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Why Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes are going through a crisis | News

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Rift Valley, Kenya – It was seven years ago when Job Chebon, owner of a tourist lodge on the edge of Lake Baringo, first noticed the waters near his property rise dangerously.

“The water would come and then recede. For years, it would come a little bit further to dry land, to our homes, then go back,” he said earlier in August, standing on a sandbag leading to the flooded reception lobby of his Soi Safari Lodge – at least, what remains of it.

“In 2020, it has come with a vengeance.”

The rising waters of Lake Baringo in the Great Rift Valley have dealt a heavy blow to tourism, a key sector in this part of Kenya.

Chebon said he had lost thousands of dollars in accommodation fees and damage to his property, while several other hotels in the region have also been either totally or partially submerged.

The tourism sector of the region has taken a huge hit [Daniel Munene/Al Jazeera]

Elizabeth Meyerhoff, an anthropologist, who along her husband Murray Roberts, has been studying the lake since 2013, said the water level has been rising at about 2.5cm (0.98 inches) a day.

“In the last seven years, [it] has raised to about 9-12 metres (30-39 feet).”

The couple, who live next door to Chebon’s lodge, have also been running a programme aimed at rehabilitating semi-arid environments by producing dry land seed which they have already distributed to more than 900 farmers.

Almost all the land where the grass, mostly meant for grazing was planted, is underwater. The couple’s stores, offices and a dispensary have had a similar fate.

“The water comes from the rivers, but because of deforestation it’s bringing down huge amount of flash flooding with sediments which fill the bottom of the lake,” said Meyerhoff, after a tour on a boat – a mode of transport that is the new norm in these parts of Baringo.

Climate change and unusually heavy rains this year have also contributed to the problem.

The rising waters have displaced more than 5,000 people in 2020, according to government officials, submerging homes, schools, roads, hospitals, farmland – and even entire islands.

aerial pics of Lake Baringo

The rising waters of Lake Baringo have displaced thousands of people, submerging homes, roads and farmland among others [Daniel Munene/Al Jazeera] 

“This island was whole, we could move around,” said Nongaseuria Lenaisiaku, an elderly lady who has had to relocate to higher ground twice after Kokwa Island was split into three parts.

“Now the water has separated us from our relatives. I don’t even have a boat take me to other parts of the village.”

Nearby, in Rugus, another fishing village of mud-thatched huts, Singh Lenapunya was seated on his raft – scaling fish he had just caught. He acknowledged that the rising waters have brought along plenty of fish – but also crocodile and hippos. A herdsman was recently killed by a crocodile.

Lake Bogoria rising

However, it is not just Lake Baringo and its dependents that are in trouble.

Further to the south, Lake Bogoria – a World Heritage site which at times hosts up to 1.2 million flamingoes – has also been rising. Just a few years ago, Baringo and Bogoria – freshwater and alkaline lakes, respectively – were 20km (12 miles) apart, but local officials say that distance has now been cut to 13km (eight miles).

Located on an eponymous national reserve, Lake Bogoria is a significant tourist attraction, whose hundreds of bird species and beautiful landscape, as well as geysers and hot springs, draw visitors from many parts of the world.

aerial pics of Lake Baringo

Lake Bogoria is a major tourist attraction [Chaterine Wambua-Soi/Al Jazeera]

According to James Kimaru, the game reserve’s senior warden, the lake has expanded from 34 square kilometres in 2017 to 43 square kilometres in 2020.

“Almost 80 percent of the hot springs are under water, especially the main ones which were shooting almost three metres up,” said Kimaru. “They used to be our main tourist attraction but now the number of visitors has reduced. The main road, the gate to our reserve and our offices are under water – we have to move for a second time. The hospital, hotels and homes adjacent to the reserve are also submerged.”

Meanwhile, there are growing concerns about the swamps between the lakes. Both Meyerhoff and Kimaru said if the alkaline water from Bogoria reached the swamps which link to Baringo’s freshwater – it would be an ecological disaster.

With both lakes having no known channels that allow the flow of excess water, some scientists have suggested building a barrier between them. Others have recommended constructing a canal for water to flow out of Lake Baringo, which is rising faster. They say the water can be channelled through a natural course outlet further north.

It is still unclear, however, what the effect of such a move would be on Kenyan farmers and pastoralists downstream, as well as the lake itself.

Government officials told Al Jazeera they are examining these suggestions, while also carrying out a study to find out whether there are other reasons why the lakes are rising so fast to determine safe solutions to protect them and the millions of people whose lives are at stake.

Back in Soi Safari Lodge, Chebon said he is afraid that it is only a matter of time before his entire property – and with it, his entire livelihood – is swept away by the rising waters.



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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