Category Archives: East Africa

Pope Africa – Francis calls for efforts to stop religion being used to incite violence


Pope Francis said on Thursday dialogue between religions in Africa was essential to teach young people that violence and hate in God’s name was unjustified, speaking in Kenya which has been the victim of a spate of Islamist militant massacres.

Bridging divisions between Muslims and Christians is a main theme of his first tour of the continent that also takes him to Uganda, which like Kenya has been victim of Islamist attacks, and the Central African Republic, riven by sectarian conflict.

“All too often, young people are being radicalised in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies,” the pope told Muslim and other religious leaders gathered in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

“Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential,” he said at a morning meeting with about 25 religious leaders in the Vatican embassy here.

He stressed that God’s name “must never be used to justify hatred and violence.”

He referred to Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamists’ 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall and this year’s assault on Marissa university. Hundreds of people have been killed in the past two years or so, with Christians sometimes singled out by the gunmen behind the raids.

The chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supreme), Abdullah El-Busaidy, also called for cooperation and tolerance.

“As people of one God and of this world we must stand up and in unison, clasp hands together in all the things that are essential for our collective progress,” he said at the meeting, adding doctrinal differences should be put aside.

The pope’s tour will also seek to address the continent’s fast-growing Catholic population, with the number of African Catholics expected to reach half a billion by 2050.

A third of Kenya’s 45 million people are Catholics and tens of thousands of them gathered in pouring rain to attend the pope’s open-air Mass in central Nairobi later on Thursday.

“I am hoping that the pope is going to talk to young people and tell them especially to spread the word of peace and also give us hope,” said 24-year-old Purity Wanjiku, who was standing amidst a sea of people sheltering under umbrellas.

Wanjiku was from Nairobi, but others had travelled from across the country, like Mark Odimo from the port city of Mombasa who simply said: “My aim is to see the pope.”

Thousands of police officers, some mounted on horses, were deployed in Nairobi to protect the pope and control the crowds. Uganda, where al Shabaab carried out attacks in 2010, has also promised tight security.

The most hazardous stop may be the Central African Republic, where dozens of people have been killed since September in violence between mostly Muslim Selena rebels and Christian anti-balaka militias. The pope has brushed off safety concerns.

Later on Thursday, the pope visits the regional U.N. headquarters in Nairobi, where he is expected to address climate issues.

(Writing by Edmund Blair)

Kenya – thousands attend Pope’s mass

Daily Nation

Thousands of enthusiastic Kenyans filled Nairobi streets from as early as 3am.

Some of the Kenyans heading to University of Nairobi grounds ahead of Pope Francis' public mass on November 26, 2015. PHOTO | NGARE KARIUKI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Some of the Kenyans heading to University of Nairobi grounds ahead of Pope Francis’ public mass on November 26, 2015. PHOTO | NGARE KARIUKI | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

Kenyans braved Thursday morning rains and cold as they thronged the University of Nairobi grounds, ready for Pope Francis’ 10am public Mass.

Thousands of enthusiastic Kenyans filled streets in Nairobi from as early as 3am despite the rains that pounded the city the whole night.

Many others got stuck in early traffic as some roads were blocked, forcing motorists to look for alternative routes to access the central business district.

At 8am, the Pope was meeting interreligious leaders in Lavington, Nairobi.

Security officers were on high alert, screening everybody before being allowed to access the venue of the historic Mass.

President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived at the venue at around 9:30am while former President Mwai Kibaki arrived earlier.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also arrived earlier for the mass.

The mass was also attended by faithful from foreign countries with two Burundi nationals appealing to the Pope to visit their country and intervene in the ongoing strife there.

Michael and Shanelle said they came all the way to Kenya because they want the pontiff to go and preach peace there as they fear the country could plunge into civil war leading to a genocide.

“The violence in our nation is escalating. I know the Holy Father can bring peace to our nation Burundi,” said Michael.

Reported by Eunice Kilonzo, Ngare Kariuki, Obed Simiyu

Pope in Africa – Francis calls for Christian-Muslim reconciliation


Pope Francis (L) greets his host Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta after he delivered his speech during a reception at the State House in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, November 25, 2015.

Pope Francis called on Wednesday for ethnic and religious reconciliation at the start of his first tour of Africa, where he will address a fast-growing Catholic population and seek to heal Christian-Muslim divisions.

The trip will see the head of the Catholic Church travel to Kenya and Uganda, both victim of Islamist militant attacks, and the Central African Republic, a country torn apart by Muslim-Christian strife.

In a speech delivered shortly after arriving in Kenya, the pope urged world leaders to pursue responsible economic development and to protect nature for future generations.

Francis is expected to address climate issues when he visits the regional U.N. headquarters in Nairobi on Thursday.

“To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing,” the pope said in Nairobi.

He was speaking at State House, the official residence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is a Catholic along with about 30 percent of Kenya’s 45 million people. As the pope drove into Nairobi from airport, thousands lined the roads to greet him.

Africa’s Catholic Church is expanding quickly, with the number of faithful expected to more than double to half a billion in 2050. The number of Muslims on the continent is also forecast to rise by about the same amount to 670 million.

At State House, the pope called for responsible development in Africa and elsewhere. One of his first actions in Kenya was to plant a tree on the State House grounds.

“The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature,” he said. “We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to the future generations.”

Millions of Christians – Catholics and otherwise – are expected to turn out for public celebrations of Masses during the tour, presenting a challenge for national security forces to keep the pontiff and the vast crowds safe.

Kenya has suffered a spate of attacks by Somalia’s Islamist group al Shabaab in the past two years that have killed hundreds of people, including the 2013 raid on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed 67. Kenya has also been plagued by ethnic tensions.

“Recent events around the world have indeed taught us that we must do even more to bring unity and understanding between faiths, between ethnicities, between races, but also between nations,” Kenyatta said at State House.

Thousands of police have been deployed in Nairobi and officers will also be out in force in the Ugandan capital Kampala, which the pope visits next.

Potentially the most hazardous stop may be the third in the Central African Republic. Dozens of people have been killed there since September in violence between mostly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militias.

The pope brushed off security worries, telling reporters on his flight: “The only thing I’m concerned about is the mosquitoes. Did you bring your spray?”

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and John Stonestreet)

The Pope’s African tour – Kenya, Uganda and CAR

Mail and Guardian

The pope was scheduled to visit Kenya, Uganda and CAR during his first trip to Africa, one plagued by security fears and potential rain disruptions.

Pope Francis boarding the plane at Fiumicino Airport in Rome for his trip to Africa to address its fast-growing Catholic congregation. (Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

Pope Francis was flying to Kenya on Wednesday on the first leg of a landmark trip to Africa that is fraught with security fears and faces possible disruption by torrential rain.

The 78-year-old pontiff, the third pope to visit the continent, is also scheduled to visit Uganda and Central African Republic (CAR) before flying back to Rome on Monday.

Against the backdrop of recent jihadist attacks, more than 10 000 police will be deployed in both the Kenyan and Ugandan capitals while the CAR leg of the tour could yet be curtailed or cancelled depending on security conditions in a country that has been wracked by sectarian conflict of late.

Greeting reporters on his plane, Francis said he was delighted to be making his first visit to Africa. “I go with joy to meet Kenyans, Ugandans and our brothers in Central Africa,” he said.

And he played down fears for his safety by joking: “I’m more worried about the mosquitoes.”

Ugandan police spokesperson Fred Enanga said airforce surveillance planes would be deployed “to ensure our skies are clear of any possible threat. The security is going to be heavy.”

Full schedule
A packed schedule will see the Pope visit a Nairobi slum, a shrine to Christian martyrs in Uganda and a mosque and a refugee camp in CAR. A total of 19 speeches will include a major statement on the environment ahead of the Paris climate change summit.

Francis was due in Nairobi at around 5pm (14:00 GMT). Vast crowds were anticipated in the Kenyan capital for his public appearances, with Thursday having been declared a public holiday.

Karibu [Welcome to] Kenya” read Wednesday’s headlines in the Standard and Star newspapers, while the Daily Nation reported that elders from the Kalenjin tribe in the Rift Valley were planning to travel to Nairobi to present Francis with a bull.

With the bulk of the planned events outdoors, there were fears the unusually heavy El Niño rains forecast for later in the week could prove challenging with many fearing local infrastructure would be unable to cope.

The CAR leg of the trip has been maintained despite warnings from French peacekeepers there that they cannot guarantee Francis’s security.

Vatican officials say a last-minute change of programme will only happen if Francis is made aware of a precise threat that could endanger the thousands of believers expected to come and see him, many of whom will be travelling long distances from neighbouring countries.

Francis is scheduled to use an open-topped popemobile regularly during the trip.

‘Holy Door’
Aides say he is determined that the sombre context will not affect his plans, particularly for the CAR part of the trip, where he is due to open a “Holy Door” in Bangui’s cathedral 10 days before the start of a Catholic Jubilee Year dedicated to the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the plane, Francis said he had a special reason for wanting to visit Bangui, which he would explain on the flight back.

Vatican experts have framed the opening of the door as symbolic of the pope’s concern for those on the fringes of the Catholic community and his desire to create a “poor Church for the poor”.

It may not happen, however. CAR acting president Catherine Samba Panza could opt to cut the visit to a few hours in Bangui airport, the one area where the French military say they can be fairly sure of protecting the leader of the world’s 1.2-billion Catholics.

That would mean scrapping a visit to a camp for people displaced by CAR’s sectarian conflict, a stop to pray at a mosque in Bangui’s notoriously dangerous PK5 neighbourhood and a stadium mass.

Given the potential for thousands of pilgrims to be disappointed, Francis is said to be stubbornly resisting any curtailment of his schedule but ultimately it is his security advisers who will decide.

African importance
Francis is the third pope to visit Africa, a continent that now counts one in six of the world’s Catholics and whose importance to the Church is to grow significantly over the coming decades.

Paul VI became the first pope of modern times to set foot in Africa when he visited Uganda in 1969 and John Paul II, dubbed “the African” by a senior cleric, managed to visit 42 countries on the continent during his long papacy.

With international climate change talks in Paris coming up immediately after the Africa trip, there will be particular interest in Francis’s comments when he visits the Nairobi headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

In Uganda, he will honour Christian martyrs, celebrating a mass to commemorate the first African saints: 22 young men burned alive in 1886 by royal order because they refused to renounce their faith or become sexual slaves. – AFP

Kenya – Gatundu demonstrations over arrest of Moses Kuria over panga remarks

Star (Kenya)

Gatundu South youths demonstrate over area MP Moses Kuria's detention on Wednesday. Photo/COURTESY

Gatundu South youths demonstrate over area MP Moses Kuria’s detention on Wednesday. Photo/COURTESY


Boda Boda operators lit bonfires on roads in Gatundu South  in a protest over MP Moses Kuria’s detention on Wednesday.

They disrupted business at a taxi bay and marched to the local police station before moving to the Thika/Juja junction but did not damage any property.

The youths questioned why Kuria, who is accused of inciting area youths to violence during a past function, was detained yet others facing similar charges are free.

Kuria was remanded to Kilimani police station on Wednesday after denying incitement charges over the panga remarks he allegedly issued in July.

He will stay longer in remand as the Judiciary has closed courts in Nairobi until Monday.

The MP’s remand coincides with Pope Francis’ three-day tour of Nairobi. All MPs have been invited to an open-air Mass that he will hold at the University of Nairobi on Thursday.

In a TV interview on Tuesday, Kuria said he was looking forward to meeting Francis to confess how he procured and coached witnesses to fix DP William Ruto at the ICC.

The MP was arrested following an order by Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko that he be charged over the inflammatory remarks.

The prosecution opposed his release on bail saying he was likely to commit similar offences.

Gatundu South youths demonstrate over area MP Moses Kuria's detention on Wednesday. Photo/COURTESY

Gatundu South youths demonstrate over area MP Moses Kuria’s detention on Wednesday. Photo/COURTESY

Gatundu South youths demonstrate over area MP Moses Kuria's detention on Wednesday. Photo/COURTESY

Gatundu South youths demonstrate over area MP Moses Kuria’s detention on Wednesday. Photo/COURTESY

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Somalia – reports that Al Shabab will behead Islamic State sympathisers

allAfrica/The Star (Nairobi)

Infighting within al Shabaab on whether to support al Qaeda or the Islamic State has led Shabaab to warn it will behead IS sympathisers in Somalia.

A statement was issued by al Shabaab spiritual head Sheikh Abdalla, through Radio-Andulus, aimed at stemming internal divisions and a possible split owing to growing ISIS influence.

Al Shabaab has in the past few weeks been battling internal rivalry, with two opposing factions fighting over allegiance to al Qaeda or ISIS.

Abdalla warned ISIS sympathisers will be beheaded immediately.

Tanzania scraps independence day festivities to save money


John Magufuli, CCM party's presidential candidate in Tanzania - July 2015AFP John Magufuli has a reputation of being hard-working

Tanzania’s newly elected President John Magufuli has cancelled independence day celebrations, and has ordered a clean-up campaign instead.

It would be “shameful” to spend huge sums of money on the celebrations when “our people are dying of cholera”, he said, state television reported.

Cholera has killed about 60 people in Tanzania in the last three months.

This will be the first time in 54 years Tanzania will not hold celebrations to mark independence from the UK.

Mr Magufuli’s party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), has governed since colonial rule ended on 9 December 1961, winning a new mandate in elections last month.

Many people were caught by surprise by Mr Magufuli’s announcement but have welcomed the move, the BBC’s Sammy Awami reports from the main city, Dar es Salaam.

They feel it shows his commitment to ending lavish spending and tackling the cholera outbreak which has caused widespread concern, he says.

A supporter who painted his face with the party colours, attends the rally of the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, on 23 October 2015Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMr Magufuli won the election with 58% of the vote

But it remains to be seen whether people will heed his call to spend independence day cleaning up their residential areas and work-places, our reporter adds.

Independence day celebrations are usually marked with a presidential address, a military parade and performances by music groups at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

MPs party targeted

Mr Magufuli’s spokesman Gerson Msigwa did not say how much would be saved by cancelling the event but said the money would be spent on hospitals, and the fight against cholera – a major problem in poor areas where there is a lack of proper toilets.

Mohammed Ismael cooks fish market at a stall on 27 September 2013 in Dar es SalaamImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe president wants people to clean their neighbourhoods, including markets, on independence day

Mr Magufuli has announced a range of cost-cutting measures since he took office, including a ban on unnecessary foreign travel by government officials.

Last week, he ordered the cost of a party to inaugurate the new parliament to be slashed from $100,000 (£66,000) to $7,000.

He also sacked the head of the main state hospital after finding patients sleeping on the floor during a surprise visit to the facility.

Mr Magufuli beat opposition candidate Edward Lowassa in last month’s election to become Tanzania’s fifth president since independence.

Nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, Mr Magufuli is reputed to be a no-nonsense, results-driven politician.

He was the works minister, before being elected president.


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