Daily Archives: August 2, 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: JOINT EFFORT NEEDED TO BEAT ECONOMIC GROWTH SLUMP

PRETORIA-- President Jacob Zuma says determination, unity and the willingness of all sectors to pull together is required to turn around the low economic growth situation in South Africa.Addressing the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (AFAS...

Kenya’s New $3.2B Railway Frustrates Customers Ahead of Election

NAIROBI, KENYA � The new railway linking Nairobi to the port of Mombasa was supposed to be the crowning achievement of an infrastructure bonanza propelling President Uhuru Kenyatta to victory in Kenya's August 8 polls.

Instead, more than two months after Kenyatta inaugurated it to great fanfare, the Chinese-built line is plagued with administrative problems, particularly the ticketing process that has made it impossible to buy tickets online or on the day of travel, for example.

The problem, critics say, is that the $3.2 billion project was rushed to completion ahead of the elections, before proper planning for issues such as transport to the line's terminuses on the outskirts of the two traffic-clogged cities.

The government can claim some successes, notably 10,000 kilometers of new roads built during Kenyatta's five-year term.

"We have invested heavily in infrastructure because it is the driver of economic growth and a key plank of our transformational agenda," Kenyatta told a campaign rally in central Kenya in June.

But the railway, whose price tag helped send Kenya's debt soaring above 50 percent of economic output, is not the only project facing problems.

Last month, a $12 million bridge in western Kenya, visited by Kenyatta while it was being built by a Chinese firm, collapsed before it was completed. A ferry ramp near Mombasa collapsed in April, a month after its inauguration by Kenyatta.

The new Nairobi-Mombasa railway has slashed to just over four hours what was a 12-hour journey on a line built by Kenya's British colonial rulers a century ago.

But the hassle of buying a ticket has discouraged customers.

In addition to the lack of online purchasing, tickets must be bought three days in advance and only one-way, meaning prospective travelers make multiple early-morning trips to buy tickets at the stations.

Given that Kenya's mobile phone payment system is among the most advanced in the world, there is no excuse for the antiquated purchasing system, frustrated customers say.

Customer dismayed

Peter Kialo had nearly reached the front of the queue at the Nairobi ticket office last week, an hour after it opened, when he discovered the 700 shilling ($7) economy class tickets had sold out, leaving only first class available at 1,500 shillings.

"How come the train is already fully booked and the office has only just opened?" he asked. "I don't understand."

A spokesman for Kenya Railways told reporter that while the railway is state-owned, China Roads and Bridges Corp., the company that built the line, has the contract to manage operations, including ticketing.

Transport Minister James Wainaina Macharia said the ticketing problems were a minor part of a major achievement. He denied the railway's opening had been rushed to be ready for elections and said the online payment system was being tested to ensure it was safe from hacking.

"As for ticketing, that is an administrative issue that you'd expect to happen for any major operation," he said.

He acknowledged "middlemen" buying tickets for resale were a problem, however. A Mombasa court last month charged five people with selling tickets without permission from Kenya Railways.

The middlemen seem to have inside help, customers complain.

When a handful of men appeared within the locked gates at the head of the queue last week in Nairobi, just before the office opened at 7 a.m., security guards ignored customer protests.

Shouts of "Who are they?" and "That's not fair!" rose from the queue.

Kenya Railways managing director Atana Maina issued a statement last week acknowledging problems and announcing the company hoped to launch an online payment system and a mobile application "in the next few weeks."

Source: Voice of America

Rape accused gets 15 years imprisonment

A thorough and responsive investigation led to sentencing of a 29-year-old accused to fifteen years imprisonment for rape on Tuesday, 01 August 2017 by the Ganyesa Regional Court. The accused's sentencing followed an incident in which he raped a 15-yea...

Deputy President Ramaphosa receives Democratic Alliance petition

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has noted and received the Democratic Alliance (DA) petition presented to the Office of the Deputy President on Wednesday, 02 August 2017, which relates to proceedings in Parliament on Tuesday, 8 August 2017. The matter...

South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda Near Million Mark

MIREYI, UGANDA � Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans, prayed on Wednesday with South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, home to a nearly million fugitives from a four-year civil war in the world's youngest nation.

Around 1.8 million people have fled South Sudan since fighting broke out in December 2013, sparking what has become the world's fastest growing refugee crisis and largest cross-border exodus in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Most have fled south to Uganda, whose open-door refugee policy is now creaking under the sheer weight of numbers in sprawling camps carved out of the bush.

"The Bible tells us that the refugee is specially loved by God," Welby, leader of the 85-million strong Anglican Communion, said as he joined in prayers in a camp in the northern district of Moyo.

"Which means you who are refugees are specially loved by God, that Jesus himself was a refugee and he loves you and he stands with you and the suffering that you have is the suffering that he knows. So I pray for you, I will advocate for you."

Officials from the United Nations UNHCR refugee agency say $674 million is needed to pay for the basic needs of the refugees this year, but so far only 21 percent of those funds have been secured.

The total number of refugees is due to pass a million in the next week, UNHCR officials said. Nor is there any sign of a let-up in the stream of desperate civilians.

Some days it is only hundreds. On others, it is thousands.

In the camps, refugees are already on half their standard food rations of 12kg of maize a month, and now critical services such as health and education are facing cut-backs, UNHCR officials said.

In Bidi-Bidi, the largest of the refugee camps, 180 South Sudanese died in the first six months of the year, nearly half of them small children.

"We came here to hide ourselves from death," said 31-year-old Moro Bullen, standing next to a row of 16 freshly dug graves, mounds of rust-red earth arranged in three neat rows. Half of the graves were only a meter long. "We did not come here to die. We came here to be rescued."

Splintered Conflict

Although the roots of the war lie in the animosity between President Salva Kiir, who hails from South Sudan's powerful Dinka ethnic group, and his former deputy, Riek Machar, a Nuer, it has splintered into a patchwork of overlapping conflicts.

Machar is under house arrest in South Africa, having fled there last year to seek medical attention, but there has been little let-up in the levels of conflict, especially in the Equatoria region abutting Uganda.

"It has evolved significantly. There are many actors. Because there are many actors now it has become more violent.

The prognosis is not encouraging in terms of achieving peace," said Brian Adeba of the Washington-based Enough Project.

Refugees have told reporter of towns and villages emptied by government forces, dominated by the Dinka, with men, women and children summarily executed, and their bodies mutilated.

Rights groups have also reported widespread rape and looting that the United Nations says indicates ethnic cleansing. It has also warned of a possible genocide in a country that only came into being in 2011, when South Sudan split from Sudan.

The government has denied the reports, and said its troops are merely conducting operations against rebel militiamen.

Source: Voice of America