Kenya + 3 more

East Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 28 August

TANZANIA: Police clamp down on protest in Dar es Salaam
Over 170 people were arrested and 11 taken to hospital during violent demonstrations in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, on 24 August, when riot police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of mainly Islamic protesters demonstrating against the detention of 28 year-old Khamis Rajab Dibagula for allegedly "defaming Christianity", according to news reports. Khamis had been sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Morogoro District magistrate's court after reportedly saying Jesus Christ was not God, the 'Guardian' newspaper reported. Dibagula was released late on Friday after the Tanzanian High Court ruled that he had received too harsh a sentence from the Morogoro magistrate. Judge Baxtou Chipeta was quoted as saying that a one-year sentence would have been appropriate for the offence. "The judgement needed to consider the need of maintaining peace and religious harmony in the country," he added.

Dar es Salaam Police Commander Alfred Tibaigana denied reports that two people had been killed during the demonstrations against Khamis' conviction, the newspaper reported. Forty-one people were on Monday brought to court before Kisutu Resident Magistrate Afumwisye Kibona to answer criminal charges arising from the demonstrations. Assistant Superintendent of Police Reinhard Lisapita requested that none of them be granted bail as investigations were incomplete, and because if the accused persons were released, people would be afraid to go about their business because they would be scared stiff. "The believers are still in the process of continuing with disturbances, because they have distributed leaflets calling on their comrades to make joint plans to invade police stations and cause a breach of the peace," the 'Guardian' on Tuesday quoted Lisapita as saying. Kibona accepted the prosecution's application and set 5 September as the date for the case to be revisited. The charges brought by police included: unlawful assembly, neglecting or refusing to obey a lawful order, unlawful demonstration in public places, arson, grievous bodily harm, malicious damage to property and walking in public while armed, the report added.

UGANDA: Cattle restocking brings threat of sleeping sickness

Poorly planned cattle restocking programmes could lead to the spread of sleeping sickness across Uganda, scientists from the University of Edinburgh, UK, warned on 24 August. In a report on an outbreak of sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) in Soroti District, eastern Uganda, in 1998, the scientists said the high incidence of the disease could have been linked to large-scale cattle restocking efforts in the area, Reuters news agency reported. According to the Edinburgh team, over half the cattle traded at the Soroti market originated from areas with endemic sleeping sickness, and proximity to the market was a "highly significant risk factor" for the disease. Prior to the restocking programme, only one case had ever been reported in Soroti, the researchers said.

The potentially fatal disease, caused by a parasite that infects humans from the bite of the tsetse fly, leads to "flu-like symptoms, inflammation of the brain, behavioural changes and, potentially, coma and death", Reuters reported. Domestic livestock were "important reservoirs" for one of the two parasites that cause the disease, it quoted the researchers as saying. They said that Uganda, which was undertaking a national restocking programme as part of poverty reduction efforts, should ensure that cattle were treated before being transported. However, it quoted Michael Barrett, an infection and immunity expert at the University of Glasgow, as saying that treatment to stop cattle getting the non-human form of the disease could reduce the effectiveness of drugs currently used to tackle sleeping sickness in people.

UGANDA: Four reported dead in LRA ambush in Gulu

Four people have been killed and 12 others injured after Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels ambushed a bus in Gulu District, in the north of the country, Radio Uganda reported on Monday. The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) 4th Division spokesman, Captain Salim Magara, was quoted as saying that 10 rebels ambushed the bus on the Gulu to Atiak road, between Pabbo and Awere. This was the first reported LRA attack in Gulu District since a local peace initiative spearheaded by Gulu Commissioner Walter Ochora began in June, the report stated. Magara said the UPDF was in "hot pursuit" of the rebel group.

UGANDA: Khartoum pledges to step up fight against LRA

Following reports of Sudanese army casualties in clashes with the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the authorities in Khartoum said on Monday that they planned to engage in military operations against LRA forces operating in southern Sudan, news agencies reported. The LRA, until recently, had been backed by the Sudanese government, in retaliation for Uganda's moral and alleged practical support to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il said in a statement that Sudanese government forces would challenge any LRA military operations in Sudanese territory. "Sudan will not tolerate any casualties in the ranks of the Sudanese army or among the civilian population," he was quoted as saying.

The return on 25 August of three children who recently escaped from LRA bases in southern Sudan appeared to confirm that Sudanese forces have engaged the LRA in some parts of southern Sudan. On their return to safety in Gulu, northern Uganda, the escapees said they had managed to flee to Uganda during a battle on 19 June between Sudanese forces and LRA soldiers, in which five government soldiers were killed, 'The New Vision' newspaper reported. It quoted local sources as saying that the LRA was now conducting military operations against Sudan, and that recent escapees believed LRA leader Joseph Kony's main enemy was now Sudan, rather than Uganda.

The LRA has been fighting a guerilla-style war against Ugandan government forces - and the people of northern Uganda - since the late 1980s, ostensibly in a desire to have Uganda ruled according to the Ten Commandments of the Bible. The militia frequently attacks the government's "protected villages" for internally displaced people, looting goods and abducting people to carry them or serve as fighters.

TANZANIA: Chalinze MP welcomes water project

Some 100,000 residents of 21 villages in Chalinze, Coast Region, are to be supplied with clean water through a massive water project financed by the Chinese government, and scheduled for completion in 2003, the 'Sunday Observer' reported on 26 August. Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Jakaya Kikwete, who is also the MP for Chalinze, said physical work had begun in May with the laying water pipes, and that the project would have a significant impact since currently people were covering long distances to collect water, the report said. The Chinese government has so far contributed 2.9 billion Tanzanian shillings, while Kikwete said the Tanzanian government would contribute 400 million Tanzanian shillings, it added.

EAST AFRICA: EAC to work on establishing institutions

A special meeting of the East African Community (EAC), which was postponed last week as a result of the African SMART dialogue meeting in Uganda, was due to get under way in Arusha, northern Tanzania, on Tuesday, the Tanzanian Internews agency reported on Monday. Senior government officials and civil servants from Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya are scheduled to discuss and approve budgets for the East African Legislative Assembly and the East African Court of Justice, both set to become operational in November, the report stated. Delegates would also review the progress in the implementation of the EAC Treaty, the establishment of an East African Customs Union, and the drafting of an east African trade policy document, it added.

The revival of the assembly and court follows the relaunch of the EAC on 15 January by presidents Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Daniel arap Moi of Kenya. The EAC, in its original form, collapsed in 1977, mainly because of divergent policy priorities between the partner states. The assembly will temporarily hold its sessions in the Kololo Hall of the Arusha International Conference Center, pending the construction of a permanent EAC building in Arusha, Internews reported. Tanzania had already nominated its nine members to the East African Assembly, with Kenya and Uganda expected to do likewise by the end of September, the report added. It cited EAC sources as saying that none of the member states had yet appointed judges for the East African Court, but that it was hoped the appointments would be finalised before its launch in November. The registrar of the EAC Court of Justice, John Ruhangisa of Tanzania, took up his position on 1 July.

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