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

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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]



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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