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KIGALI, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Africa's urban planners need to work closely with engineers to develop pedestrian-friendly infrastructure that promotes walking as a mode of transportation in African cities, experts and officials said on Tuesday.

"Walkability is the key to an urban area's efficient ground transportation. Walking remains the cheapest form of transportation for all people. Thus, the construction of a walkable city provides the most affordable and equitable transportation system," Pudence Rubingisa, mayor of Kigali, said while officially opening the 23rd International Walk21 Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities, which runs through Friday, in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

Rubingisa said Kigali's ultimate goal is to increase walking and cycling as a means of transportation in the near future, as the city seeks to reduce motor vehicle traffic.

"I want to reiterate Kigali's commitment to promoting sustainable urban mobility and walkability. We believe that every step we take toward a more pedestrian-friendly future is a step toward a brighter, healthier, and more equitable world," he said.

Themed "Action for Walking: The affordable and essential steps to improve walkability," the conference brought together politicians, academics, government officials, and experts to share the latest research, innovative ideas, and initiatives aimed at creating walkable streets and public spaces.

Rubingisa said urban planning needs to be inclusive and responsive to the needs of local communities and build on participatory approaches that foster the engagement of marginalized actors while advancing access to basic services such as equitable and accessible transport, among others.

"Kigali's investment in pedestrian infrastructure, dedicated bike lanes, and green spaces has resulted in a city where walking is not merely a necessity but a pleasure for all the citizens," he said.

In African cities, walking is the primary mode of transportation for the majority, with up to 78 percent of people walking every day to access work, education, health care, markets, and public transportation, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

But until recently, walking, almost everywhere on the continent, received relatively minor policy attention and resource allocation. Walking infrastructure was lacking, whereby most roads had no footpaths or crossings and were poorly signed and maintained, the UNEP said.

Rob de Jong, the head of UNEP's Sustainable Mobility Unit, said investment in walking and cycling infrastructure contributes to good health and well-being and leads to sustainable cities and communities. - Xinhua


NAIROBI, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Nairobi Expressway, which can best be described as Kenya's most beautiful road, has become a favorite for the most unlikely group in the East African nation.

The 27-km highway that stretches from the south to the west of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi is now the go-to road for commuter minibus (matatu) operators at a time when fuel prices have hit a historic high in the country.

John Wafula, a matatu driver in the city, is one of the diligent users of the road built through a private-public partnership between Kenya and the Chinese government.

At 4 p.m., local time, every day, Wafula usually drives to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), some 3 km from Nairobi city center, to pick up office workers heading home after a day's work. He loves the trip because he knows that he would take the shortest time to reach his destination -- Kitengela, some 30 km south of Nairobi, therefore, not only saving time but also fuel.

This is because he uses the Nairobi Expressway to evade the peak hour traffic jam that usually clogs the toll-free road.

"This trip caps my day because it is not only the shortest but also a lucrative one," Wafula, who works with Rembo Classic Sacco, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

From KNH, the bus journeys some 20 minutes on the thoroughfare to the exit at Mlolongo, south of Nairobi.

Wafula charges each of the 32 passengers 160 shillings (about 1.08 U.S. dollars), which is 0.4 dollars more than what buses that use the toll-free road charge, and take two hours to reach their destination.

"It makes all the economic sense to use the Expressway even if one factor in the 4.07 dollars we pay at the exit for using the road," he said.

To pay 4.07 dollars, Wafula installed the electronic payment system, further making a huge saving as those vehicles that use the manual system cough up double the amount since they don't benefit from a discount offered by MOJA Expressway Company, which manages the modern thoroughfare.

Rembo Classic Sacco started offering the service after doing a market survey, Wafula said, and since February, they have only increased fare once, from 0.95 dollars to 1.08 dollars, despite fuel prices having risen significantly during the period from 1.21 dollars and 1.1 dollars for petrol (or gasoline) and diesel to the current 1.43 dollars and 1.35 dollars, respectively.

This is due to the savings the road affords the bus operators.

The number of commuters using the service has kept growing, enabling them to increase the number of buses from two in March to eight during the evening peak hour.

"I don't mind paying 1.08 dollars. It takes me 30 minutes from the office at KNH to Kitengela, thanks to the expressway. This is something that we could only dream of in the past," said Catherine Kariuki, a records officer.

Besides the Kitengela-Upper Hill route, several other routes have been started by commuter bus companies.

Super Metro, another matatu sacco, operates the Kitengela-Westlands route in the west of the Kenyan capital.

Then, there are dozens of others that run from the city center to various residential areas in the south of the capital, including Athi River, Mlolongo, and Syokimau.

"We run the Kitengela-Westlands route during morning and evening peak hours. So far, so good despite the high fuel prices," said James Kamau, a conductor with Super Metro. He said as fuel prices rise to a record high, the road is making bus operators save fuel costs and time, and earn some good profit.

MOJA noted that the savings on fuel made by motorists are immense.

According to the firm, a recent study highlighted that if a motorist makes 10,000 trips using the electronic payment option, they save about 314 liters of fuel. "The Nairobi Expressway not only reduces travel time but also minimizes fuel consumption, saving you money," the company said in a notice.

Constructed by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and opened for use in 2022, the Nairobi Expressway has become a game changer and a darling of motorists.

During construction, it was widely expected that the majority of the road's users would be middle- and upper-income private motorists, since matatus are mainly used by low-income earners.

As many matatus as private motorists are now using the road, with many commuters and motorists working in Upper Hill and Westlands using only the Expressway route.

MOJA Expressway CEO Steve Zhao said in a recent update that more than 17 million vehicle trips have been made on the road since it was opened for use a year ago.

He said that on average, 60,000 vehicles daily use the Expressway -- the first double-decker road in Kenya.

MOJA has made it attractive and easy for motorists to use the road, including by giving discounts to those who embrace the electronic payment system. This has made the electronic toll collection system the dominant payment method as thousands of motorists make the Expressway their road of choice. - Xinhua


The United States has urged its citizens to reconsider travelling to Uganda after the terror alerts were issued by the latter’s security agencies. 

In a brief statement released on Monday, the US Embassy in Kampala told its citizens in Uganda to remain alert and avoid large public gatherings. 

“We are following press reports and police statements of an improvised explosive device (IED) discovered at a Kampala-area church in the Rubaga Division on September 3 which police located and defused along with unconfirmed reports of potential additional devices,” the statement read. 

“We remind you that the US Department of State’s travel advisory for Uganda is at a Level 3 (reconsider travel) for terrorism.  There remains a threat of terrorist attacks in Uganda and throughout the region. As anyone can be a victim, US citizens should remain alert and avoid large public gatherings,” it added.

On Sunday, the Uganda Police Force revealed that they had arrested a suicide bomber as the suspect attempted to enter Miracle Centre Cathedral in Rubaga Division, Kampala City. 

Police said an IED was recovered and detonated using controlled explosion method. 

A dry battery (D and K-1987), a detonator card, a container of powder, 57 four-inch nails, yellow cell tape, an Itel phone battery and its housing and burnt parts of a black bag were recovered.

Police said five other IEDs were recovered by the security agents in Rubaga Division and six people have been arrested.

In a statement sent to Monitor on Monday, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said the arrests and counter-terror operation “has not significantly changed the security level in the country”.

“A threat environment still exists and as always, we have taken measures to respond and mitigate all forms of terror threats. Sunday's incident is also another reminder to Ugandans and other citizens in the country that terrorism is real, which calls for vigilance as they go shopping, places of worship and parties,” Enanga said.

The US categorises security threats in four levels. Level 3 is the second worst situation. Other countries with level 3 categorisation include Nicaragua, Pakistan, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau.


In July, the United Kingdom issued a terror alert stating that terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Uganda.

The UK was criticised by many Ugandan authorities for issuing the alert, saying it was intended to paint a bad image of the country and discourage tourists and investors from visiting.

However, the Ugandan security authorities two months later warned that the threat is real, adding that they are doing everything in their means to prevent it.

In February, the United States government issued a counterterrorism report in which it indicated that Uganda was vulnerable to terror attacks.

“The vulnerability is at least in part due to porous borders, corruption, a lack of trust and information sharing among disparate security services, diversion of security force capabilities to focus on Opposition politicians, an overly militarised approach to combating violent extremism within Uganda, and the security forces’ poor relations with local communities and civil society,” US Department of State report stated. - MONITOR

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