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Uganda accuses Rwanda of blocking Christian pilgrims from observing Martyrs Day

Officials say the Rwandans were en route the annual Martyrs Day commemoration in Uganda but were turned back

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Border dispute: Uganda accuses Rwanda of blocking Christian pilgrims from observing Martyrs Day

Rwandan troops blocked about 200 of their citizens from crossing into Uganda to attend a Christian pilgrimage, a Ugandan government official said Monday, amid a spat between the neighbours.

The Rwandans were seeking to attend the annual Martyrs Day commemoration in Uganda but were turned back, the official said.

“More than 200 Rwandans who were coming to attend Martyrs Day were stopped by the military from crossing to Uganda and sent back,” Janinah Busingye, an official at Katuna, the border town with Rwanda, told AFP Monday.

“This is how bad the situation has become between Uganda and Rwanda. People’s right to worship is now being interferred with.”

She said pilgrims from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi had been using the same crossing to enter Uganda via Rwanda, and had not encountered any problems.

One 66-year-old pilgrim, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP she travelled in a large group to the border but was denied entry.

“We were told that we cannot cross into Uganda for the sake of our security,” she told AFP.

Martyrs Day on June 3 commemorates the execution of 45 converts to Christianity in the 1880s.

Their death was ordered by the then king of Buganda, which is now part of Uganda.

They included 22 of his pages, who had converted to Catholicism and were burned alive on June 3 1886. They were beatified by the Holy See in 1920 and canonised in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

Several hundred Rwandans typically travel to Uganda for the event, tourism figures show.

But Rwanda closed its border with Uganda in February, freezing a key regional trade route, as hostilities between President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni boiled over.

Tensions between the two veteran leaders, once close allies, have been rising for months as the two countries trade accusations of political interference and spying.

Rwandan traders have been prevented by force from crossing the border into Uganda, where many work during the day.

In late May, Ugandan police accused Rwandan soldiers of entering the country and killing two men but Rwanda said the incident happened on its soil.

Rwanda’s state minister for East African affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, said he was not aware of the specific case involving pilgrims but told AFP:

“What I know is that our travel advisory notice is still in force for all Rwandan citizens travelling to Uganda”.

Museveni did not attend the commemorations, which took place at a shrine at Namugongo, just outside the capital Kampala.

He was represented by Vice President, Edward Sekandi.

Rwanda’s Catholic Archbishop, Antoine Kambanda, conducted a mass Monday afternoon for pilgrims who failed to reach Uganda.

The service took place at St. Charles Lwanga Parish in Kigali, a church named after one of the martyrs.

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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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Africa News & Updates

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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