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Tanzania joins other African countries with plastic bag bans

Africa has 34 of these countries, followed by Europe with 29.

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Tanzania joins other African countries with plastic bag bans | News Central TV
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A plastic bag ban comes into force in Tanzania on Saturday, as Africa leads efforts to stem the tide of plastic blighting the farthest reaches of the globe, and depths of the ocean.

Tanzania is banning the importation, production, sale and use of plastic bags, becoming the 34th African country to implement such restrictions, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

“Let me be clear on this, once it reaches June 1, the government is not planning to add any more days and we will not tolerate anyone who will be caught using them. No plastic bag will be allowed in the country,” Tanzania’s vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan said when announcing the move in April.

Tanzania, whose wildlife is a popular tourist draw, has also issued a notice to travellers that they will have to “surrender” plastic bags in their possession before entering the country.

“The government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from the plastic bags ban,” said the statement.

According to local media, anyone caught manufacturing or importing plastic bags and plastic wrappings could get a fine of one billion Tanzanian shillings ($430,000) or face imprisonment for up to two years. 

Possession and usage can lead to a fine of $87 or imprisonment for seven days, or both. 

Degrees of success –

Globally, 127 countries have some sort of plastic bag legislation, 91 of which include a ban or restriction on manufacturing, importation and retail distribution, according to UNEP.

Africa has 34 of these countries, followed by Europe with 29.

Patrick Mwesigye, UNEP’s regional co-ordinator for resource efficiency told AFP that the degree of success of the bans varied in Africa.

Rwanda’s plastic bag ban has been in place for over a decade and is considered one of the most successful.

“But Rwanda had an advantage that there wasn’t much manufacturing of plastics,” in the country when the ban was implemented, said Mwesigye.

Countries with manufacturing and import industries, where jobs are impacted by bans, have struggled more to enforce them. 

“In Kenya… it has been very effective. Still you have some plastic smuggled from neighbouring countries” like Uganda, he said.

Kenya’s 2017 plastic ban imposed particularly harsh laws, with fines of up to $38,000 and four-year prison sentences.

However, in reality, while there have been waves of arrests, fines, and jail terms have been far less than proscribed.

Mwesigye said some countries put bans in place before ensuring there were suitable alternatives in place, while monitoring and practical enforcement were also a challenge.

Scourge of single-use plastics –

Joyce Msuya, UNEP’s Acting Executive Director, praised Tanzania for joining the nations implementing the ban.

“It is critical that bans now be complemented by efforts to identify effective alternatives to single-use plastics…”

The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are, at least, five trillion plastic pieces floating in oceans, scientists have estimated.

Most of the items polluting oceans and landscapes and causing horrendous deaths for the creatures that live there, are made to be used once and thrown away, such as bags, straws and food packaging.

In March, nations failed to agree to a timetable to phase out all single-use plastics, opting instead to “significantly reduce” their production.

Neither the United States, Canada or Australia have national plastic bag regulations -although some American states like Hawaii or California have implemented bans.

The European Union, in March, voted to ban a dozen forms of single-use plastics from 2021.

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East Africa News & Stories

Internet blackout hits cities in Ethiopia

An investigation found that with the exception of the capital Addis Ababa, most of the country’s cities had no internet.

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Internet blackout hits cities in Ethiopia

Most of Ethiopia was without internet access on Tuesday on the eighth consecutive day of an unexplained break.

An investigation found that with the exception of the capital Addis Ababa, most of the country’s cities had no internet.

Cherer Aklilu, executive director of the state monopoly Ethio Telecom, declined to give any details to explain the break.

“We expect to release an official statement on the internet blackout before the end of this week and we urge our users to be patient until that time,” she told AFP.

Internet access was cut on June 11, briefly restored and then severed again. It was restored for the Addis area on Friday.

The cut is the longest since reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to office in April last year in the Horn of Africa country.

The current break coincides with annual school-leaving exams, which end on Friday. In 2017, the authorities defended a similar blackout by saying they wanted to limit cheating for the important tests.

However, the internet was also repeatedly cut between 2015 and 2017 when the government at the time faced waves of protests.

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Health minister issues Ebola threat alert in Tanzania

Tanzania’s northwestern Kagera, Mwanza and Kigoma regions are most at risk.

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Health workers stand at a non-gazetted crossing point in the Mirami village, near the Mpondwe border as Tanzania issues Ebola threat alert

Tanzania’s health minister issued an Ebola ‘alert’ Sunday after the disease, which has killed over 1,400 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, appeared in their shared neighbour, Uganda. “I want to alert the public that there is the threat of an Ebola epidemic in our country,” Ummy Mwalimu tweeted days after officials confirmed that members of a family who had travelled to the DRC had died in western Uganda.

The minister said the alert was necessary given the frequent interactions between Tanzanian and Ugandan people “via the official borders or by other, unofficial channels.” Tanzania’s northwestern Kagera, Mwanza and Kigoma regions were most at risk, said Mwalimu. But “given that this disease transmits very easily and very quickly from one person to another, nearly the entire country is in danger.”

The minister began a tour of the frontier regions on Saturday to assess the measures in place at ports and border posts to deal with potential incoming Ebola cases. The country has not yet been touched by the often fatal viral disease that causes violent vomiting and diarrhoea, impairs kidney and liver function, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.

Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids. The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people.

On Friday, the World Health Organization said the outbreak does not yet warrant being declared a “public health emergency of international concern”, meaning it would require a “coordinated international response”.The UN body declares public health emergencies when a disease outbreak in a country risks spreading beyond its borders.

Two members of a Ugandan family, a woman and her five-year-old grandson died of Ebola this week after travelling to the DRC to take care of a dying family member and attend the funeral. The boy’s brother, aged three, is also infected, and several family members are in isolation. To date, no locally-acquired Ebola cases have been reported in Uganda.

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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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