Uganda Today - Friday February 22

By Joseph Kizza

"I can state that I have no intention of holding onto office and I am ready to hand over on Monday," says COSASE chairperson Abdu Katuntu.

Friday6 350x210


Presented by Joseph Kizza






Israel blasts off to the Moon


A rocket took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday night carrying Israel's Beresheet spacecraft, aiming to make history twice: as the first private-sector landing on the Moon, and the first from the Jewish state.

The 585-kilogram (1,290-pound) Beresheet, which means "Genesis" in Hebrew, lifted off at 8:45 pm (0145 GMT Friday) atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company of entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Take-off was followed live back in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu watching alongside engineers from the control center of the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI).

The Israeli craft has been placed in Earth orbit, from where it will use its own engine to undertake a seven-week trip to reach the Moon and touch down on April 11 in a large plain.

The rocket also contains an Indonesian satellite and a satellite of the US Air Force Research Laboratory.

The unmanned mission is part of renewed global interest in the Moon, sometimes called the "eighth continent" of the Earth, and comes 50 years after American astronauts first walked on the lunar surface.

"This is history in the making - and it's live! Israel is aiming for the #moon and you're all invited to watch," said a Twitter message from SpaceIL, the non-profit organization that designed the Israeli craft.

It was backed notably by businessman and philanthropist Morris Kahn, who financed the development of a craft. "Make us proud," he said Thursday.

Entrepreneurs, not government space agencies, financed the mission, which was initially projected at $10 million but eventually grew to $100 million.

Other partners are Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel's space agency, and the country's Ministry of Science and Technology.

So far, only Russia, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometer (239,000-mile) journey and landed spacecraft on the Moon.

China's Chang'e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a Lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.

Americans are the only ones to have walked on the lunar surface, but have not been there since 1972.

For Israel, the landing itself is the main mission, but the spacecraft also carries a scientific instrument to measure the lunar magnetic field, which will help understanding of the Moon's formation.

Technically, it is far from a trivial mission.

After its initial boost from the Falcon 9, the Beresheet's British engine will have to make several ignitions to place the spacecraft on the correct trajectory to the Moon.

When it arrives, its landing gear must cushion the descent onto the lunar surface to prevent Beresheet from crashing. 





  A view from the rooftop

Final day of longest test drive.






  The Beast in Fort Portal

The Kiira EVS, a car built in Uganda, is on its longest test drive - a 1,600km journey across Uganda. Friday morning, the team arrived in Fort Portal and like it has been in the other towns they have been to, locals were drawn to the vehicle in awe.








Uganda host of 3rd IFEH meet

Uganda will host the 3rd International Federation Of Environmental Health (IFEH) Academic and Scientific Conference.

It will run from April 9 until 11 under the theme: Environmental Health: A cornerstone to achieving the SDGs





What happened on Thursday?

Well, we got to learn that Pope Francis won't be making it to Uganda - for a second time - this July.

We also saw three men embroiled in a paternity battle for two children. A DNA test was suggested. Question is: How will the results be received by the warring parties?

(Click here to check out what happened yesterday)






Excerpts from COSASE report on closed banks

Outgoing COSASE chairperson Abdu Katuntu presented his committee's report on the seven closed banks. On behalf of his team, Katuntu aired plenty of observations as well as recommendations. Here are some of them:

- The Auditor General was not availed with an inventory report for Teefe Trust Bank

- The National Bank of Commerce was closed and sold on the same day - September 27, 2012. The auditors were appointed the following month and an inventory report produced on January 15, 2013.

- Crane Bank was placed under statutory management on October 20, 2016. The auditors were appointed eight days later and the inventory report produced on January 13, 2017. The bank was sold on January 25, 2017.

- Whereas the resolution of financial institutions in distress has been under Bank of Uganda's supervision department, it is recommended that the mandate of resolving financial institutions in distress be independent of the bank supervision function.

- The Central Bank should strengthen the supervision function to ensure that it is able to adequately supervise financial institutions in real time.

- All Bank of Uganda officials who failed to properly execute their duties in accordance with the law should be held responsible for their commissions and/or omissions. 

- Bank of Uganda should end the winding up processes of all defunct banks within a period not exceeding one year.





'I am ready to hand over office'


On Thursday, the chairperson of Parliament's Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), Abdu Katuntu, presented a 66-page committee report on the closed commercial banks.

And at the conclusion of his presentation, the Bugweri County MP made it clear that he had no plans of clingin onto power.

"A lot has been said about people not wanting to leave office. I can state that I have no intention of holding onto office and I am ready to hand over on Monday at 10am."






  WATCH: The Beast powers through Kibale National Park






Back to Uganda

OK, I hope you now have a general idea of what's going on on the continent. We shall turn our lenses back on Uganda.






  AROUND AFRICA: Albinos - Amnesty attacks Malawi minister


Amnesty International upbraided a Malawian minister on Thursday after he blamed assaults on those living with albinism on the victims' families.

Homeland Security Minister Nicholas Dausi said on Tuesday, "these people are being killed by their relatives."

Albinism is a genetic hereditary disorder that causes a partial or total absence of pigmentation in the skin, the hair and the eyes.

Apart from violence and discrimination, albinos are also exposed to eye problems and a heightened risk of skin cancer.

Dausi also attacked the Association of People With Albanism in Malawi (APAM) for previously suggesting community members may be safer living abroad.

"When they say they want to seek asylum elsewhere, do they want to insult government? Seriously?" he said.

"The latest comments from Minister Nicholas Dausi are yet another indication that persons with albinism in Malawi are on their own when it comes to their safety and security," said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's deputy director for southern Africa.

"For years, people with albinism have been living at the mercy of criminal gangs who target them for their body parts," he said in a statement.

"The recent spike in attacks shows that the government, despite amending the Anatomy Act and the Penal Code to ensure stiffer penalties, hasn't lived up to its commitments on protecting this group." 







  AROUND AFRICA: Botswana mulls proposal to lift hunting ban


Botswana's government on Thursday proposed ending a strict ban on hunting, which was introduced to protect wildlife in this game-rich southern African country, prompting conservationists to warn it could harm tourism.

The controversial proposals, which must be debated by cabinet before becoming law, would overturn a hunting ban that was introduced in 2014 to reverse a decline in the population of elephants and other wildlife.

"If needs be, we will give the opportunity to parliament to also interrogate it," said President Mokgweetsi Masisi after receiving the report.

The ban was one of the flagship policies of his predecessor, former president Ian Khama, who was an ardent conservationist.

The ruling Botswana Democratic party has been lobbying to overturn the ban, especially on elephant hunting, saying populations have become unmanageably large in parts -- placing the animals on a collision course with humans.

The proposals also include the introduction of elephant culling to manage numbers.






  AROUND AFRICA: Bouteflika due for checks in Switzerland


Algeria's ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is aiming for a fifth term in April elections, will head to Switzerland for "routine medical checks", his office said Thursday.


The 81-year-old will have a "short" stay in Geneva, it said in a statement carried by the government APS news agency.

In power since 1999, Bouteflika has used a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

He regularly visits hospitals overseas, most recently spending five days in Switzerland in August for unspecified tests.

Bouteflika spent 80 days in hospital in Paris following his 2013 stroke, which affected his mobility and speech.

He last appeared in public on November 1 and no longer delivers public speeches, fuelling constant speculation on his health. 






  AROUND AFRICA: Arrests as Sudan police disperse march


Demonstrators chanting "freedom, peace, justice" reached downtown Khartoum but were confronted by riot police, witnesses said, adding that several dissidents were detained by agents of the country's feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

Rabah al-Mahdi from the main opposition National Umma Party said that at least 26 campaigners and opposition leaders had been arrested.

The Sudanese Professionals Association that is spearheading the protest campaign had called on demonstrators to march on the palace to hand over a demand for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

Witnesses said riot police dispersed the march using tear gas before it could reach the palace.

After the police broke up the march, protesters rallied in some neighbourhoods of the capital, witnesses said.

Demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans in the Burri, Haji Yusef and Al-Shejra districts of the capital, but riot police confronted them with tear gas, witnesses said.

Protesters threw rocks at vehicles carrying policemen in Burri, an eastern neighbourhood that has seen near daily demonstrations against the government.

Bashir, 75, has remained defiant, vowing to promote peace and economic development across the country.

This is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gesturing with his walking cane as he addressed members of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), a paramilitary group, in the capital Khartoum last week. 







  AROUND AFRICA: 18 dead in DRC acid truck accident


At least 18 people were killed in DR Congo's mining belt on Wednesday when a truck laden with industrial acid collided with a bus, spewing its contents on passengers, sources said.

The accident happened near the village of Fungurume, in the heart of a copper and cobalt mining area between Lubumbashi and Kolwezi in the southeast.

"A Tanzanian-registered tanker truck carrying acid hit a stationary bus. The acid poured out onto the passengers," police captain Corneille Lwitetele, in charge of road traffic in Lualaba province, told AFP on Thursday.

He gave a toll of 21 dead and 12 injured, while Lualaba's provincial health minister, Samy Kayombo, gave a figure of 18 dead and 12 injured with burns.

The UN radio channel Okapi said the damaged truck continued to spill its contents until midday on Thursday, and acid flowed as far as the village of Kabwe.

Traffic on the busy highway resumed at midnight Wednesday, police said.

Acid is widely used in mining to leach metal from rock.

Road accidents are tragically common in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the main causes being poor road surfaces, excessive speed and badly-maintained vehicles.







  AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria prepares for rescheduled vote



Nigeria makes a second attempt to hold presidential and parliamentary elections this weekend, after a last-gasp postponement that angered voters and stoked the political temperature.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will on Saturday try again to stage Africa's biggest vote, at which President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a second, four-year term.

Challenging him in what is expected to be a close race is Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president.

INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu has faced calls to resign since he announced the one-week delay just hours before polling was due to begin last Saturday.

But he has since tried to calm nerves, insisting the body remains "on course" to overcome the logistical problems that hampered delivery of election materials.

"I want to reassure you that elections will hold on Saturday," he told a news conference in Abuja on Thursday. "There won't be another postponement."

In the picture above, a mechanic tries to repair a campaign vehicle of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party with the portrait of Nigeria's incumbent president and candidate for the re-election Muhammadu Buhari, in Kano, the economic nerve centre of northern Nigeria.







  AROUND AFRICA: Senegal heads to presidential polls


Senegal goes to the polls Sunday in a presidential contest that incumbent Macky Sall, facing unusually few challengers in a country fond of vigorous political debate, is confident of winning in the first round.

His two biggest rivals -- popular Dakar ex-mayor Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, the son of the previous president -- were disqualified after being convicted of corruption in trials questioned by rights groups.

Sall faces competition from four opposition rivals.

"If I am elected, I will throw his Senegal debt plan in the trash," one of Sall's election challengers, tax inspector-turned MP Ousman Sonko, has vowed.

Sall's other three rivals are former prime minister Idrissa Seck, Issa Sall of the Unity and Assembly Party (PUR), and former justice and foreign minister Madicke Niang.

The president is not related to either Khalifa or Issa Sall.

The five-horse race leaves voters with a limited choice compared to 2012, when 14 candidates vied for the top post, and 2007, when 15 battled it out.


In the picture, three children wearing Macky Sall's T-shirts look to the vandalized poster of the opposer candidate Idrissa Seck during a march in Dakar.







  Around the continent

We are six days shy of entry into March. But before we can flip another calender page, there is a lot going on outside of Uganda, particularly on the continent. For example, Nigeria is bracing for a rescheduled vote while Senegal are set for polls this Sunday.

Next up, news around the continent . . .





Today's inspirational quote

"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams." - Ashley Smith






Good morning

Another wet morning - looks like the rainy season is here. After weeks of heat and parched grounds, I am pretty sure there are a lot of relieved people.

Anyways, as far I can recall, it started raining at about midnight last night, and by the time I got up at 5am, the sound outside was familiar.

A good morning and welcome to the last live page of this week. Hoping you are fine today. Let's get rolling, shall we?





3rd International Federation Of Environmental Health (IFEH) Academic and Scientific Conference under the theme "Environmental Health:A cornerstone to achieving the SDGs"