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UK borrowing hits new record as debt soars to £2,131,000,000,000

Net debt has risen by £333 billion since the pandemic began

National debt has soared to a staggering £2.1 trillion with the amount borrowed hitting a record high last month. Government borrowing hit £19.1 billion in February alone – the highest amount than during any other February since 1993. While borrowing has shot up, income from taxes has dwindled as the pandemic continues to hit jobs and incomes. It means that net debt has risen by £333 billion since last April when the Covid-19 lockdowns began, bringing the total to £2.131 trillion. The figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) do not include the £27.2 billion pounds of Covid loan write-offs which the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates will need to be made. ONS finance statistician Fraser Munro said: ‘The recent large increase in borrowing has led to sharp rise in the debt. The UK’s debt currently stands 97.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) – maintaining a level not seen since the early 1960s and almost the size of the UK economy in 12-month period.’

The recent large increase in borrowing has led to sharp rise in the debt. The UK’s debt currently stands 97.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) – maintaining a level not seen since the early 1960s and almost the size of the UK economy in 12-month period. At least 50 schemes have been announced by central government and the devolved administrations to support individuals and businesses during the pandemic. Chancellor Rishi Sunak ramped up efforts to help people get through the second wave at his Budget on March 3, when he announced the furlough and business rates relief schemes will be extended until the end of September. According to the ONS, £74.4 billion has been spent on furlough schemes in the financial year to February 2021. The ONS said the extra funding required by coronavirus support schemes ‘combined with reduced cash receipts and a fall in gross domestic product (GDP)’ have all helped push public sector net debt as a ratio of GDP to levels not seen in 60 years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has overseen the Treasury’s response to the pandemic, defended the Government’s high spending. Responding to the figures he said: ‘Coronavirus has caused one of the largest economic shocks this country has ever faced, which is why we responded with our £352 billion package of support to protect lives and livelihoods. ‘This was the fiscally responsible thing to do and the best way to support the public finances in the medium term. ‘But I have always said that we should look to return the public finances to a more sustainable path once the economy has recovered, and at the Budget I set out how we will begin to do just that, providing families and businesses with certainty.’

Mr Sunak has signalled that tax rises are likely in the coming years and has already announced a plan to increase corporation tax from 19% to 25% for large companies by 2023. The ONS figures come after the Bank of England said the outlook for the UK economy post-lockdown looks ‘uncertain’, despite the rapid rollout of vaccines. It said it expected an economic rebound as restrictions are lifted and Government support for jobs continues. But it said the recovery still depended on the ‘evolution of the pandemic’ and measures to protect public health. The Stay at Home message in England will end on March 29, when people will be allowed to meet in groups of six outdoors. Shops, hairdressers and beer gardens can open from April 12, with all restrictions set to be lifted by June 21 at the earliest. Boris Johnson has said his roadmap out of lockdown is ‘irreversible’. But he has refused to rule out implementing another one, saying he can’t guarantee there won’t be further difficulties ahead. – metro.co.uk

10 things President Magufuli banned in Tanzania

 

President John Pombe Magufuli often made populist — and in some cases weird — public pronouncements that highlighted his sometimes unconventional style of leadership that had him nicknamed the Bulldozer. We sample some of the bans he imposed.

School attendance by pregnant girls

Following the 2017 ban on pregnant girls and young mothers attending school, police arrests have been reported.

The pregnant girls and their families are seized, to force them to reveal the identity of the men or boys who have made them pregnant. Schools force girls to have pregnancy tests.

Following international pressure, the government has committed to finding ways for pregnant girls to return to school.

Political rallies

In July 2016, President Magufuli announced a blanket ban on political activities until 2020. Politicians were restricted to holding activities in their respective constituencies only, and the Tanzania Police Force brutally enforced the decree. The president argued that people should not be distracted from “building the nation.”

Export of metallic minerals

In August 2016, the president announced a ban on the export of metallic mineral concentrates. Miners in Tanzania had been sending heaps of earth containing metallic ore to Asia and Europe for smelting.

Following accusations that the country’s largest goldminer, London-listed Acacia Ltd, had flouted the ban in March 2017, President Magufuli ordered the seizure of more than 250 of its containers at the port of Dar es Salaam.

Live coverage of parliamentary proceedings

In early 2016, Magufuli’s government limited live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings by the state-run Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation. The restriction was later extended to private broadcasters.

Broadcasters can now only air the morning question and answer session. The debate sessions are no longer shown live. Apparently, the action was to protect the regime from the fate of predecessors that had been jolted by corruption exposes during parliamentary debates.

State events

In his first days in office in late 2015, President Magufuli cancelled the symbolic Independence Day fete. He directed that funds budgeted for the event be channelled towards the expansion of a highway notorious for gridlocks in Dar es Salaam. It was the same year he dramatically sacked corrupt officials in public, winning the support of the common man.

Foreign trips

The newly elected president in November 2015 halted all foreign trips for public servants. The only exemption was emergency cases, but even they required his personal approval as well as that of the head of the civil service.

Family planning

President Magufuli in September 2018 denounced family planning and asked women to shun contraceptives. Two weeks later, the government suspended radio, and television spots encouraging family planning.

But the Ministry of Health would later direct heads of 18 institutions responsible for family planning in Tanzania to resume radio and television advertisements.

Entertainment in hospitals

At the beginning of 2019, a new ban forbade all public hospitals from televising entertainment programmes. TVs in hospitals were to only broadcast health-related content.

Corporal punishment

Teachers in the lower grades of primary school are barred from entering classrooms with canes.

Covid tests and public updates on virus cases

President Magufuli reported he had ordered secret tests on animals, fruits and vehicle oil at the national health laboratory. He claimed a papaya, a quail and a goat had been found to be positive for Covid-19. The head of the laboratory in charge of coronavirus testing was suspended a day after the President questioned the accuracy of the tests. Tanzania also ceased daily updates of Covid-19 cases. – nation.co.ke

Morgan Stanley spotlight raises curtain for Bitcoin to give another $60,000

Morgan Stanley spotlight raises curtain for Bitcoin to give another $60,000 performance

Bitcoin’s theatre of dramatic ups and downs may have just found the star actor it needs to bring in the crowds as Morgan Stanley announced its crypto stage bow.

The financial behemoth has now officially told its wealth advisors to deliver access to Bitcoin funds, albeit restricted to no more than 2.5 per cent of total net worth.

Although limited, it is, however, a gigantic step towards even more institutional money being pumped into digital assets.

Coupled with the downward slide of the US dollar and wider investment into cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC) is back on track to notch a sixth consecutive month of positivity as it closes in on another all-time-high.

The flagship crypto pierced through $60,000 last weekend – with some conviction – as it set a record $61,701, toppling the previous high of $58,332 set a month ago.

Last month’s peak was hit as a branch of Morgan Stanley hinted it was weighing up the pros and cons of investing in BTC.

The latest narrative has propelled Bitcoin back into bullish territory after a post-weekend slump sent it down to the dimly-lit depths of $54,000 – largely driven by news that Binance was under the scrutiny of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Things picked back up a little when Binance bosses responded to the CFTC probe, which was coincidentally announced 24 hours before Binance appointed former US Senator Max Baucus to a roll which looked very much like CEO Changpeng Zhao was paving the way for regulation and a foot in the door of the American market.

Baucus has been handed a brief by to provide high-level guidance on efforts to build relations with US authorities and regulators. The 79-year-old Democrat – who recently served as the US Ambassador to China – is also Montana’s longest-serving senator after being in office from 1978 before being appointed to the Beijing role in 2014.

Putting Binance under the spotlight of the authorities now registers as little more than a dip in the road for the progression of Bitcoin which had been buoyed in the weeks before by a raft of institutional investment which is, according to Goldman Sachs, driving a crypto boom.

Goldman Sachs’ viewpoint was confirmed when Norwegian gas and oil giant Aker ASA has revealed it was to create a cryptocurrency arm with a massive $59 million opening investment.

Run by Kjell Inge Rokke – Norway’s second-wealthiest person – the 180-year-old holding company launched Seetee AS with a letter to shareholders declaring it would be running open-source Bitcoin payment servers.

This cast list of big players sets the stage for the superstar entrance of Morgan Stanley to make its curtain call this week.

The funds offered by the Manhattan-based multinational investment bank will be offered to clients by Galaxy Digital – a company founded by early Bitcoin evangelist Mike Novogratz. Other funds will be overseen by FS Investments and NYDIG.

The move represents a serious swing of opinion from the huge financial institutions which had spent years flatly rejecting the very concept of cryptocurrency.

Morgan Stanley, taking an early and tentative 2.5 per cent step into Bitcoin are now on the brink of formally identifying the 12-year-old crypto as a recognised asset class.

The Wall Street narrative now feeds into a rising trendline with its origins in early February – something traders and analysts have not been slow to evaluate.

Spring-boarding

Many now anticipate BTC to consolidate just shy of $60,000 before spring-boarding into the middle of $60k. Despite the bullish outlook, however, there is still a robust bearish resistance keen to keep the price under $60,000 and often in the mood for a push back to the $55,000 region. Market hesitancy also comes into play with the constant threat of further negative news as the financial authorities get their hooks into the confusing cryptocurrency space. Another alarm bell – the Indian government – heralds potential trouble on the horizon. One of most crypto-curious nations on earth, India’s Bitcoin enthusiasts have found themselves in a state of limbo as the government looks at the possibility of a cryptocurrency ban in India. The turmoil in New Dehli has already threatened to bring Bitcoin values down, but investors there have been told they will be given six months in which to liquidate their assets, should cryptocurrency be decreed illegal. For now though, the crypto markets are waiting to see how the world responds once news of Morgan Stanley’s stage debut is received. The reviews so far have been five star, and we wait to see if the markets give it a standing ovation. – cityam.com

‘Burglar’ has to wait for police to arrest him after head gets stuck in railings

The suspected burglar was left a sitting duck for police

This suspected thief may have just won the award for most hapless ‘criminal’ of the year. The man got his head trapped in railings while allegedly trying to escape a burglary. His plight might have gone unnoticed but he ended up stuck between the metal bars for two and a half hours. Neighbours in the nearby block of flats spotted him trying to wriggle free and alerted the police. The marooned man was filmed by onlookers at 4.40pm but police in the Mexican city of Morelia didn’t arrive until 7pm. One witness said: ‘He looks like a rat caught in a trap.’ Three cops arrived and managed to cut him free with some bolt cutters. One officer even did a summersault to get down from the roof before the suspect was taken down. – metro.co.uk

CO-OPERATIVE BANK DIASPORA MORTGAGE FOR YOU

Loise N. Karanja| Co-operative Bank of Kenya Ltd.

Dear Esteemed Customer,
I trust you are keeping well and safe.
Please allow me to share below information.

We offer mortgages to diaspora customers both for property purchase (houses/apartments and land) as well as construction mortgage on residential property as well as commercial properties.
We finance up to 80% (KES xxx)of the property/ construction costs for a period of 10 years. On your end, you will thus raise 20%(Kes xxx) as a down payment and also cater for the additional costs that will be incurred in the transaction. i.e. Stamp duty, legal fees, valuation fees, commitment fees to the Bank and insurances for the mortgage. The current interest rates is 13%.

With the proposed mortgage, however, also note that you could pay it off within a shorter period with no penalties whatsoever.

To start off the transaction, we would recommend to handle it systematically as follows;

Step 1: The Bank to appraise you for a mortgage facility based on your current income abroad. This will be in about 7 days of receipt of the application documents in full. Approval of this mortgage will come with a letter of offer for the mortgage which will have some conditions to be met. i.e. availability of 20% of construction costs that is the customer’s contribution.

Step 2: You will be required to meet the conditions of offer, some of which are outlined in step 1 above. These conditions and acceptance of the offer for the mortgage should be done in 14 days.

Step 3: With the offer accepted and conditions met, the Bank will instruct a lawyer (on the Bank’s panel) to commence the legal process which will entail charging of the property to the Bank as collateral for the loan.

Noting the external stakeholders involved at this stage, this could take up to 90 days to be completed.

To commence this transaction, kindly share with us the following documents;

Latest 3 months pay stubs,
Latest 6 months Bank statements,
Account details with co-operative bank
U.S.A Passport -If applicable
Residence card- If applicable
KRA pin
Kenyan ID/Passport
Copy of title
Employment letters
Reference letter from employer
Utility bill
Complete loan application forms

*Please see attached documents.

Please have all your personal documents notarized. Notarization/certification of the documents can be done at;
The Notary Public
The Kenyan Embassy
Commissioner of oaths
Your Bank abroad
Your Employer

For the initial appraisal, please share with us your 3 months pay stubs and 6 months bank statements. Upon receipt of these documents and assessment of the income, we shall ask you to share with us the notarized documents and the filled up mortgage application form.

Please do not hesitate to contact me on the below contacts in case of any further clarification.

Looking forward to hearing from you.
Regards,

Loise N. Karanja| Co-operative Bank of Kenya Ltd.
Relationship Manager| Diaspora Banking & Remittance
Ground Floor, Co-op House, Haile Selassie Avenue
P.O Box 48321-01000, Nairobi, Kenya
Office Line: 0711049943
Mobile: +254723584725
Email: lnkaranja@co-opbank.co.ke| diasporabanking@co-opbank.co.ke
www.co-opbank.co.ke

COVID-19 has plunged Britain into the deepest recession on record

COVID-19 has plunged Britain into the deepest recession on record – and we’re tracking where jobs are being lost across the UK economy. Sky News is analysing cuts made public by major businesses since the UK lockdown began on 23 March. Worst hit is the retail sector – accounting for about one in four of the total. Big names such as Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Boots and John Lewis have been axing thousands of roles while others, such as Oasis and Warehouse, have disappeared from the high street altogether. The hospitality sector has also seen large numbers of job cuts and closures at brands such as Pizza Express and Pret. The aviation industry is paying a heavy price after the pandemic grounded flights and quarantine measures left travellers uncertain about making bookings. Aircraft manufacturing workers, baggage handlers and airline pilots have all been affected. Few sectors have been spared as the collapse in demand takes its toll on industries from car making and double glazing to ferry operators and oil companies. The biggest hit on a single day took place on 28 April when British Airways said it was cutting 12,000 jobs. That announcement alone made it the bleakest day so far in the coronavirus jobs crisis.

Another low came on 1 July, when Upper Crust owner SSP, retailers Arcadia and Harrods, lender Virgin Money and consultants Accenture revealed cuts adding up to 7,370. British Airways leads the table of the number of UK jobs lost by company, followed by Marks & Spencer – axing nearly 8,000 workers in two separate announcements. Some big job losses are not included in our list as they were announced before the lockdown – notably the more than 2,000 jobs lost at airline Flybe, which blamed coronavirus as the last straw that prompted its collapse in March. The list is not comprehensive – not all companies have given precise details on UK job numbers. There may also be smaller or privately-held companies where cuts have not been disclosed or widely publicised. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics suggest the number of employees on UK payrolls is down by 726, 000 between February 2020 and January 2021 – much larger than our total. But by compiling numbers made public so far, we’ve been able to reveal a compelling picture of where the pain is being felt since the economy was brought to a halt. The roll-out of vaccines and with it the prospect of a full reopening of the economy offers hope for a recovery but with many businesses on their knees after months in and out of lockdown – and furlough support likely to taper off as restrictions ease – further tough times look likely. The impact on overall unemployment is likely to be stark. The Bank of England thinks this could peak at 7.75% in 2021.

In the months before the pandemic struck, the jobless rate had fallen below 4%, its lowest since the early 1970s. The record high for UK unemployment was in 1984, when it climbed to nearly 12%. There were other spikes in the early 1990s – when it topped 10%. In 2011, after the financial crisis, the jobless rate rose above 8%. In recent years, people aged between 16 and 24 have been the worst affected by joblessness. More than a fifth were out of work in the aftermath of the last crisis, and over 10% during the recent, more favourable climate. Official figures show redundancies climbing to record levels though the unemployment rate is yet to reflect fully a major collapse in jobs. That is largely thanks to the government’s furlough scheme – subsidising wages for temporarily laid-off workers – persuading some employers to hold off on redundancies. Also, some people who have lost their job are not currently looking for work and so are not included in the unemployment figures. Instead, they are classed as economically inactive. The unemployment rate was 5.1% in the three months to December, according to the ONS – the highest since the start of 2016. However, the ONS also pointed to more up-to-date though still experimental figures – mentioned above – which cover the period up to January. They show the number of people on UK payrolls has fallen by 726,000 since February 2020. ONS data also shows how workforce numbers have changed in different regions since last year and – on an even more local level – figures show the hotspots where the highest proportion of people are claiming unemployment-related benefits.

Covid-19: EU warns UK over vaccine exports

European Commission President von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has said that if Covid vaccine supplies in Europe do not improve, the EU “will reflect whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate”.

Post-Brexit disagreements between the EU and the UK have been heightened by the diplomatic row over the export of the vaccines.

The European Council president, Charles Michel, claimed last week that the UK had imposed an “outright ban” on the export of vaccines and their components – there is no ban though, and his claim was dismissed by the government as “completely false”.

But Mrs von der Leyen says the EU is still waiting for exports from the UK, and it wants reciprocity.

 

How much vaccine has the EU been exporting?

The issue of vaccine exports from the EU – and a potential ban – is being raised because the EU is struggling to get sufficient supplies to accelerate its own vaccination programme.

And the number one export destination for vaccines manufactured in the EU is the UK.

Mrs von der Leyen says 41 million vaccine doses have been exported from the EU to 33 countries in six weeks.

More than 10 million of them have gone to the UK. That is more than the total number of vaccines administered in the UK in the month of February, and (as of 17 March) more than a third of the total number of UK vaccinations so far.

It is worth emphasising that vaccine exports are not organised by the EU itself, but by companies such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, which use its territory as a global manufacturing base.

Chart showing number of doses administered in the UK, US, EU, Russia and China
As of 11 March, 3.9 million doses had also been exported from the EU to Canada, and 3.1 million to Mexico. One million doses have been sent to the US, even though it is a major manufacturer in its own right and has not exported any vaccines to the EU.

The US is using export controls under the Defense Production Act, first introduced during the Korean War in the 1950s, to prevent companies exporting vaccine doses or ingredients without federal government authorisation.

 

What about UK exports to the EU?

There has been no public announcement of any vaccine exports from the UK, and no evidence that any have taken place.

The Department of Health said it didn’t know whether there had been any, and AstraZeneca did not respond to a request for a comment.

“Let me be clear, we have not blocked the export of a single Covid-19 vaccine or vaccine components,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons on 8 March.

The government is keen to highlight that the UK has donated £548m to the Covax initiative, set up to distribute vaccines around the world. But that doesn’t mean there have been exports of vaccines themselves.

“The British prime minister has made it clear to me that obviously his first priority is to vaccinate his people,” Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said on 9 March.

“Until then he won’t be in a position to give vaccines to anybody, and he has made that point to me.”

 

No official ban

So, there is no export ban, but publicly available information suggests vaccines are not being exported from the UK. The government argues that is driven by the contractual obligations which vaccine suppliers have to their customers, rather than by the demands of politicians.

In January, the head of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot said of his company’s contract with the UK that it was a case of “you supply us first”.

And after the UK rejected Charles Michel’s claim of an outright ban, he said there were “different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines/medicines”. In an interview with news website Politico, he challenged the UK to release its vaccine export data.

Now, Mrs von der Leyen has stepped up the warnings.

“If the situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness,” she said.

In response, the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government had legally signed a contract for the delivery of the first 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and added that “the supply of vaccines from EU production facilities to the UK is fulfilling contractual responsibilities and we fully expect those contracts to be delivered on”.

 

EU’s vaccine rollout

The EU has faced a series of problems with its vaccine rollout and has controls on exports, requiring manufacturers to seek permission from national governments for planned sales. Earlier this month, Italy blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia. But it is the only one of more than 300 vaccine export authorisations that has been refused.

The crunch could come in the second quarter of 2021 when supply problems may intensify. Then, as Mrs von der Leyen indicated, the EU may have to decide whether to block other shipments, including to the UK, to protect its own interests.

One possibility being discussed is to use Article 122 of the EU treaty, which allows measures to be taken “if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products”. Those measures could in theory include export bans and the waiving of patent and intellectual property rights on vaccines.

Kenyans Mourn Pastor Dominic Roche Who Succumbed To Covid-19

Pastor Roche Kaudo is a brother to Pastor Raphael Kaudo of London

Kenyans Mourn Pastor Dominic Roche Who Succumbed To Covid-19The gospel ministry is mourning the passing on of Pastor Dominic Roche Kaudo. The man of God succumbed to Covid-19 on the night of Monday, March 15, 2021, while receiving treatment at a local hospital, where he was admitted in the ICU for 10 days.

News of his death was shared on social media by several Christians he ministered to. check out messages of condolences from Kenyans;

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burale1 Rest well my FRIEND…..REST REST REST REST…
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njeshqabbz Too sad!

Wakash Viola Sad.. may his soul Rest in eternal Peace, Will always remember him during Fem meetings. May the family be comforted..

Prophet David Owusu SOME TRUTH IN LIFE ARE HARD TO ACCEPT. YOUR MEMORIES WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. REST IN PEACE PASTOR ROCHE!

Wanjiru Mwangi This one😭😭😭😭😭😭 💔💔💔💔 waking up to your sad news no wonder you didn’t respond to me on Friday😭😭 aje sasa? Besides being a man of God you were a friend yaani💔 Rest well pastor Roche….May perpetual light shine upon you always f*** you Covid!

Monza Arwings Pastor Roche you have fought a good fight, You have finished the race, You have kept the faith! Though not easy for us on earth we know that Heaven has received a general. May the peace of God flow freely in your family friends and loved ones.

Winnie Muiruri A man of faith. A gentle heart of a servant. Every Friday you were teaching faith. You made sure the word of God sinks in us without diluting it. You preached the true gospel of our Lord Jesus…. you were full of life just the other day
It’s unbelievable you are no more
We prayed for you but God answered differently
Oooooooh death you have taken him away from us
My heart condolences to the wife and family and friends may the Lord comfort you
This has made me to serve God more because our days are numbered
Pastor Roche till we meet at the feet of Jesus rest in peace. 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 Am still in denial

Mbuchire Njunge Poleni sana Ruthu Wa Roche may the Almighty God give you peace at these trying moments

iamdavidkeen Oh nooo I’m completely speechless. RIP🙏🙏🙏

Eliud Gateri Go well Pastor.

Charles Omondi Sad… Peace to the family. Remember he ministered in FEM during his earlier days

Rachel Njeri How beautiful heaven must be, You impacted the lives of youths, you were one of the remnants may your soul RIP Pastor Dominic Roche my sincere condolence to your wife and the entire FEM FAMILY

Joseph M Millioneas So sad indeed, May almighty God comfort Ruth and the entire family shalom. – Source-https://mpasho.co.ke

Tanzanian President John Magufuli is dead

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli is dead. Magufuli, 62, died from a heart attack, according to a televised announcement by the country’s Vice-President Samia Suluhu.

She told the country that he died on Wednesday evening, following admission to a Dar es Salaam hospital on March 6.

Ms Suluhu said Magufuli was rushed to hospital and had been attended to by heart specialists.

“With deep shock, we announce that today, March 17, 2021, at around 6pm, we lost our great leader and President of the United Republic of Tanzania, HE Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli due to heart complications at the Muzena Hospital in Dar es Salaam. Plans for the funeral are underway. Our country will be in mourning for 14 days and our flags will fly half mast,” she said.

His death brings to a close weeks of speculations on his whereabouts and health. However, it also opens a new chapter for a country which has never changed governments outside of elections.

According to the Tanzanian Constitution, the Vice President takes over the remainder of the term. With just five months into their second term, it means Vice President Samia Suluhu will become the first female President of Tanzania, and the first female Head of State in the East African Community.
Magufuli, nicknamed the Bulldozer for pushing through projects when he worked as Minister for Works, had been missing in action since February 27, leading to rumours that he was seriously ill.

A known sceptic of Covid-19, Magufuli refused to lock down his country when neighbours did so to reduce infections. He also did not issue compulsory mask-wearing in public. Instead, he asked people to pray.

Born in October 1959 in Chato, Geita Province in north-western Tanzania, Magufuli has been the fifth President since 2015 after defeating Edward Lowassa in one of the toughest contests in the country. But he did not target politics initially.

Educated entirely in Tanzania, Magufuli was a science teacher who majored in mathematics and Chemistry and later worked as an industrial chemist at the Nyanza Cooperative Union Ltd, which managed cotton ginneries in Mwanza, northern Tanzania.

First elected to Parliament in 1995, he served in the Cabinet of Tanzania as Deputy Minister of Works from 1995 to 2000, Minister of Works from 2000 to 2006, Minister of Lands and Human Settlement from 2006 to 2008, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries from 2008 to 2010, and as Minister of Works for a second time from 2010 to 2015.

As Minister and later as President, he endeared himself to the public by fighting for efficiency. His campaigns were based on taming corruption and saving public funds as well as protection of local enterprises.

First term
After he took office in 2015, he imposed measures to cut costs. He reduced his own foreign travel and downsized delegations travelling abroad. For example, he controversially cut down the delegation to the Commonwealth Meeting in London to four from the initial 50.

Further, he diverted funds meant for dinners or public celebrations to supporting the needy and the sick.

Magufuli also cut his own salary from Sh1.5 million a month to Sh400,000 and halved the cabinet to 15 Ministers compared to Kikwete’s 30. Several months after his election in 2015, a social media hashtag ‘What would Magufuli do’ trended in the region as people in neighbouring countries admired his apparent efficiency.

Under Magufuli, the IMF listed Tanzania among the fastest growing sub-Sahara economies, averaging 6 per cent. Last year, the World Bank admitted the country into the list of Lower Middle Income Economies, although the final process is due to be finalised by end of 2023.

Magufuli has built various infrastructure projects such as the Bagamoyo port construction, the planned oil pipeline from Uganda, the Standard Gauge Railway and capital injection into Air Tanzania.

Yet its ranking on the Corruption Perception Index has been stuck, polling 94 out of 180 countries in 2020. A report in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which ranks countries according to their press freedom said Tanzania was the most regressed country in press freedoms.

“None of the 180 countries ranked in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index has suffered such a precipitous decline in recent years,” it said, accusing Magufuli of “tolerating no criticism of himself or his policies.” RSF ranked Tanzania at 124 out of 180, having dropped six places from 2019.

Initial popularity
One of the most prominent cases involved EastAfrican correspondent Erick Kabendera who had been fingered for writing critical pieces of corruption for international media. His case dragged for months which the charge sheet changing three times.

He eventually paid a fine for money laundering, tax evasion and leading organised crime. Under the plea bargain, he paid a total of $120,000 before he was released in February last year.

Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch termed the trial as political motivated.

Despite his initial popularity in Tanzania, Magufuli’s regional integration credentials were often questioned. He made the fewest trips of any Tanzanian presidents to neighbouring countries and his government have often feuded with Kenya over non-tariff barriers.

They include the arresting of ‘trespassing’ cattle, burning of chicks imported from Kenya, banning of tour vans from accessing parks and lack of agreement on Covid-19 management. In all these cases though, the matters were resolved in days, but often with the backing down of Nairobi.

Magufuli has made controversial decisions including change of mining laws to allow the government right end contracts if fraud is suspected and bars companies from suing at international arbitration. One of the most long-running disputes involved Acacia Gold which Dar accused of underreporting its gold exports.

After years of protests, the firm settled a $100 million tax debt to the government and was expected to pay a further $200 million, as well as cede 16 per cent shares to the government.

Other controversies included ordering the military to but cashew nuts from farmers ostensibly to cut off middlemen. The army, however, was unable to access the markets, lowering prices of the very nuts. He was also accused of forcing pregnant school going children to stay at home even after giving birth as well as controversial policy hunting down homosexuals. – nation.co.ke

ICJ considers changing court schedule

Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute

Map showing disputed maritime area

Somalia on Tuesday continued the second day of ICJ hearings on the disputed maritime border with Kenya, insisting the demarcation should be based on a straight line. Kenya dropped out of the hearings, citing bias by the court. Somali lawyers said the straight line divides the sea between Somalia and Kenya fairly, VOA Somalia reported. Before closing the hearing, the judge said Kenya had written a letter to the ICJ, which is being debated. The judge said there could be a change in the court schedule. The dispute concerns a 160,000 sq km triangle in the Indian Ocean.

The area is thought to be rich in oil and gas. Kenya had asked for the case to be delayed while it briefed a new legal team, and also cited the coronavirus pandemic, but the ICJ ruled the case should be heard virtually. Kenya also objects to the presence on the ICJ panel of a Somali judge, saying he should recuse himself. Somalia brought the case in 2014, saying the maritime frontier should follow on in the same direction as the land border, while Kenya argues that it has always been taken in a horizontal line from the point where the two countries meet at the coast. – the-star.co.ke