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Worrying report of terrorist groups gaining financial muscle in Uganda

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By BERNARD BUSUULWA
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Findings contained in Uganda’s final National Risk Assessment report of increased capacity among terrorist organisations to execute bigger attacks are a worrying sign.

It also catalogues significant weaknesses of regional governments struggling to tackle illicit financial flows.

The report captures key areas of exposure to money laundering and terrorism financing detected in the economy in line with international compliance standards set by the Financial Action Taskforce based in Paris, France. The assessment is supposed to be carried out after every five years.

Terrorism funding refers to money generated by terrorist organisations to finance terror activities, particularly recruitment and training of fighters, maintenance of local cells that accommodate militants, propaganda campaigns and terror attacks such as the World Trade Centre bombings in New York City in September 2011.

More cash received by terrorist groups implies higher capacity to conduct multiple, deadly attacks in countries involving several collaborators, observers say.

The report states that terrorists fund their war chests mainly from extortion schemes, wildlife crimes, piracy, trade, donations from non-profit organisations and foreign remittances, among others.

Some of the major terrorist groups names in the region are the Somalia-based Al Shabaab, the Ugandan Democratic Republic of Congo-based Allied Democratic Force (ADF) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) also originally Uganda-based but now reportedly operating in the Central African Republic.

The LRA is led by Joseph Kony. Whereas Al Shabaab is based in Somalia and is responsible for several terror attacks in that country, this group has also planned and executed a number of attacks, especially in Kenya and the neighbouring countries.

Al Shabaab’s main sources of income are extortion, trade, foreign remittances and piracy, according to the report.

The group’s extortion victims include Somali families that receive welfare cash transfers from relatives running businesses in Uganda, most of which are located in the central Kampala area; a scenario that presents complicated enforcement choices for Uganda’s security agencies.

In comparison, the ADF’s presence has been felt in the eastern DR Congo where it maintains some bases and parts of Uganda since it was formed in 1996.

The ADF is blamed for past civilian massacres in eastern DRC and the series of bombings in Kampala in 1997 and 1998 that killed scores of civilians.

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The group is led by Jamil Mukulu, a former Christian and radical Islamic activist who is currently facing a host of treason charges together with suspected ADF members in the High Court Criminal Division and has called for the creation of an Islamic state in Uganda.

Its sources of revenue include trade, real estate business, illegal mining and donations from non-profit organisations, the report shows.

Some of the group’s real estate are located in Tanzania, intelligence sources claim.

The LRA was started in 1987 and waged a drawn-out armed rebellion against the government in northern Uganda.

This group is notorious for maiming its victims across Uganda and South Sudan, cutting off their lips, arms and ears but was eventually kicked out of Uganda in 2006 following the Ugandan Army’s Operation Iron Fist.

LRA remnants fled South Sudan and moved to eastern DRC before relocating to the jungles of the Central African Republic in 2009. Its sources of income include wildlife crimes, illegal mining and looting.

Mobile money services, forex bureaus and foreign money remittance platforms, apparently carry one of the highest terrorism financing risk levels in Uganda’s economy.

“Fairly small transactions done on these platforms and weak Know Your Customer guidelines are mainly blamed for high terrorism risks…

“Although there are transaction thresholds, these can still pose some risk to terrorism financing, and can be easily circumvented. In the case of forex and money remitters, the high vulnerability is largely driven by the low quality of controls, particularly ineffective monitoring and reporting of suspicious transactions and weak compliance functions in the institutions …” reads the report.

But sources in the mobile money services sector disagree with this negative assessment.

“The mobile money services sector’s compliance levels to anti-money laundering and combating of the financing of terrorism are very high and pose little challenge to the country’s enforcement efforts,” said a source at Airtel Uganda.

Legal gaps, abuse of court orders and limited sharing of intelligence information across national borders are also a major bottleneck for antiterrorism financing enforcement efforts.

However, the NRA report appears cautious and guarded on the quality of Uganda’s anti-terrorism enforcement efforts.

“The quality of terrorism-related intelligence is good and domestic co-operation is smooth, which has led to the effective disruption of terrorist attacks. The process to build capacity to generate desired terrorism financing intelligence is on course, and the level of reporting of suspicious transactions related to terrorism is not commensurate to the terrorism financing risk,” the document says.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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