Thursday, 31 October 2013

Helping mothers in Kamwenge, Uganda

Across the Mpanga River: MSH-Trained Health Worker Helps Pregnant Women Access Care

 {Photo credit: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.}Dorothy Mugisha (left) with Olivia Nkundabanyanga and her new baby.Photo credit: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.
Dorothy Mugisha is a 36-year-old resident of Nyabbani II village in Kamwenge district, Uganda. Trained as a village health team member in 2010 by the USAID-funded STRIDES for Family Health, Dorothy understands the importance of delivering at a health facility. She counsels women on the importance of antenatal care, delivering at the facility, and the benefits of modern family planning–and helps pregnant women access these services at a health facility.
Residents of nearby Kanaara village must cross the Mpanga River–or travel over 40 km by foot–to access health services at the nearest health facility, Nyabbani health center III.  Dorothy explains that previously Kanaara residents used logs to cross the deep river; but some people fell in and died. The perils of crossing the river discouraged most pregnant women from accessing health services at the facility, and many delivered babies in their homes with the help of a traditional birth attendant.
“During the STRIDES Village Health Team (VHT) training, I learned the importance of family planning, attending all antenatal visits, and delivering at a health facility. It was after this training that I decided to help all pregnant mothers from Kanaara village to access these services.”
[Dorothy constructed a boat, and learned how to row it to transport women to the health facility.] {Photo credit: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.}Dorothy constructed a boat, and learned how to row it to transport women to the health facility.Photo credit: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.
“The community in Kanaara has my mobile number. They call me whenever there is a woman in labor.” When it comes to helping pregnant women, Dorothy explains that she is not after making money, rather saving the life of the mother and the baby. “For me, it is satisfying enough to see that as a trained village health team member, my community benefits.”
Thirty-five-year-old Olivia Nkundabanyanga is one of the women who has benefitted from Dorothy’s boat service and counseling. She has six children with the youngest being five months. Olivia is grateful to Dorothy that she delivered at the health facility for the first time.
“I delivered my five children at home because I didn’t know the importance of delivering at the facility and there was no easy means of transport. …When I got labor pains, I called Dorothy, who travelled across the river to help me. She transported me across the river free of charge,” Olivia says. After crossing, Olivia was able to deliver normally at the health center.
“Olivia is one of 23 pregnant women I have transported across river Mpanga,” says Dorothy.
At Nyabbani health center III, the health workers appreciate the support Dorothy has offered to the pregnant women. Annette Kyasiima, an enrolled midwife at the facility, says that there is no other means of transport to across the river save for Dorothy’s boat. “When we receive a woman in labour from Kanaara, we know it is because of Dorothy that this woman has been able to access health facility services.”
In addition, Dorothy counsels couples on the use of modern family planning methods. “I counsel both pregnant and non-pregnant mothers on family planning; I have so far inspired 35 mothers to use modern family planning methods.”
STRIDES for Family Health, funded by USAID and led by MSH with partners, works in 15 districts in Uganda to increase contraceptive use and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, decrease maternal and child mortality, and develop a scalable nationwide intervention.
Tadeo Atuhura is a senior communications specialist for STRIDES for Family Health (STRIDES) in Uganda at MSH.

Lessons from Botswana

MSH and over 60 Organizations Call on Delegates to Support Universal Health Coverage at the Botswana High Level Dialogue on Health in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

March 4, 2013 - MSH joined over 60 civil society organizations in supporting universal health coverage in a sign-on letter to delegates meeting this week in Botswana at the High Level Dialogue on Health in the Post–2015 Development Agenda.
The organizations called on delegates to ensure that UHC is included in the post–2015 development framework as a way to bring an end to preventable deaths and realize the right to health for all. The groups also asked delegates to ensure that the “unfinished business” of the unmet health Millennium Goals is recommitted to in the next framework.
The groups asked the delegates to recognize:
  • The importance of addressing UHC in a way which sustainably improves population health outcomes for all and overcomes health inequalities; and,
  • The unifying opportunity of UHC, which includes meeting the health needs of the population while providing measurable, reliable, and specific indicators covering issues of equity of access to both health services and financial risk protection; and
  • Recognition that the current health MDGs will not be achieved by 2015, and affirmation of the need to include the unmet targets and indicators in the post–2015 framework, and;
  • Recognition that most low-income countries are too poor to finance the most basic level of health services and provide financial risk protection, and that global solidarity and structural changes are needed to address the causes of persistent inequalities between and within countries to achieve truly universal UHC; and
  • The numerous and interconnected factors that impact on improving health outcomes, including social and environmental determinants of health

Immunization and its preventive advantanges


A Small Step: Educating Mothers on Family Planning on Immunization Days

Women learning about family planning at Bikone Health Center II, Western Uganda. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.
This was my first trip to Africa working with a development agency. While I had visited the African continent for personal trips previously, arriving in this context felt different. I was immediately aware of the challenges Uganda is facing. From the crumbling road infrastructure and high incidence of traffic accidents in Kampala, to the mobile phone networks that are pretty reliable while internet access is often spotty, to the prevalence of street children --- I can for the first time see what my local colleagues are up against.
I felt a bit overwhelmed in the first few days. Is there any way we can address all these challenges? Can we make a difference?
Visiting communities and health centers in Kampala, Eastern and Western Uganda -- and seeing first-hand the impact MSH is having across the country -- quickly re-inspired me.
I had the pleasure of meeting a particularly passionate and committed Clinical Officer, Rodger Rwehandika, at Bikone Health Center II in Western Uganda. As a health center II, Bikone is an outpatient facility, but the staff of the facility can also conduct outreach programs to educate and serve the community.
Rodger and his two staff facilitate health education programs at the local schools and also host youth-friendly programs on using condoms.
On the Wednesday I visited Bikone, Mr. Rwehandika was preparing for a behavior change communication activity: using drama and discussion to educate mothers on family planning while they waited to have their children immunized. He explained to me that Wednesday is immunization day, so mothers bring their children to the facilities. He uses this opportunity to engage and educate them on family planning, reproductive health, and nutrition issues and services.

Primary Health lessons

MSH and USAID/Madagascar Project Begins to Increase Community-Based Primary Health Care Services

{Photo credit: Lisa Folda, Courtesy of Photoshare}Photo credit: Lisa Folda, Courtesy of Photoshare
Management Sciences for Health (MSH) is pleased to announce the start of a new project in Madagascar with USAID/Madagascar, The USAID Primary Health Care (PHC) project. PHC is  a five-year initiative to increase community-based primary health care service uptake and the adoption of healthy behaviors, particularly for women of reproductive age, infants, and children under five.  The project will focus its efforts in six of Madagascar’s 22 regions, where access to and quality of primary health care services is limited. The six regions cover a total population of 5.5 million people, of whom more than 60 percent live more than five kilometers from the nearest health center.     
In these regions, limited access to quality services is a major impediment to service uptake and health improvements. The USAID PHC project will utilize and build upon USAID/Madagascar’s investments in health over the past 20 years and work with local NGOs and community health volunteers to reach vulnerable communities with basic, quality health services and behavior change communication for family planning and reproductive health, maternal, newborn and child health, and malaria.    
USAID PHC will strengthen and expand integrated community-based service delivery and support capacity and systems development for local NGOs and communities to sustain these services. The project will generate awareness and use of health services in 506 communes and will contribute to the achievement of the maternal and child health Millennium Development Goals, as well as addressing gender- and youth-specific health needs.
The USAID PHC project started in Madagascar on  August 1, 2013 and is implemented by Management Sciences for Health with international partners, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Overseas Strategic Consulting, Ltd. (OSC), and Malagasy partners, Action Socio-sanitaire Organisation Secours (ASOS) and Institut Technologique de l’Education et du Management(ITEM). 

Lessons from Haiti on advantages of Family Planning

Securing Access to Reproductive Health and Family Planning in Post-Earthquake Haiti: A Conversation with Sandra Guerrier

{Photo credit: Rachel Hassinger/MSH}Photo credit: Rachel Hassinger/MSH
MSH spoke with Sandra Guerrier, Ph, MSc, project director for the USAID-funded Leadership, Management & Sustainability Project in Haiti (LMS Haiti)—one of four MSH projects in the country.
Tell us about LMS and MSH’s presence in Haiti.
LMS started in Haiti in 2008 and has contributed towards building the capacity of the Haitian people to anticipate and respond effectively to challenges related to HIV and AIDS, reproductive health commodity security (RHCS), and family planning. Since 2012, the primary focus of LMS has been to strengthen local capacity to manage the supply chain of USAID-donated condoms and family planning commodities; and reinforce the capacity of the two Ministry of Health‘s central Directorates to manage commodity logistics in order to facilitate the delivery of quality family planning and other health services at the major public sector hospitals.
MSH currently has 4 projects in Haiti: In addition to the LMS project; we have the Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) that manages the supply chain of HIV and lab equipment; the Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haiti (SDSH) project that mainly focuses on increasing the availability of essential social services and supports local service delivery organizations through performance-based contracts; and finally the newcomer, the Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) Project, which focuses on strengthening the Ministry of Health’s management systems and practices including contracting mechanisms and health referral networks coordination. The four projects share three central strategies: supporting governance; capacity building and training for health systems strengthening; and supporting and strengthening supply chain management.
How does LMS address family planning needs?
LMS distributes USAID-funded family planning commodities, including oral contraceptives, interuterine devices and natural methods, such as cycle beads. LMS stores the commodities in a central warehouse located in Port au Prince and manages active distribution from the point of entry at the warehouse, directly to an average of 300 US Government (USG) sites that have functional family planning services. Monthly distributions are made throughout the 10 departments in Haiti. Last year more than 800 deliveries were made: 29,909,500 condoms; 874,250 Depo-Provera; 524,874 cycles of Microgynon and 6,293 Jadelle implants are among the commodities distributed at 279 USG sites.
LMS also works to strengthen the ability of personnel at all USG-supported sites and at the ministry level in the departments to manage the supply chain from pick up of commodities, to quantification of needs, to compliance with USG family planning regulations, tools utilization and management of stocks.
Within the Ministry of Health, there are around 599 institutions that provide family planning services. LMS has a direct impact on the 300 or so USG sites, where we take commodities stored in the regional warehouse in Port au Prince to each of these facilities. The remaining facilities get access to the family planning methods and condoms (that are funded through UNFPA) at the regional warehouses called Centre Departementaux d’approvisionnement en Intrants (CDAI), departmental Offices called Bureau Communal de Sante (BCS) or hospitals. LMS supports the Ministry in the transportation of those commodities from the central warehouse, called PROMESS, to all the CDAIs and facilities I just mentioned. Consequently, all the functional MOH warehouses in each of the 10 regional departments maintain supplies of all of the family planning commodities. Local facilities can go to the regional warehouses in their departments and supply themselves with the family planning commodities. Thus you have family planning commodities available in all regions.
How does the LMS presence play out on the community level?
LMS does not work at the community level: this was the mandate of our other MSH project in Haiti, Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité. But we regularly go on supervision visits to the USG sites and, as I said earlier, do monthly deliveries of family planning commodities throughout the country. LMS also conducts trainings on Commodity Logistics & Management using the national curriculum for family planning logistics training, health information systems, and USG policy and legislative requirements for family planning to health care workers.
The focus of LMS training is on those individuals directly involved in supply chain management. At the facility level, our health care workers are commodity managers, warehouse supervisors and auxiliary staff involved in the supply chain for family planning commodities. Last year, more than 243 individuals were trained. We have a good relationship with the MOH at the centralized level but also at the departmental level, and this is a plus for us.
One key has been the good communication we maintain with communities where we work: One of our employee said that “The site managers, including those in the community, appreciate and applaud the frequency of our inspections and regular deliveries of family planning commodities.” The site managers said that “LMS/Haiti’s active distribution allows local workers to avoid traveling to the capital to access services. The people in the community trust us; they communicate and understand what they are doing and often offer help transporting the commodities where access is difficult and you have to go by foot.” The site personnel know the LMS team. They know they have a partner in us when we come into the field. This is a big plus for us and for the health system, as well as for the MOH.
Still it’s a challenge every day Haiti is a country prone to crisis—either political or environmental—so you never know what to expect. On January 7, 2010 we had the devastating earthquake. The same year, we had a nationwide cholera outbreak in October. The earthquake generated more pressure on the already weak health system. What used to be a priority suddenly became a crisis or an emergency, of humanitarian proportion, a matter of life and death. The traditional network structures were dismantled and deficient for provision of emergency care. We witnessed the emergence of camps and shelters and since there were no contingency plans for facing a disaster of this magnitude, the priorities were shifted from health to survival.
There were lots stakeholders taking initiative—but without proper coordination from the authorities. Reduplicated efforts around the same problems made it difficult to accomplish meaningful results and efficient decision-making. But despite all this, LMS made sure that adequate coverage of family planning needs was rapidly in place. We immediately brought supplies to the USG network and the MOH’s central distribution sites in order to make the commodities available to everyone.
LMS/Haiti also transported cholera commodities such as chlorine tabs, oral rehydration salts, antibiotics, and disposable medical materials to the CDAI’s .This targeted support helped ensure that donations for cholera relief were well managed throughout the national distribution system, from the central level to the service delivery points, and that cholera patients, including HIV and AIDS patients, received the donated cholera commodities.
The coordination with the MOH’s Directorate and other USG partners working to strengthen the national commodity chain management and distribution systems is a real challenge. There’s a lot of staff turnover at the central and at the site level. Sometimes you come to the health facility and it’s not the same person that is now in this strategic position or that individual is not the right person for that position and you have to start the training all over again.
You are a pharmacist by training. How did you end up in public health and family planning?
I think I always wanted to be in health because of the background of my family. My father and brother are both doctors, even though I was never fully comfortable with practicing medicine myself, which led me to being a pharmacist.
I was born and raised in Canada, and I first came to Haiti as an adolescent and saw all this poverty that I wasn’t used to. I could not understand how you could see so much misery and luxury coexisting at the same time. Even though I knew I could not change the world, I always wanted to make a difference somehow. After my studies at the Faculté de Médecine et de Pharmacie in Haiti, I worked in the private sector for four years as a pharmacist at a local manufacturer, one of the two or three companies, that does medicines at low cost.
Next I went to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) for 12 years in their essential drugs program as the pharmaceutical Department Chief. I was more in touch with the field and had real, technical interactions with the Ministry in Haiti and gained understanding of health services and project management.
With LMS, the primary mandate was for family planning. I learned a lot about women’s health and rights. I have connected with the people and have done many more field mission than I ever did while working in PAHO/WHO. I’ve learned that how small steps can make a big difference. The approach we had with the LDP towards health professionals was also an interesting experience.
What has LMS learned about addressing family planning needs in the wake of the earthquake and cholera crises?
After the earthquake in 2010, the LMS office was destroyed and we maintained the LMS warehouse inside a big tent. Many of us were afraid to go inside the warehouse. But there was a team spirit that united us and we stood together. We couldn’t let the changes we had made waste away.
One of the main challenges post-earthquake was the coordination among partners and organizations that were supporting the Ministry. When we have institutions or organizations that are doing logistics, distribution, supply chain, order requests, we must coordinate ourselves in order to really have a pertinent and firm result in family planning.
After the earthquake, you know that we had an emergence of camps, of shelters. Everyone was doing everything and anything at the same time. There was condom distribution in the camps—but those organizations that were doing that had no coordination with the MOH, so the authority didn’t know what was going on. We had an emergence of small mobile clinics, and those partners were delivering family planning services throughout the camp or throughout the shelters—but the Ministry wasn’t aware of that either. And the ministry itself was not coordinated within the different entities.
Were there lessons learned from earthquake response that were valuable for responding to the cholera outbreak?
Yes, I think that we had a better understanding of what the situation in time of crisis is. We had a strong communication channel with the MOH, which is why, at the time of the cholera outbreak, we were one of the first partners the MOH approached to get support with logistics as well as with programs. We helped them put into place clusters in every department. We had pharmacists and logisticians stationed in each department in Haiti, whose work was to evaluate all the donations, all the commodities that were received in Haiti for the cholera outbreak and to do a proper inventory of what was on site and what was being distributed—so that the ministry could have information concerning what was in the country.
Those pharmacist logisticians were placed in all regions in Haiti and were a support that the Ministry really appreciated. We helped the Ministry have information, really exact information, concerning the commodities that were received during the cholera outbreak.

Family Planning and Child spacing for quality life

Meeting Family Planning Needs in Democratic Republic of the Congo

 {Photo credit: MSH.}Anifa with three of her children.Photo credit: MSH.
At 34 years old, Anifa has already given birth 14 times. Women like Anifa, with too many, poorly-spaced pregnancies, are at a dramatically higher risk of serious health outcomes—including death. While Anifa has survived, six of her children have died before reaching age five.
Unfortunately, situations like Anifa’s are common in Sud Kivu Province in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where she lives. Information about contraceptive methods is hard to come by in her rural community of Minova, and large families are the cultural norm. In 2012, the number of people choosing a family planning method was just 83 people.
In April 2012, family planning education arrived in this community, through the USAID-funded DRC-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP). The project is working to improve the basic health conditions of the Congolese people in 80 health zones, and improving maternal and child health is one of its key focus areas.
DRC-IHP trained 30 health care providers, including members of Minova’s health management team, on family planning in relation to maternal and child health. Trained health professionals are few in this area, and family planning services are supported by community-based distribution agents (CBDAs). As part of the DRC-IHP training, local CBDAs were trained on the wide range of contraceptives available, including long-term injectable contraceptives such as Depo-Provera. Training in this particular method includes education in how to properly screen for potential users, injection techniques, and counseling for ongoing use. Methods like Depo-Provera are being increasingly chosen in rural areas because they are effective, can be used privately, and require less frequent re-supply.
For Anifa, troubled by losing so many children and wanting to prevent more pregnancies and more premature deaths, the visit from a CBDA was life-changing.
Anifa learned of the many contraceptive methods available and, in consultation with her husband, she decided to use Depo-Provera. “Now that we have access to family planning, my husband and I know how to determine how many children we want to have. I am healthy, and my youngest child, who is now two, is healthy, too.”
The results of the DRC-IHP training can be seen in the increase in adults choosing a family planning method. Since April 2012, that number has grown from 83 to 866, thanks to CBDAs and women like Anifa. She now regularly accompanies the CBDA on his rounds, telling other women how counseling in family planning has helped change her life.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Transform Africa Summit-2013

Museveni roots for ICT in regional integrationPublish Date: Oct 30, 2013
Museveni roots for ICT in regional integration
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President Museveni (left) and Rwandas Paul Kagame
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By Vision Reporter

President Yoweri Museveni has told the "Transform Africa Summit 2013" taking place in the Rwandan capital of Kigali  that in the application and utilization of Information Communication Technology (ICT) must not be unidirectional but multi-directional and integrate it in the whole social economic transformation process' of our  national economies.

The Transform Africa Summit 2013 is being held under the theme of "The Future Delivered Now" and is attended by seven Heads of State seeking to spearhead broadband connectivity on the continent in order to overcome connectivity ICT challenges and to offer appropriate platforms for dialogue between governments and the private sector. It is hosted by President Paul Kagame and co-hosted by the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, (ITU), Dr.Hamadou Toure.

Presidents Salva Kiir of South Sudan, Ali Bongo of Gabon, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yayi Boni of Benin attending the Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Ugandan leader said that "ICT must not only be used to assist agricultural development, manufacturing, in education and the services sector but it must also be used as a sector by itself especially in out-sourcing of jobs' abroad. It must also be optimally applied in solving challenges in automation of machines, storing and retrieving of information, identifying of persons, in democratic voting systems, sorting out the wage bill and in defence systems".

Museveni told the summit that there is no doubt that electronics and ICT is the way forward for the future in the social economic transformation of the people and countries and in this regard Uganda has already been linked to the under-sea cable and so far attained broadband backbone connectivity of 22 towns and municipalities out of 112 in the country. Six million people, constituting 20% of the population, he said, are connected to smart phones.

Host President Kagame said Rwanda had made modest advances and progress in the application of ICT in her national development efforts right from Primary Schools where each child has access to a laptop and ICT is part of every infrastructure the country has invested in be it in the construction industry, in health services in agriculture, etc. This has worked for them and can visibly be witnessed in every society across the country.

The Summit was also addressed by the Kenyan leader, President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan, the Presidents of Mali, Gabon, and Burkina Faso as well as the Secretary General of the ITU, Dr. M.Toure.

President Museveni was accompanied by the minister of foreign affairs, Sam Kutesa, ICT state minister, Nyombi Tembo and MP Buhaguzi County Julius Bigirwa.

Flood in Uganda

Govt criticized over climate change policyPublish Date: Oct 30, 2013
Govt criticized over climate change policy
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Floods
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By Gerald Tenywa   

As vagaries of nature continue to pound Uganda, Government has delayed approving the Climate Change policy leading haphazard intervention and wastage of resources, according to Climate Change experts. 


Robert Bakiika, the director of Bwaise Facility Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement said cooperative action against Climate Change is needed.

“We do not have coordination and monitoring that would promote effective implementation of actions to address Climate Change,” said Bakiika, adding that Government, Civil Society, communities and researchers are working independently.

Broken bridge along River Nyamwamba. Flooding blamed partly on climate change caused wanton damage and displaced thousands.
Bakiika was speaking at the Climate Change Forum organised by the Climate Change Unit in the Ministry of Water and Environment and funded by GIZ, a German Development agency in Kampala.

He called upon the Government to move faster and approve the Climate Change as part of the effort to relieve women who suffer most under the burden of Climate Change.

In reaction, David Obong, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water and Environment said the Climate Change Policy will be approved by the end of the year.

According to Bob Natifu, the Spokesperson of the Climate Change Unit, the draft policy has been formulated after wide consultations with views from the local community in order to make its implementation easy.

He said the draft policy is under discussion at the policy committee of the environment under the Prime Minister’s office and that it will be cleared sooner than later.

“It has to be discussed in order to make implementation easy,” said Natifu agreeing with the PS that the policy will be ready by the end of the year.

He said the rain season were becoming unreliable negatively affecting many of the farmers who directly depend on rain fed agriculture.

The occurrence of weather related disasters such as landslides in the mountainous areas and floods in the plains of Teso and drought were becoming more frequent. 

Refugee reception an immediate need

Thousands flee DR Congo fighting to Uganda: UNPublish Date: Oct 30, 2013
Thousands flee DR Congo fighting to Uganda: UN
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Congolese refugees entering Uganda
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Over 5,000 refugees fleeing fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have escaped into neighbouring Uganda this week, United Nations officials said Wednesday, warning that double that number are expected to cross the border.

"Fighting...is causing a large amount of displacement into Uganda," said Lucy Beck, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, adding that 5,000 refugees had crossed the border since Monday.

"We are predicting up to 10,000 people would have crossed by tomorrow, because the fighting seems to be going on very close to the border... People are continuing to cross even as we speak."

Congolese troops backed by a United Nations intervention brigade launched a major offensive earlier this week against the M23 rebel movement of army mutineers in Congo's turbulent North Kivu province.

The number of refugees will "put some strain on our resources", Beck added, but said that preparations had been made for up to 150,000.

"The way it is going, we can imagine they will be staying for some amount of time," she added.

The M23 was founded by former Tutsi rebels who were incorporated into the Congolese army under a 2009 peace deal.

Complaining the deal was never fully implemented, they mutinied in April 2012, turning their guns on their former comrades and launching the latest rebellion to ravage DR Congo's mineral-rich and conflict-prone east.

The UN and various rights groups have accused the M23 of atrocities including rape and murder in a conflict that has caused tens of thousands of refugees to flee. Reuters 

Freedom from threats; lessons from South Africa

Man behind Mandela murder plot jailedPublish Date: Oct 30, 2013
Man behind Mandela murder plot jailed
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Some of the 20 right-wing extremists convicted of high treason for a plot to kill former South African president Nelson Mandela and drive blacks out of the country attend their trial at Pretoria High Court. PHOTO/AFP
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JOHANNESBURG - The mastermind behind a rightwing extremist plot to kill former South African president Nelson Mandela and drive blacks out of the country has been sentenced to 35 years in jail.

Mike du Toit, the ringleader of a white supremacist militia called Boeremag, was given the heaviest sentence of 35 years along with four other defendants over a botched 2002 plot to overthrow the post-apartheid government.

The judge at the High Court in Pretoria sentenced the rest of the 20 militia members on trial to between 10 and 30 years depending on their degree of involvement in the plot, National Prosecution Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku told AFP.

All the accused were convicted of treason, but only five of murder and the plot to kill Nobel peace laureate Mandela.

Judge Eben Jordaan said Mandela would have been killed by a landmine planted by the Boeremag, causing chaos and bloodshed in the country, if he had travelled by road instead of by helicopter to open a rural school in northern Limpopo province in 2002.

"They almost succeeded. It was extremely close," head investigator Tollie Vreugdenburg told AFP.

The Boeremag -- Afrikaans for "Boer Force", a reference to the descendants of the first Dutch colonisers -- had planned to sow chaos in the country through bomb blasts.

One woman died and dozens of people were injured in blasts that shook the Johannesburg township of Soweto in October 2002.

The militia had also prepared five large car bombs to use in downtown Pretoria and Johannesburg and were planning further bomb attacks when they were arrested, according to SAPA news agency.

Family members broke down in court after the sentences were announced.

However, several of the defendants will go home free men because the judge suspended 10 years of the sentences against them and took into account the time spent behind bars during the trial.

The government welcomed the sentences.

"These sentences will hopefully serve as a deterrent to those whose acts undermine or threaten state security," the justice ministry said in a statement.

Stephen Tuson, a law professor at the University of Witwatersrand said the sentences were expected given the gravity of the charges.

"Treason is an extremely serious offence. In the past it qualified for the death penalty and it ordinarily would call for the severest of penalities," he said.

First treason verdicts since apartheid

The trial lasted almost a decade and was one of the country's most expensive ever, costing the taxpayers over 30 million rand ($3.0 million, 2.0 million euros), according to local media.

The Boeremag members were convicted last August -- the first guilty verdicts for treason since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Security was tight in the courtroom on Tuesday, as in 2006 two defendants escaped during a recess and were on the run for months, hiding on a farm, before being re-arrested.

Five years later the same pair, along with three others, escaped from the courtroom again, but were captured just minutes later.

If its plan had succeeded, the Boeremag intended to replace the government with white military rule and chase all blacks and Indians from the country.

Aside from former university lecturer Du Toit, 52, the group included a medical doctor, ex-soldiers and farmers.

The youngest of those sentenced is 32 and the oldest 74.

A father and three sons are among the convicted, local media said. Initially there were 23 defendants but one pleaded guilty earlier in the trial. He served four years before being released on parole.

Two others died during the trial.

Mandela, now 95, is critically ill but is being treated at his Johannesburg home after being discharged from hospital in September following a three-month stay.

The revered former statesman has faced several health scares in recent years due to lung problems that date back to his 27 years in jail under the apartheid regime.

Mandela is admired for his lifelong sacrifice in fighting the racial segregation installed with apartheid in 1948.

He became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after leading talks that ended white minority rule.
AFP

Freedom from threats; lessons from South Africa

Man behind Mandela murder plot jailedPublish Date: Oct 30, 2013
Man behind Mandela murder plot jailed
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Some of the 20 right-wing extremists convicted of high treason for a plot to kill former South African president Nelson Mandela and drive blacks out of the country attend their trial at Pretoria High Court. PHOTO/AFP
newvision
JOHANNESBURG - The mastermind behind a rightwing extremist plot to kill former South African president Nelson Mandela and drive blacks out of the country has been sentenced to 35 years in jail.

Mike du Toit, the ringleader of a white supremacist militia called Boeremag, was given the heaviest sentence of 35 years along with four other defendants over a botched 2002 plot to overthrow the post-apartheid government.

The judge at the High Court in Pretoria sentenced the rest of the 20 militia members on trial to between 10 and 30 years depending on their degree of involvement in the plot, National Prosecution Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku told AFP.

All the accused were convicted of treason, but only five of murder and the plot to kill Nobel peace laureate Mandela.

Judge Eben Jordaan said Mandela would have been killed by a landmine planted by the Boeremag, causing chaos and bloodshed in the country, if he had travelled by road instead of by helicopter to open a rural school in northern Limpopo province in 2002.

"They almost succeeded. It was extremely close," head investigator Tollie Vreugdenburg told AFP.

The Boeremag -- Afrikaans for "Boer Force", a reference to the descendants of the first Dutch colonisers -- had planned to sow chaos in the country through bomb blasts.

One woman died and dozens of people were injured in blasts that shook the Johannesburg township of Soweto in October 2002.

The militia had also prepared five large car bombs to use in downtown Pretoria and Johannesburg and were planning further bomb attacks when they were arrested, according to SAPA news agency.

Family members broke down in court after the sentences were announced.

However, several of the defendants will go home free men because the judge suspended 10 years of the sentences against them and took into account the time spent behind bars during the trial.

The government welcomed the sentences.

"These sentences will hopefully serve as a deterrent to those whose acts undermine or threaten state security," the justice ministry said in a statement.

Stephen Tuson, a law professor at the University of Witwatersrand said the sentences were expected given the gravity of the charges.

"Treason is an extremely serious offence. In the past it qualified for the death penalty and it ordinarily would call for the severest of penalities," he said.

First treason verdicts since apartheid

The trial lasted almost a decade and was one of the country's most expensive ever, costing the taxpayers over 30 million rand ($3.0 million, 2.0 million euros), according to local media.

The Boeremag members were convicted last August -- the first guilty verdicts for treason since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Security was tight in the courtroom on Tuesday, as in 2006 two defendants escaped during a recess and were on the run for months, hiding on a farm, before being re-arrested.

Five years later the same pair, along with three others, escaped from the courtroom again, but were captured just minutes later.

If its plan had succeeded, the Boeremag intended to replace the government with white military rule and chase all blacks and Indians from the country.

Aside from former university lecturer Du Toit, 52, the group included a medical doctor, ex-soldiers and farmers.

The youngest of those sentenced is 32 and the oldest 74.

A father and three sons are among the convicted, local media said. Initially there were 23 defendants but one pleaded guilty earlier in the trial. He served four years before being released on parole.

Two others died during the trial.

Mandela, now 95, is critically ill but is being treated at his Johannesburg home after being discharged from hospital in September following a three-month stay.

The revered former statesman has faced several health scares in recent years due to lung problems that date back to his 27 years in jail under the apartheid regime.

Mandela is admired for his lifelong sacrifice in fighting the racial segregation installed with apartheid in 1948.

He became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after leading talks that ended white minority rule.
AFP

Uganda to abolish work permit fees for Kenya, Rwanda nationals


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President Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta (C) welcomed
President Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta (C) welcomed to Rwanda by host Paul Kagame (R) yesterday. Photo by PPU  
By  DANIEL K. KALINAKI

Posted  Tuesday, October 29  2013 at  02:00
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Kigali- Uganda will abolish work permit fees for Kenyans and Rwandan citizens from January 1, 2014, one of several reforms East African leaders launched yesterday to reduce the cost of doing business and speed up the movement of goods and people.
Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya met in Kigali yesterday to sign off on a Single Customs Territory (SCT) for the three countries. President Salva Kiir of South Sudan also attended the event, which followed earlier infrastructure summits in Kampala in June and Mombasa in August.
Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi did not attend the meeting. 
Under the SCT, tax on goods imported into the three countries will be paid at Mombasa and trucks weighed only on crossing the border. In theory, all the roadblocks from Mombasa to Kigali will be eliminated and the weighbridges reduced from nine to three at most.
The summit heard that a reduction in the number of roadblocks and weighbridges had reduced the time and cost of transporting goods from Mombasa to the interior.
The cost of transporting a 20-foot container from Mombasa to Kigali is also expected to drop from $383 to $193, resulting into savings of about $45 million annually.
“There is still a long way to go,” host President Kagame said, “but we are encouraged by the progress made so far.”
President Kenyatta, who has pushed for reforms at Mombasa Port and along the highway to Malaba, said Kenya is committed to the effort.
“Today is a very happy day for me,” he said on his first visit to Rwanda as President. “I am very excited about the progress made in such a short time.”
The summit heard that ground-breaking for construction of the standard-gauge railway from Mombasa to Kigali will take place next month although details about final cost and source of funds are still to be hammered out. 
Kenya has finalised financing for the Mombasa-Nairobi leg but Uganda’s Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka told this newspaper that the total cost of the project will be computed and money pooled with each country paying for its part of the railway.
Juba brought into the mix
A spur to Juba, South Sudan, will be added to the project once South Sudan confirms its interest.
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda were expected to announce the launch of a single tourist visa as early as next week at the World Travel Market tourism fair but the announcement is now expected at the next infrastructure summit – potentially in Juba, South Sudan – although the start date is still expected to be January 1, 2014.
Uganda’s decision to waive work permit fees follows similar moves by Uganda and Rwanda. Citizens of the two countries will still need to apply for permits but they will be issued free-of-charge.
South Sudan was formally admitted to the Coalition of the Willing – as the core of the three East African member states has come to be known – and President Salva Kiir said yesterday that East African citizens will now receive visas on arrival.
President Kiir indicated his country’s interest in building alliances away from Sudan by asking for a quick resolution of South Sudan’s application to join the East African Community, which will be discussed at next month’s Heads of State Summit.
Kenya and Rwanda have confirmed their interest in investing in the oil refinery in Uganda but work remains to be done on energy infrastructure projects between the three countries. The summit also agreed to manage air traffic jointly although this came short of a proposal to implement the open skies agreement to reduce the cost of flights in the region. -
The efforts
The three countries have made speedy progress over the last six months since the first infrastructure summit in Kampala and South Sudan has now been invited. They will have to establish how to bring South Sudan into play as Juba weighs between building a pipeline to Djibouti or joining the regional LAPSSET project. Technocrats from the countries have also been asked to find ways of linking the crude oil pipeline from Uganda into the wider LAPSSET project.