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A new exodus from Lebanon after deadly Beirut blast | Beirut explosion News



Beirut, Lebanon – Mazin Kabbani, a 50-year-old IT employee, was at his home in west Beirut on August 4 when shockwaves from an enormous explosion rocked his apartment, leaving shards of glass scattered across his living room floor.

The blast, caused by the detonation of nearly 3,000 tonnes of unsecured ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port, left Kabbani shaken and brought back dark memories of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.

“All the oxygen was sucked out of the air. It was like we were at war again,” Kabbani told Al Jazeera as he stood at the entrance to his apartment building and handymen walked in with equipment to repair the damage caused by the blast.

More traumatising for Kabbani than his own experience was the thought that his 21-year-old daughter, Alaa, might have been dead if luck had not been on her side that day. 

“We couldn’t reach her for hours after the blast,” the father of four said, recalling how his middle child had been on her way to a restaurant in Gemayze, an historic neighbourhood close to the port, when the explosion hit.

“If it wasn’t for a last-minute change in her plans, she might not be with us any more,” he said.

His eyes turned red and he choked on his words as he held back the tears. 

Already exhausted by a continuing financial crisis, deteriorating public services and deep political instability, the blast was the final straw for Kabbani and his family. Like many Lebanese, Kabbani now sees no choice but to leave. Despite previously wanting to stay in his home country until the end of his life, he is now determined to settle with his family elsewhere. 

“My wife and I were committed to establishing a life here. Even though I’d briefly toyed with the thought of leaving when we first got married, my wife insisted that we stay and raise our kids close to our families,” he said.

“But since the blast, she has been the one pushing for us to emigrate,” he explained, adding that the family was already in the process of completing migration papers to Canada.

Kabbani, a 50-year-old father of four says he is in the process of completing immigration papers to Canada [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Like Kabbani, the blast reminded Nizar*, a 38-year-old business owner in Beirut, of the Lebanese civil war and made him fearful for his four-year-old son’s safety and security. 

“Being a war child [someone who experienced the civil war], the windows’ rumbling reminded me of my grandmother’s voice telling me to move away as a bomb was about to explode,” said Nizar remembering Beirut in the 1980s.

“If my son had been at home that day, he would have been dead or severely injured. Just the thought of it drives me crazy,” said Nizar, adding that he and his wife, who holds a US passport, had decided to leave in two weeks. 

“We’ve booked our flights, rented an apartment in New York and are packing up our lives in Beirut for good,” he added. 

Nizar, who asked for his name to be changed for privacy concerns, said feelings of responsibility towards Lebanon had previously held him back and gave him “cold feet” every time he thought of leaving. 

“I feel guilty to be going, guilty for being able to leave when others can’t, but Lebanon is not safe any more. I just can’t do this to my family,” he said.

‘Mass exodus’ 

Although only an indicator, Information International, a Beirut-based research consultancy firm that has done extensive research about migration in Lebanon, said its records show the average number of people leaving the country on a daily basis increased from 3,100 before the day of the blast, to 4,100 people after the incident. 

“There are no accurate statistics on the effect of the blast yet, but the number of people leaving Lebanon will definitely increase over the next few months as a result of it,” said Jawad Adra, founder and managing partner of Information International.

“We are already seeing a mass exodus.” 

Photos of packed departure lounges at Rafic Hariri Airport have been circulating over social media as many Lebanese people from across the board have said they want to leave the country since the blast. But according to Adra, many of the first to leave have been affluent families and dual nationals, adding that “the ability to go is a privilege”. 

“Many people want to leave, but not everyone can afford it or has assets like money, education, another nationality or relatives abroad to help,” he explained, adding that emigration also depended on the willingness of host countries to take in Lebanese nationals. 

Several countries have shown solidarity with Lebanon after the blast by easing immigration processes. France resumed issuing visas to Lebanese citizens after a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, while Canada introduced special immigration measures to help Lebanese citizens and Canadians residing in Lebanon come back. 

The idea of migration is anything but new in a country that has a long history of “exodus” due to years of war, famine and political instability and economic crises. 

“Tens of thousands of people have left over the past 10 to 20 years, with the largest demographic being young professionals and people under the age of 45,” said Adra. 

The past few months have also been particularly challenging. The deepening financial crisis has left many struggling to find work or afford basic goods, and pushed many to leave the country. 

“Many of my friends and family have left over the past year and especially since October,” said Nizar, referring to the deteriorating conditions in the country which pushed thousands onto the streets to protests the government, corruption and lack of basic services. 

According to a report issued by Information International, data derived from general security records showed that the number of Lebanese people who left the country and did not return was 66,806 between mid-December 2018 and mid-December 2019, a 97.5 percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier.

‘For my children’ 

But even as prices increased and life became more difficult over the past couple of years, Shireen Anouti, a 34-year-old housewife, resisted leaving with her three children and husband, Mohamed, a businessman and dual Swedish national.

“Even as the economic crisis hit the country, I didn’t want to go,” she said. 

“But after the blast, everything changed,” she added as she hugged her three-year-old daughter Julia and recounted how her uncle, a long-term hospital patient, died in the ward at Roum Hospital after shards of glass ripped through his body due to the blast.

Anouti said her family plan to migrate to Sweden within the next few weeks.

“It’s time to leave. There’s no safety for my children in Lebanon. They deserve a future without fear, without trauma.”

Lebanon - a new exodus

Anouti, 34, said she and her family plan to move to Sweden within the next few weeks [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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