairobi on Thursday. The ODM boss urged the leaders to rally their flock behind the intended reforms, saying it is the only sure way the country's challenges will be resolved. "I believe you will find no joy when your children go to school only to be told there are no jobs and only wheelbarrows are available," he said. He said BBI will solve the perennial chaos that has rocked the nation every election, curb corruption, resolve the problems of joblessness and restore our ethos. "The solution to corruption cannot be corruption. The solution to joblessness cannot be the wheelbarrow. BBI has nothing against the church," he said. "I believe the church will find no joy in burying their members every election year," he said. Raila reiterated that he is a God-fearing man contrary to claims by his political nemesis that he is not. "When I was in prison, the bible and the Quran provided by the prison chaplain and occasional letters from my wife are all I had," he said. "I had the King James Version in three languages. I also read the Quran from front to back and back again," he added. However, Raila challenged the church not be used as channels of money laundering. by JULIUS OTIENO AND ROLYN NJOROGE, The Star
In this file photo from 2016, Tanzania's President John Magufuli addresses a news conference during an official visit to Nairobi, Kenya. Photo Thomas Mukoya/Reuters Tanzanian President John Magufuli has claimed that vaccinations against COVID-19 are dangerous and instead urged Tanzanians to protect themselves from the deadly disease by using domestic measures including steam inhalation. Magufuli has long downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19, which has killed more than 2.1 million people worldwide. He has previously questioned the efficacy of imported COVID tests and urged people to pray to protect themselves from the coronavirus. The president has resisted imposing strict lockdowns to contain the virus and his government has faced criticism over its secrecy regarding the outbreak in the East African nation, which has not published official COVID-19 statistics for more than six months. “Vaccinations are dangerous. If white people were able to come up with vaccinations, a vaccination for AIDS would have been found, a vaccination for tuberculosis could have eliminated it by now; a Malaria vaccine would have been found; a vaccination for cancer would have been found by now,” Magufuli said in a speech on Wednesday in his hometown of Chato, northwest Tanzania. He also urged the health ministry to be cautious with vaccines developed abroad. The president offered no evidence to support his doubts about the safety of vaccinations, which are being administered across more than 50 countries, according to Our World in Data, after securing regulatory approval. A microbiologist who requested anonymity citing fear of government retaliation described the president’s statement as “dangerous” and said could help to reverse the country’s decades-long effort to eradicate preventable illnesses through vaccines. “The fight against COVID-19 needs informed public health measures. Denial, misinformation and inaction only puts Tanzanian citizens, especially the vulnerable ones, at unnecessary risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19,” the scientist told Al Jazeera. Magufuli’s warning comes a day after the Tanzania Catholic Church issued an alert over a surge in suspected COVID-19 infections in the country. In a letter addressed to church leaders, the president of the episcopal conference (TEC) warned of a possible new wave of infections. The TEC Secretary Father Charles Kitima told the media that the Catholic Church had noticed an unusually sharp increase in the number of funeral services being held. He said that usually, there would be one or two requiem masses per week in urban parishes, but that now they were conducting the masses daily. Since the apparent resurgence of cases in recent weeks, Magufuli has sent mixed messages to the public, at times urging people to follow expert advice but also mocking those who wear masks to slow the spread of the virus. Despite anecdotal evidence suggesting a potential resurgence of infections, there are no official figures to indicate how widespread it might be, as the health ministry stopped releasing regular updates on COVID statistics last April. Tanzania has reported 509 COVID-19 infections and 21 deaths in total, according to World Health Organization data. - Sammy Awami, Al Jazeera
Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki. Photo Ludovic Marin/AFP The head of the African Union on Tuesday urged Kenya and Somalia to exercise restraint, and de-escalate tensions along their borders. "I'm following the tensions on the Kenya-Somalia border with concern, and urge the two neighbors to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue in conformity with the IGAD-led process," Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement. "Peace on the Kenya-Somalia border is vital to regional stability,” Faki said, referring to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-country trade bloc in Africa. Somalia has accused Kenya of supporting armed fighters who engaged Somali forces on Monday, a fight that claimed 11 lives. The Information Ministry in Somalia said Kenya-backed bandits were attempting to smuggle weapons into Somalia through the porous border. Kenya, however, has distanced itself from the allegations and said it wants the conflict to end. - By Rédaction Africanews with Anadolu, Africanews
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Image: PSCU President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged South Sudan leaders to hasten the implementation of the remaining aspects of the peace pact signed in Khartoum, Sudan in 2018. The President singled out the establishment of the legislative assembly and reforms in the security sector as some of the pending areas that require attention as the country returns to stability after years of conflict. The Head of State spoke Tuesday evening at State House, Nairobi when he hosted US Special Envoy for South Sudan Amb Stuart Symington and his UK counterpart Bob Fairweather who paid him a courtesy call. The two envoys briefed the President on the South Sudan peace process and thanked Kenya for its leading role in the long search for peace and stability in the young African nation and the region. Amb Symington, a former US Ambassador to Djibouti, Rwanda and Nigeria, said Kenya's longstanding support has contributed to the progress made in the journey of returning South Sudan to the road of peace and stability. He urged the President to continue giving the peace process positive influence by rallying South Sudan leaders to implement the remaining aspects of the Khartoum accord. On his part, UK Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Bob Fairweather praised parties to the South Sudan peace pact for taking bold steps to end conflicts and forge a stable, peaceful and progressive nation. The British diplomat assured the President that the Troika nations of Norway, the US and the UK will continue working closely with Kenya and the region in search of sustainable peace and stability in South Sudan. President Kenyatta assured the two diplomats of Kenya's continued support for the peace process saying the country will leverage on its UN Security Council membership to assist her young neighbour and the region achieve stability. The President was joined in the meeting by Foreign Affairs CS Amb Raychelle Omamo and the Head of Public Service Dr Joseph Kinyua while the special envoys were accompanied by British High Commissioner to Kenya Amb Jane Marriott and Mr Eric Kneedler, the Charge d' Affaires at the US Embassy in Nairobi. Separately at State House, Nairobi, President Kenyatta met former Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn who delivered a special message from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The former Prime Minister briefed the President on a number of subjects top among them Ethiopia's internal conflict involving the Federal Government and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), the simmering border conflict with Sudan and the progress made in resolving the regional stand-off over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on River Nile involving Sudan and Egypt. President Kenyatta expressed concerns about the stability of the region citing several emerging conflicts and assured the visiting Ethiopian leader that Kenya will continue supporting regional efforts to resolve the challenges. On the Tigray conflict, President Kenyatta welcomed the measures being taken by the Ethiopian Federal Government in addressing the humanitarian situation in the region. The former Premier was accompanied by Ethiopia's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Amb Redwan Hussein and the country's Ambassador to Kenya Meles Alem Tekea in the meeting also attended by Kenya's Foreign Affairs CS Amb Raychelle Omamo. - PSCU/The Star

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