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Rooftop majlis: Beirut commemorates Ashoura amid coronavirus | News



Beirut, Lebanon – About 20 women in black scarves and robes walked into a building in the southern Dahiyeh suburb of Beirut on Saturday evening.

The women, from teens to grandmothers, climbed up to the rooftop to join an hour-long mourning ceremony in commemoration of the seventh-century death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Saturday evening marked the 10th night of the Islamic month of Muharram, the Ashoura. 

This year, Ashoura fell within a 17-day, nationwide lockdown imposed by the Lebanese government on August 21, following a spike in coronavirus cases and fatalities in the wake of a massive explosion at Beirut’s port earlier this month.

An organiser arranges platters of food for attendees of the ceremony [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Lebanon, with 16,275 reported cases and 155 deaths, has banned all social gatherings, closed businesses and shops, and imposed a night-time curfew.

The restrictions mean there have been no street processions or large public gatherings for Ashoura.

So, several people in the neighbourhood decided to hold downsized gatherings on their rooftops and balconies instead.

“The communal element of Ashoura is very important to us,” said 24-year-old Fatima Kanso. “So, we came up with the idea of holding an open-air rooftop majlis [gathering] on top of four buildings in the block in order to come together while also respecting the restrictions.”

Adamant to commemorate

Fatima stood guard at the doorway to the rooftop, checking each woman’s temperature, disinfecting their hands, and ensuring they wore face masks before showing them to their seats.

As the organiser, she arrived early to arrange 35 plastic chairs – the maximum they could host at the event – in a manner that ensured social distancing.

“We are adamant to hold our mourning ceremonies no matter what the circumstance,” explained Fatima as she handed a younger family member bags with cakes and a drink to place on each chair.

“We await Muharram every year so the thought of holding a solitary majlis at home this time was very painful,” she said. “When our leaders ordered us to adhere to the restrictions, we had to find a way to do it while respecting their instructions.”

Ashoura amid COVID19

Fatima Kanso and her neighbours kept a safe social distance between chairs on their rooftop. [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Before the start of Muharram, Lebanon’s two main Shia movements, Hezbollah and Amal, told their followers to abide by stay-at-home measures, advising against all public gatherings.

In a televised speech, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah urged compliance with coronavirus-related restrictions, encouraging his followers to commemorate Imam Hussein’s death at home or via livestreaming.

‘Double the sorrow’

Along with her mother-in-law, Um Ahmad, Fatima had spent the day cooking meals for the poor and preparing a wheat and chicken dish for the attendees.

As she arranged platters of pastries on a table, her husband Ahmad Kanso, a locally known Muharram poetry reciter who came to lead the ceremony, set up the speaker system in a small room on the roof.

He explained that the speakers allowed the four female-only rooftop gatherings to follow his recitation and other neighbours to take part from their balconies.

“I’m used to being in a hall filled with thousands of people, especially on this night,” said the 26-year-old.

“Although we feel double the sorrow this year – sorrow over the death of Imam Hussein and sorrow over not being able to mourn together – it is a blessing to still be gathering like this.”

Ashoura amid COVID19

Ahmad Kanso, a popular Muharram poetry reciter in his neighbourhood, preparing to lead the ceremony [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Every night, the young reciter started his ceremony with a poem and then a short story narrating the life and death a prominent figure in Shia Islam who was killed during the battle of Karbala.

For Muslims, the death of Imam Hussein is a symbol of resistance against injustice and oppression.

By the time Ahmad wrapped up, several women were bent over, sobbing into their sleeves.

‘Serious responsibility’

Like many others, 45-year-old Abeer al-Aseely, who attended the ceremony, found the lack of public gatherings this year painful but realised that efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus were more important.

“For the first time in my life, I’m not attending the usual large street processions and public gatherings,” said al-Aseely. “It’s painful, but our health and safety is more important.”

While calls to adhere to strict health guidelines have fallen on deaf ears in some countries in the region, including Iraq, which saw throngs of Shia Muslims flock to the shrines of Imam Hussein in Karbala, the situation in Lebanon has been relatively contained.

“Some people circumvented the coronavirus-related restrictions over the past 10 days, but for us, it’s been a huge responsibility to do everything right,” said al-Aseely. “It’s only right to social distance, or cancel the ceremonies altogether.”

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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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