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DR Congo awaits repatriation of former opposition leader’s body

Felix Tshisekedi has vowed to repatriate his father’s remains and bury them in his home country

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DR Congo awaits repatriation of former opposition leader's body

The Democratic Republic of Congo awaited Thursday the delayed return of the remains of former opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, an emotion-laden moment for the country after his son, Felix became president this year.

A revered opponent of authoritarianism in the DRC, Tshisekedi died in Belgium in February 2017 at the age of 84 and was unable to witness his son’s victory in the country’s bitterly-contested presidential election.

Felix Tshisekedi has vowed to repatriate his father’s remains and bury them in his home country, a goal that faced multiple roadblocks under his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

But the return of the body, which had been scheduled for early Thursday, was delayed after a last-minute hitch over the late-night flight from Belgium, a member of the Tshisekedi family said.

The funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

An official in Brussels said the late-night depature had been “cancelled for today due to issues over the organisation of the flight”.

The overnight flight “had to be cancelled at the last minute because of logistical reasons,” the Congolese government said in a statement issued after a crisis meeting.

“This situation is totally beyond the control of the Belgian authorities and the funeral organisers,” it said.

Two hundred and fifty people planning to accompany the body were left stranded at the Melsbroek military airport near Brussels.

Belgium had planned a military ceremony for the departure of the funeral party at the airport in the presence of Belgian Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders.

Details about the reason for the postponement were sketchy.

The Belgian news agency, Belga said the organisers’ initial plan was to rent an Airbus A330, with the capacity to take 270 passengers as well as the coffin. The passengers included veteran members of the Tshisekedis’ party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).

Thorn in dictator’s side –

The programme of mourning includes a display of the body, mass and rally on Friday at an 80,000-seat stadium in Kinshasa, followed by a funeral on Saturday in Nsele, on the eastern outskirts of the capital.

Etienne Tshisekedi spent decades in politics but never reached the top job.

He served as interior minister in the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko, before joining the opposition, where he was a persistent thorn in the dictator’s side.

He co-founded the UDPS in 1982 after a stint in prison and in the 1990s was appointed prime minister several times, each time falling out with Mobutu after a matter of days or even months.

In 1997, Mobutu was ousted in a rebellion led by Joseph Kabila’s father, Laurent. Tshisekedi quickly became an opponent of the new regime — a stance that continued after Laurent Kabila’s assassination in 2001 and the rise of his son, Joseph.

Tshisekedi refused to recognise Kabila’s legitimacy to the very last. He boycotted the country’s elections in 2006 on the grounds of fraud, and was beaten in the 2011 ballot, which was tainted by massive irregularities.

Almost two years after his death, on January 24, Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as president after elections that saw Kabila step down after 18 years in power.

It was the first peaceful transition of power since the DRC gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

The handover, however, was marred by allegations of election rigging and by Kabila’s continued domination of politics after amassing extensive clout during his years in office.

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East Africa News & Stories

Militant group kill nine civilians in Somalia

The victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo

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Militant group kill nine civilians in Somalia

Nine civilians were executed by a local militia in Somalia after the killing of a policeman by the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, police said Saturday.

The revenge attack on Friday just outside Galkayo – one of the most developed cities in the centre of the country – targeted the Rahanweyn clan, several of whose members are suspected of being Shabaab fighters.

“This was a horrible incident, a gruesome killing against nine unarmed innocent civilians in southern Galkayo. All of the civilians belong to one clan and the gunmen shot them dead in one location a few minutes after suspected Shabaab gunmen killed” a policeman, Mohamed Abdirahman, a local police official said.

“This is an unacceptable act and we will bring those perpetrators to justice,” said Hussein Dini, a traditional elder. 

“Their killing cannot be justified. It seems that the merciless gunmen were retaliating for the security official who they believe was killed by Al-Shabaab gunmen belonging to the clan of the victims.”

Witnesses told local media that the victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo.

Local officials have in the past fingered the Rahanweyn clan for fomenting instability in the region and supplying fighters to the Shabaab.

The local militia which staged the revenge attack are from the Saad Habargidir, a sub-clan of the Hawiye group which is dominant in the southern part of the city. 

Galkayo, situated about 600 kilometres (380 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, straddles the frontier with the self-proclaimed autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug. 

The city has been the scene of violent clashes between forces of the two regions in recent years and also witnessed violence between the two rival clans occupying its northern and southern districts.

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Inside Kenya’s Sh 3.02 trillion 2019/ 20 budget

There is an estimated deficit of Sh 607.8 billion, an increase from Sh 562 billion this financial year

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Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury Henry Rotich leaves with the budget briefcase for Parliament to read

Kenya’s 2019/20 budget will be the seventh under the country’s jubilee administration. Its National government plans to spend Sh 3.02 trillion, about 10 billion higher than the current (2018/19) budget.

There is an estimated deficit of Sh 607.8 billion, an increase from Sh 562 billion this financial year. The government is likely to borrow more in the next fiscal year to bridge the deficit as Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is expected to miss this year’s revenue collection target by Sh 118 billion.

Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury Henry Rotich (C) poses with the budget briefcase before leaving for Parliament
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury Henry Rotich (C) poses with the budget briefcase before leaving for Parliament to read the budget speech for 2018-2019 in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 14, 2018. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Related: Kenya’s Safaricom, Equity bank seal digital banking partnership

Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Henry Rotich, has set a revenue target of Sh 2.2 trillion while KRA is expected to collect approximately Sh 1.9 trillion. Experts say the government might also heighten the tax regime to fill this budget deficit.

In the 2018/2019 financial year, the government was forced to introduce stringent tax measures to raise funds to support the budget.

This year, the government will likely raise Value Added Tax (VAT) from the current 16 per cent and Capital Gains Tax, which targets the wealthy. The betting industry will also be targeted.

Raising the VAT will contribute to a high cost of living as prices of basic goods such as food will go up. According to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Kenya’s public debt stands at Sh 5.4 trillion.

In the financial year beginning July 1, 2019 Kenya will spend Sh 800 billion to repay maturing loans mostly owed to foreign lenders.

The budget as a share of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to decline to 28.1 per cent, from 32.4 per cent in 2018/19 financial year, a 4.2 per cent drop.

According to the Budget and Appropriation Committee, Sh 2.45 trillion will be allocated to the three arms of government, a slight increase from Sh 2.23 trillion in 2018/19 financial year.

Kenya budget: Kenya's National Treasury building is pictured in Nairobi
Kenya’s National Treasury building is pictured in Nairobi on June 14, 2018. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Related: Kenyans protest bid to build East Africa’s first coal plant

The country’s judiciary remains the least funded of the three arms of government having been allocated Sh 18.88 billion. The Executive and Parliament have been allotted Sh 1.84 trillion and Sh 43.78 respectively.

In the past financial years, the Education sector has always received the lion’s share of the budget, likewise Sh 473.3 billion has been allocated to the sector; followed by Energy, Infrastructure and ICT which have been allocated a combined budget of Sh 406.7 billion.

Rotich’s budget today will crown the total Jubilee administrations ambitious spending to Sh 13 trillion over eight years against total tax collections of less than Sh 8 trillion over the same period.

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Africa News & Updates

At least 50 killed from fighting in eastern DR Congo

The fighting began last Friday and escalated on Monday, affecting the territory of Djugu, north of the provincial capital of Bunia.

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At least 50 killed from fighting in eastern DR Congo | News Central TV
(File photo)

At least 50 people have been killed in violence in Ituri, a volatile province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), governor Jean Bamanisa Saidi said Thursday.

“As of the day before yesterday, we had a figure of some 50 (dead), but it’s true, we are aware that there are other cases,” he told reporters.

Other sources said the toll could be 60 or more than 70.

The fighting began last Friday and escalated on Monday, affecting the territory of Djugu, north of the provincial capital of Bunia, and causing many people to flee their homes, the sources said.

The cause of the flareup was not immediately clear, but it occurred in a region where tens of thousands died in clashes between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups between 1999 and 2003.

The deputy head of the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC, General Bernard Commins, told a press conference on Wednesday that the two communities had suffered fresh violence.

A Hema leader, Pilo Molondro, told reporters that 49 deaths had been recorded since the start of the week, and “all communities are in mourning.”

A head of the Lendu community, Joel Mande, said: “We have recorded 40 deaths since Monday, after a trader and his colleagues were killed. The toll could reach 60.”

But an NGO source said that from Saturday to Tuesday alone, “more than 72 people were killed in around 10 localities in Djugu and Irumu.”

Okapi, the radio station run by the UN’s MONUSCO, said 38 people had been stabbed to death just in the village of Tche.

Ituri and the neighbouring province of North Kivu on the DRC’s eastern border are struggling to roll back an epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since August 1.

Related: Ebola cases cross the 2,000 mark in DR Congo

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