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UN council runs the clock on Lebanon peacekeeping renewal | News



Beirut, Lebanon – Tough negotiations on the scope and scale of a 42-year-old UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon are set to run all the way up to a Friday United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session to renew its mandate.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been stationed at Lebanon’s southern border since 1978, during the country’s civil war, and was beefed up following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. 

The force’s one-year mandate expires on August 31.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has for years been pushing for changes to the mission’s mandate that would increase the number of troops, now at roughly 10,000, and allow the forces to have more freedom of movement in the border area that is largely controlled by Hezbollah.

Along with Israel, the US has argued that UNIFIL is ineffective at implementing UNSC Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war and called for the removal of all armed groups in the south other than the Lebanese army.

Hezbollah maintains its heavily armed presence.

Lebanese officials and Hezbollah have meanwhile criticised UNIFIL for failing to stop near-daily Israeli infringements on Lebanese sovereignty via air, sea and land and point to Israel’s continued occupation of slivers of Lebanese territory as a reason for sustaining an armed struggle.

“Last year renewal negotiations were difficult. This year, it’s doubly so,” a diplomatic source told Al Jazeera. “It’s an election year so Trump wants to show he’s on top, and Israel is trying to get whatever they can get from this administration. 

“There is a chance it may not get renewed – you never know with this administration,” the source said. 

‘Red lines’

Lebanon has approved the renewal of the mandate without any changes, and is working with allies at the UNSC, chiefly France, to maintain UNIFIL’s mandate as is.

At least two drafts of the mandate renewal have been rejected in the past week. France on Wednesday submitted another one for a vote.

This year, critics of the mandate have pointed to a number of security incidents at the border that UNIFIL has been powerless to stop or meaningfully evaluate afterwards.

In the past month alone, Israel twice shelled southern border areas in response to alleged Hezbollah activity – once an infiltration attempt, and the second time, on Tuesday night, live-fire towards an Israeli patrol. 

Hezbollah denied the first incident in late July but has not denied the second. 

After the July incident, UNIFIL pledged to undertake an investigation into what happened. But the diplomatic source said “there were no conclusive findings and nothing really happened”.

UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti did not respond to a request for comment on the investigation into last month’s conflagration.

‘Powder keg’

UNIFIL’s work is also often impeded by farmers and villagers who do not let them enter parts of the south, as well as by private property belonging to citizens or Hezbollah-aligned NGO Green Without Borders, which Israel bombed on Tuesday. 

Former US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman said in a June opinion piece these activities are “all undoubtedly connected to Hezbollah”. 

If its demands are not met, the US has threatened to either veto the renewal, refuse to fund the force, or shorten its mandate to six months. 

But an official Lebanese source told Al Jazeera UNIFIL does important work, despite the “red lines” that were set around “private property in the south, which is an issue of our sovereignty”.

The source said regular tripartite meetings between the Lebanese and Israeli militaries, facilitated by the UN at the southern border, help to defuse tensions.

The source also said while the mandate was imperfect, it had brought fragile calm to a region that was formerly synonymous with instability. 

“Many people don’t remember this now but before 1978 the south was like the wild wild west. Anyone with a missile or bomb could go to the border and do what ever they want,” the official source said.

“In their [UNIFIL’s] absence, it becomes a powder keg where anything could happen, and that’s not in anyone’s interest – neither Lebanon nor Israel nor America.”

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema



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.


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




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.      

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19




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.  

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