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UK Cuts Aid to Ugandan Government

The UK has announced it is cutting all aid to the Ugandan government after an investigation into corruption.

The Ugandan auditor reported last month that millions of dollars had been transferred from Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi’s office into private accounts.

A Ugandan official told the BBC he was “not happy” with the UK’s decision because it would affect poor people.

Mr Mbabazi has acknowledged that money has been stolen from his office, but denies any involvement.

Other European donors have also recently cut aid to the Ugandan government.

‘Extremely concerned’

A spokesman for the UK’s Department for International Development said about £11m ($18m) in aid had been suspended with immediate effect because of “initial evidence” emerging from a forensic audit that it had ordered.

“We are extremely concerned by these preliminary findings and we will assess the decision further when we have considered the full findings of the report,” the spokesman said.

“Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers’ money is going towards helping the poorest people lift themselves out of poverty, this aid will remain frozen and we will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s adviser John Nagenda said the government was determined to ensure that those responsible for the alleged corruption were brought to justice.

All Ugandans – including Mr Museveni – were “absolutely fed up” with corruption, he said.

However, he was not happy with the UK’s decision, as poor Ugandans would be “hardest hit”, Mr Nagenda said.

It would have been better for the UK to give the money to non-governmental organisations to spend on poor people, he said.

Ireland, Norway and Denmark have also suspended aid to the Ugandan government following the findings of the Ugandan auditor-general.

Mr Mbabazi has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledges there has been “massive theft” from his office.

Ugandan taxpayers’ money had also been stolen, he has said.

The UK’s total aid budget for Uganda this financial year is about £99m ($151m).

Goma City Defended By Dr Congo from the M23 Rebels

A Congolese regional governor has told the BBC that rebels will not take the main eastern city of Goma, following fierce fighting.

Julien Paluku said that the rebels had telephoned him to say they would be “spending the night” in Goma.

Mr Paluku said 150 rebels had been killed but the rebels disputed these figures, saying no-one had died.

The fighting is the most serious since July in the mostly lawless but resource-rich eastern DR Congo.

Nearly 500,000 people have fled their homes since April when the rebels mutinied from the army.

The fighting has been taking place around the village of Kibumba about 30km (19 miles) north of Goma in North Kivu province.
A body count showed that more than 150 rebels and two government soldiers had been killed, said Mr Paluku, the North Kivu governor.

Thousands of people have fled the latest fighting, which lasted until Friday morning, he said.

Mr Paluku told BBC Afrique he had received a phone call from M23 military spokesman Lt Col Vianney Kazarama who told him that the rebels would “spend the night” in Goma, a city of some 400,000 people.

However, government forces would repel any attack on the city, Mr Paluku said.

On Thursday, the army spokesman in Goma, Olivier Hamuli, said 44 rebels had been killed – and one high-ranking officer from the army also died.

Lt Col Kazarama told the BBC that no rebels had been killed but two had been injured.

The UN mission in DR Congo, Monusco, said it could not confirm any casualty figures.

The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse witnessed the Congolese army using tanks and helicopters against the rebels on Thursday.

Both sides accuse the other of starting the conflict.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said “51 bodies [of rebels] wearing Rwandan army uniforms have been collected” from the battlefield, AFP reports.

On Tuesday, Uganda closed the Bunagana border crossing near Goma.

This followed a request from the DR Congo government, which said the M23 was illegally raising money from people travelling between the two countries to finance its operations.

Last month, a UN panel of experts said Rwanda and Uganda were supplying M23, also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army, with weapons in what is seen as an on-going battle for control of the region, which is rich in minerals.

Rwanda and Uganda strongly deny the allegation – Rwanda has called on both sides to stop fighting, saying stray bullets have fallen on its side of the border, injuring civilians.

The UN and US imposed a travel ban and asset freeze earlier this week on the group’s leader, Sultani Makenga.

The UN has a large force in DR Congo to help the government establish its authority in the mostly lawless east.

UK Mobile Networks Threatened by Data Jam

Steps need to be taken now to head off a looming “capacity crunch” on the UK’s mobile networks, says regulator Ofcom.

As more people use broadband-connected smartphones and tablets, the amount of data Britons consume on the move each month has hit 20

million gigabytes.

The main reason for the data explosion is users’ love of video, TV and films while on the move.

Without swift action, mobile networks will gradually grind to a halt, warned the agency.

If current trends play out, said Ofcom, demand for mobile data would grow by 80 times by 2030.

To cope with the data tsunami Ofcom has drawn up plans to release more radio spectrum and make the industry’s use of existing spectrum more efficient.

The 700MHz frequency band, currently used by digital terrestrial television, will be opened up to mobile services by 2018 as part of a global plan to harmonise frequencies for mobile users.

Digital television will eventually migrate to the 600MHz frequency under Ofcom’s plans.

Consumers worried that this will mean new set-top box equipment and yet more upheaval need not be alarmed, said Ofcom.

“This will not be a new digital switch over; all it will need is a simple retune,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive. “It’s a migration.”

Initial industry concerns about the migration plans had “substantially diminished”, he added.

By making better use of the UK’s existing 16,000 wi-fi hotspots, which are significantly underused at the moment, and introducing new transmission and compression technologies, Ofcom believes there will be plenty of new capacity to cope with the expected increase in mobile data usage.

The mobile industry is currently collaborating on a new wi-fi protocol called PassPoint which will allow consumers to use one sign-in to join any public wi-fi network, wherever they happen to be.

Ofcom hopes this will encourage more mobile users to make use of the existing public wi-fi network and help lighten the load on mobile networks.

“The overall outcome for the UK, the economy, and consumers is a positive one,” said Mr Richards. “The public cost of this will be utterly marginal, but there will be a massive benefit to the public.”

Ahmed Farah Ilyas Somaliland Journalist killed

A journalist in the breakaway republic of Somaliland has been killed by gunmen as he returned home.

Ahmed Farah Ilyas Shot Outside His Home

Ahmed Farah Ilyas was a reporter in Las Anod, the main city of the volatile Sool region, for UK-based Somali station Universal TV.

Before he was shot, he had been covering the story of a landmine explosion blamed by the authorities on al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist militants.

Ilyas is the 16th journalist to be killed in Somalia this year.

Since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, Islamist militants and its neighbours all battling for control of the country.

Somaliland declared independence in the wake of Mr Barre’s ousting – and has been a far more peaceful part of Somali territory, although Sool is in an area also claimed by the autonomous Somali state of Puntland and has experienced some unrest. Read More

Beirut Blast Kills Intelligence Official Wissam al-Hassan

Lebanon’s head of internal intelligence has been killed in a massive car bomb attack in central Beirut.

Blast Kills Intelligence Official

Wissam al-Hassan was among eight people who died in the attack. He was close to opposition leader Saad Hariri, a leading critic of the government in neighbouring Syria.

Dozens were wounded in the blast, which Mr Hariri blamed on Damascus. Syria’s government condemned the bombing.

Tension in Lebanon has been rising as a result of the Syrian conflict.

Lebanon’s religious communities are divided between those who support the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – including many Shias – and those mostly from the Sunni community who back the rebels.

Mr Hassan, the head of intelligence of Lebanon’s internal security forces, was regarded as an opponent of Syria.

He led an investigation that implicated Damascus in the 2005 bombing that killed Mr Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Read More