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‘I lost everything I did in my life’: Beirut explosion aftermath | Lebanon

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Beirut, Lebanon – “This is greater than anything ever before.” 

It is not the first time I have heard this since we arrived in Beirut.

We are sitting with a government employee, his eyes are heavy, his usual, almost flirtatious energy, totally gone.

He looks tired. In fact, he looks completely broken.

He is broken. He tells us how, for the first time, he now wants his children to leave Lebanon – despite having put them through the best education to stay here. Nothing compared with this – not the years of civil war, assassinations, car bombs – this was different. It is different.

We have all been affected, he tells us. Family died, friends died, homes were blown up and businesses lost.

A sudden, violent blast that sucked the oxygen out of this city and its people.

It has left many gasping for air.

“It came into our homes and took our happiness, our souls,” another woman tells us. She lost her husband in the blast.

She was in the living room, he was in the kitchen. She still does not comprehend how she was unscathed, and he never made it.

“In a few seconds, I lost everything I did in my life, my house, my business. But all that can be fixed – but my love? For what? For nothing?”

The shops and restaurants are shuttered. Hamra, Mar Mikhail, Gemayzee – the few businesses that survived the economic crisis now blown to pieces.

‘Everything is gone’

A Lebanese friend, who had just returned after the explosion told me how depressed he was – he is of the civil war generation.

“Everything is gone – places, even people. There is nothing to be attached to any more.”

Many feel that way. They have lost family, friends, homes, businesses. Everyone has a story. Few people have much hope right now.

We visit a hospital where a forensic doctor has been busy identifying the bodies of those killed in the explosion. We discuss what state the bodies are in, what he has seen – how he feels.

“I’m taking it badly,” he tells us. 

“We were already struggling with corona,” he says, “and the economical situation, the political situation, too many things. This is very stressful for the Lebanese people – and then this explosion came.”

While we talk to him, bodies are carried back and forth behind us. One wrapped in black, one in white sheeting, and basic coffins.

Death hangs in the air.

He continues: “I think, until now, there is no real reaction. What you see is a stupor, people are still in stupor regarding their dead, regarding the country, regarding what is happening. And probably they are under stress syndrome, post-trauma stress syndrome – that will take some time, one year to appear.”

He tells us that usually when there is an explosion in Lebanon, people rush to hospital emergency rooms – mobbing them and they have to hire security to be able to do their jobs.

“Yes they came, of course – but they stayed outside by themselves. It’s as if they wanted to know the truth – but at the same time they didn’t.”

‘Feeling emptiness’

Denial or shock. The magnitude of what has happened here is difficult to comprehend.

Saleem is a diving instructor. He volunteered with the rescue in the early days. I ask him how he felt when he first approached the port from the sea, heading to look for survivors.

“I think the real feeling was…” he pauses to think of the right word. “The real feeling was emptiness, seeing all this.”

It was chaos in these early days – and the visibility in the crater was zero … They had to feel their way with their hands.

He contemplates the bigger picture. He, like many of his generation – fought in the civil war and is no stranger to violence, to death, to political chaos.

“What happened is very big.”

He too tells us that this is bigger than anything ever before.

“You know you have the capital of a country that is totally destroyed. I don’t know how many years we need. You know Lebanon is passing through an economical situation that is very hard. We have problems with the international bank, and we have problems with the exchange rate, and 60-70 percent of people are not working, nobody can eat, salaries are bad, we have to deal with corona, and we have the revolution. And now we have this?”

“Will Beirut recover?” I ask him.

“Yes, the buildings will recover. The people I don’t know. If they stay – maybe in like 20, 30, 40 years – because if you make a small calculation, nobody really recovered from the war of ’75 yet. If they are still living, and nobody recovered from the war of the ’80s and ’90s, and 2006. It’s hidden somewhere, you just need like a click and it will pop up. I don’t think it will be easy to recover. This is a big thing. It’s a big thing.”

I blame the whole state’

But there is strength. And there is humour. And there is incredible solidarity between people coming together to help each other.

Feeding each other, providing shelter, patching up this shattered city. Any real official help on the ground has been notably absent.

We interview a family who is still waiting for news of their husband, their father, more than two weeks on. He worked at the silos and was in the operation room at the time of the blast.

After speaking to his wife and his son, we finish filming. I talk to his daughter. She is 19, so eloquent, smart, and beautiful.

I tell her how amazingly strong she is and how I do not think I would have been able to keep it together if it were me in this situation.

She tells me she used to think that she could not either, but it is different when it happens to you, she says. You find the strength.

Later that night, the family gets word that their father and husband was identified.

“I blame the whole state, I blame the politicians,” his wife told us earlier.

We attend the funeral. It is unbearably sad. His elderly mother strokes his coffin, her face creased in pain.

We can see a picture of him on her chest, held in place by her jacket. Close to her heart. No mother should have to bury their child.

His son wants an independent investigation, he wants answers.

He stands stoic but his eyes burn with pain, as his mother and sisters shake with grief.

Many here say they want answers, but in the same breath, they add they believe the truth of what happened will never come out.

Justice is another thing they question. Most people we speak to blame the entire system. 

They say the explosion was the ultimate, incomprehensible symbol of decades of mismanagement, corruption and negligence – of power in the hands of a few – and admit it will be very difficult to change.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema

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When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.

Background

Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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