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

Campaigners argue the project is a costly and damaging venture that defeats the purpose of moving away from coal energy.

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Kenyans protest bid to build East Africa's first coal plant
Greenpeace and environmental activists hold a coffin reading "coal kills" and signs as they demonstrate in Nairobi against the construction of a coal power plant in Lamu on Kenya's coast, on June 12, 2019. (Photo by SIMON MAINA / AFP)

Scores of Kenyans on Wednesday protested against a project to build a coal power station near the Lamu archipelago, a popular tourist spot that includes a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts vibrant marine life.

The power station, which has been in the planning stages for about six years, has faced fierce resistance from activists, local communities, and the National Environmental Tribunal is to rule on June 24 on the fate of the project.

A group of about 200 protesters carrying black coffins emblazoned with white skulls, as well as a miniature chimney spewing smoke, marched through downtown Nairobi on Wednesday chanting “coal is poisonous!”

“There is no need to build centralised dirty sources of energy such as coal to answer Kenya’s energy demands, especially when the country is taking the lead in Africa with an 85-per cent renewable energy base,” said deCOALonize Campaign Coordinator, Omar Elmawi.

“With access to wind, solar, geo-thermal and tidal energy sources, Kenya’s renewable energy potential is cost-efficient and causes no harm to the people and environment.”

Campaigners argue the project is a costly and damaging venture that makes little sense at a time when most of the world is turning away from coal plants and investing in increasingly cheaper renewable energies.

“Countries are divesting away from coal and even China is moving away from coal investment towards renewable energy,” Greenpeace representative Fredrick Njehu commented.

However the government sees it as a way to spur economic growth, create jobs, and ensure Kenya’s energy supply in the future.

The bulk of the $2 billion project is being financed by China and it will be built by Amu Power, a joint venture between a Kenyan firm and Gulf Energy. Construction will be carried out by China Power Global.

Campaigners are also alarmed over Kenya’s rising debt, which currently stands at around $50 billion of which over $6 billion is owed to China.

Activists march in Nairobi, carrying placards bearing messages to denounce plans by the Kenyan government to mine coal close to the pristine coastal archipelago of Lamu. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

Experts have raised serious concerns about the project.

The US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) this week released a report warning that due to a series of miscalculations, electricity from the plant will cost consumers 10 times more than estimated.

Related: Electricity supply from Lamu Power Plant could cost more than originally estimated

The report entitled “The Wrong Choice For Kenya” said the 981-megawatt facility would be a “costly error” for the country, with the 25-year contract requiring payment of $360 million annually even if no power is generated at the plant.

It says that Kenya’s energy demand growth has been much lower than estimated, due to lower than expected economic growth, and that if built the plant would be “grossly underutilised”.

“The government’s own analysis demonstrates that… Kenya’s abundant renewable resources render no new coal generation necessary in the country until 2029, at the earliest”.

Amu Power in a statement Wednesday described the report’s conclusions as “inaccurate” and said the plant would have a utilisation rate of 85 per cent.

It will be the first coal-fired power station in East Africa and will import coal from South Africa until Kenya begins its own mining operations.

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The brain behind West Africa’s premier smart card manufacturers

SecureID manufactures all the varieties of smart cards with the inclusion of highly complex polycarbonate cards

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The brain behind sub-Saharan Africa’s prime smart card manufacturers
(File photo)

Introducing SecureID Nigeria Ltd, a leading smart card technology and digital security company. It possesses a world-class facility earning it plaudits not just for its immense facilities, but for being the only smart card production plant in all of West Africa. One of the six in Africa.

This feat was achieved by Kofo Akinkugbe, who doubles up as Founder and CEO. Her story is one of success owing to her record as an exceptional entrepreneur and businesswoman. Her background as a Mathematics Major whilst also earning an MBA from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland contributed to her successes.

SecureID manufactures all the varieties of smart cards with the inclusion of highly complex polycarbonate cards. According to its website homepage, the company takes the lead as Africa’s industry leader in smart card manufacturing, fulfilment and digital solutions while also offering superior end-to-end identity management and digital security solutions.

At the moment, SecureID has acquired certification from VISA, Verve, and MasterCard. The company operates a world-class production plant while also adhering to the best practices and setting international standards.

Kofo Akinkugbe is encouraging business owners to build capacity that will sustain creativity. Citing her company as an example, she opined that Secure ID succeeded by thinking ahead and developing a product that was not yet in demand at the time it was being developed.

She further suggests that employers and business owners focus on employee creativity while monitoring the returns on investment.

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Airline cleaners find abandoned foetus clogging plane’s toilet in South Africa

The foetus was discovered by cleaning staff as the plane was being prepared and passengers boarded for an early morning flight

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Airline cleaners find abandoned foetus clogging plane's toilet in South Africa

Cleaners found an abandoned foetus blocking the toilet of a plane in South Africa on Friday, the domestic FlySafair airline said, prompting the offloading of passengers and a police investigation.

The foetus was discovered by cleaning staff as the plane was being prepared and passengers boarded for an early morning flight from the coastal city of Durban to Johannesburg.

“Upon final preparations of the waste management system for the departure of flight, our technical crew discovered what appeared to be an abandoned foetus,” the airline said in a statement.

Police confirmed the incident and said they were investigating.

Passengers were asked to disembark the plane and their journeys were re-scheduled.

“We will be doing everything within our power to aid authorities in the necessary investigations and thank our loyal customers for their patience with the resultant delay,” said FlySafair executive Kirby Gordon.

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Elephant attacks in Botswana spark support for reversal of hunting ban

Last month, the government lifted a blanket hunting ban, imposed in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama

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Elephant attacks in Botswana spark support for reversal of hunting ban
(File photo)

An elephant carcass lies at the edge of a field in Legotlhwana village, northeast Botswana — evidence of the desperation and anger felt by a farmer whose crops have been repeatedly destroyed.

Ishmael Simasiku, 71, indignantly recounts how he was guarding his field as he does every night when an elephant broke through the perimeter fence and helped itself to his watermelons.

Simasiku’s attempts to repel the elephant using torchlights and gunshots fired into the air were futile. The animal only retreated briefly and returned.

Fed up, he shot it dead on May 14.

“The elephant came from the forest and was destroying my crops. The (sports hunting) ban made my life worse,” said Simasiku, holding a watermelon half-eaten by an elephant.

The retired policeman in this village near the border with Namibia has seen his corn harvest fall by about 90 per cent over recent years as elephant numbers have boomed.

Under the country’s wildlife conservation policy, Botswana’s elephant population has increased nearly 10-fold since 1970, to 130,000 today, according to the UN Environment Programme.

As elephants grazed behind him in Chobe National Park , Thebeyakgosi Horatius, head of the park’s human-wildlife conflict office, confirms that elephants are “killing people (and) destroying their crops”.

His department runs a 24-hour emergency response team to react to elephant attacks.

Last month, the government lifted a blanket hunting ban, imposed in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama, on the grounds that elephant numbers were growing.

Related: Botswana suspends elephant hunting ban

The decision angered many conservationists and stirred up a political hornet’s nest as elections loom later this year.

“To me, it’s so sad and extremely painful that all these years’ work to build up to what we had achieved is being put in reverse,” Khama told reporters by telephone.

“Our tourism is wildlife-based. We have already seen it taking a hit. I’m told our numbers have dropped by 10 per cent since they started talking about (re-starting hunting).”

Locals appeal for understanding –

Tourism is the second largest contributor to Botswana’s GDP after diamonds.

But an end to the ban on sports hunting has been welcomed by many Botswanans.

On April 26, Merafhe Shamukuni, 53, was walking home down a steep pathway in Kasane, Botswana’s wildlife tourist town, when he was attacked and killed by an elephant.

His sister, Dorcus Shamukuni, 49, tearfully remembers her brother who worked as a builder and cared for their wheelchair-bound father.

“No one expected he was going to die that way,” said Shamukuni.

While global conservationists are up in arms over the resumption of hunting, locals appeal for understanding over problems caused by freely roaming elephants which live unfenced in Botswana.

“We are here in Africa, facing this on a daily basis (and) all they are interested in is to come and see those animals for a few hours and go back where they are comfortable.

“We are in trouble, something really has to be done,” said Shamukuni, who works at a four-star hotel in Kasane.

“I work in tourism, I know the importance of animals…but I don’t see the reason they should be killing us in this manner.

“Human beings should be controlling the animals, not animals controlling us.”

At least, 34 people have been killed by elephants since the hunting ban came into effect — 15 of them killed last year alone when 9,000 properties were destroyed, according to government statistics.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi, on a visit to the United States, recently tweeted of another death from elephant trampling.

“The tragedy comes virtually 24 hours after I responded to an elephant protester in Las Vegas and now a brother has fallen,” he said. 

Locals in Chobe district, home to Botswana’s largest concentration of elephants, fear being overrun.

“I’m so sick of people who say we should not kill. When we had hunting, we never had elephants coming into our villages,” said safari guide Petros Tshekonyane, 48, who recently found an elephant devouring his garden.

“It has to come to an end. This is too much. I can’t continue planting for elephants.”

Poaching on the rise? –

Walking around after sunset is risky, and residents wake up to broken fences and destroyed vegetable patches.

Frank Limbo, 48, is a farmer from Satau village who has survived both an elephant and a lion attack.

“One way of controlling is hunting, it has been done in the past,” he said.

Kavimba village’s chief, Josephat Mwezi, 74, said elephants were previously found only in parks “but now they are where we live. We are not after their extinction. We want them… confined to their areas.”

Community activist, Watson Mabuku admits that poaching has increased in recent years because “we were deprived of our source of protein” when hunting was outlawed.

Hunting resumption will see 400 permits issued annually.

But according to Khama, it will have little effect in reducing the population because around 650 calves are born each year.

He described most of the animals as “refugees” fleeing poaching in Angola and Zambia and said they should be encouraged to return to their home ranges.

Masisi’s plan to re-start hunting could find favour with villagers five months ahead of what could be a tough election for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

But Amos Mabuku, who heads a community conservation charity involving 5,000 families in Chobe district, dismisses any link between elections and hunting.

“It’s not a question of politics, it’s about sustainable use of natural resources and caring for your people,” said Mabuku.

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