France rejects new probe into Rwanda plane shooting

Samba Cyuzuzo

BBC Great Lakes

Armed Rwanda Patriotic Front soldiers investigate the site of the plane crash that killed President JuvTnal Habyarimana May 26, 1994 in Kigali,
Getty Images
The downing of the plane triggered the 1994 Rwandan genocide

A French appeals court has rejected a request to reopen an investigation into the shooting down in 1994 of a plane carrying the then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarima.

The incident sparked the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people were killed.

The inquiry was dropped in 2018, but Habyarimana's widow, Agathe, and the families of other victims had appealed against the decision.

But it may not be the end of the case, as civil parties have already said they will move to a higher court, the AFP news agency reports.

Relations between the France and Rwanda have been turbulent ever since a French judge in 2006 accused several close associates of current Rwandan President Paul Kagame of being behind the assassination of Habyarimana.

At the time Mr Kagame was the leader of a Tutsi rebel force which was fighting the Hutu-dominated government.

He has always said that Hutu extremists shot the missiles that brought down the president's plane.

Under current French President Emmanuel Macron, political relations have improved.

Rwanda testing for coronavirus on the streets

Jean Claude Mwambutsa

BBC Great Lakes, Kigali

A driver on the streets of Kigali
Getty Images
The government re-introduced a two-week lockdown in parts of the capital Kigali

Police are randomly stopping people in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, seeking their consent for coronavirus testing.

The exercise kicked off on Thursday morning on some roads and entry points.

Rwandan health authorities say this “will provide factual information about the Covid-19 status in the capital”.

From March, Rwanda has conducted more than 140,000 tests. More than 1,000 have recorded positive results.

Officials in Kigali told the BBC that they will be focusing on morning hours as people go to work and in the evenings as they return home.

Some are however complaining that they are being forced to consent to the testing.

A motorcyclist told the BBC he was forced by police to cooperate, while another said he was “happy to easily get tested on street” and carry on his activities.

Last week, the Rwandan authorities re-introduced a lockdown in parts of Kigali as dozens of cases were confirmed.

Rwanda records coronavirus cases in prisons

Samba Cyuzuzo

BBC Great Lakes

Police officers patrol Kigali
Getty Images
Rwandan authorities re-introduced a two-week lockdown in parts of the capital

Rwanda has reported 72 cases in police detention centres among daily new infections that pushed the total number of cases over 1,000.

This is the first time coronavirus cases have been reported in prisons in Rwanda.

Health officials said the cases were connected to new infections detected in the east of the country.

Last week, Rwandan authorities re-introduced a two-week lockdown in parts of the capital, Kigali, as dozens of cases were confirmed.

Nearly half of all the Covid-19 cases in Rwanda were reported this month.

Most cases were recorded in the east, near the border with Tanzania, and in the south-west near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mass testing has been taking place in the last two weeks.

Gunmen attack Rwandan village near Burundi border

Samba Cyuzuzo

BBC Great Lakes

Gunmen attacked a village in south-western Rwanda near the border with Burundi in the early hours of Saturday.

Rwanda's army said the around 100 attackers arrived from Burundi, but Burundi has denied the accusation.

Rwanda's army said the attackers "intended to kill civilians" in Yanze village and withdrew after clashing with Rwandan soldiers.

Four of the attackers were killed and three others captured, while three Rwandan soldiers were injured, it said.

Burundi's army responded by saying its territory "can’t be a sanctuary for armed elements to destabilise neighbouring countries".

The two East African neighbours have unresolved political tensions since a coup against the late President Pierre Nkurunziza failed in April 2015. He accused Rwanda of having a hand in the plot, but Rwanda denied any involvement.

The five years of tension have hampered trade and cross-border activities between the two countries.

Burundi has a new president who took office last week. Some expect him to normalise relations with the country's northern neighbour.

Rwanda reinstates lockdown in parts of capital

Samba Cyuzuzo

BBC Great Lakes

A general view of a deserted street in Kigali during lockdown
Residents tell the BBC they had little warning

Rwandan authorities have imposed a stay-at-home order in parts of the capital, Kigali, following a rise in new cases of coronavirus.

People living in Gikondo Hill in Kicukiro District, and some parts of Mount Kigali in Nyarugenge district, have been ordered to "immediately stay home for a period of at least 15 days," according to statement from the interior ministry.

The order was announced on Thursday night and many residents woke up on Friday unaware of it. Clarisse Mutamuliza, who lives in Gikondo, was ordered back to her house by police as she headed to work.

"I hadn't seen it in the news, it was announced late last night. I didn't even know there were coronavirus cases in my neighbourhood," Ms Mutamuliza told BBC Great Lakes.

The interior ministry said it reinstated the lockdown "based on analysis by health officials over coronavirus status in Kigali".

Rwanda has in the past seven days recorded 204 new cases, 21 of them in Kigali.

Most of the recent cases were recorded in an eastern town bordering Tanzania, and in another western town bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The East African nation became the first in sub-Saharan Africa to order a total shutdown after confirming its first coronavirus case on 21 March. The restrictions were eased 45 days later, in May.

The country has so far confirmed 850 cases, 385 recoveries and two deaths.

Lorry drivers demand faster coronavirus testing

Ferdinand Omondi

BBC News, Nairobi

Truck drivers are seen near their parked vehicles as they await test results
Long queues at the border have caused delays and made perishable goods go bad

Lorry drivers working across East Africa are demanding faster test results for Covid-19 at border posts and say they are facing severe levels of stigmatisation.

Long-distance drivers are seen as a group which could potentially spread the virus

The rate at which vehicles get cleared for departure is much slower than the rate at which trucks arrive at the border. The result is longer queues and many days of waiting.

The delays have caused truckloads of perishable foods to rot. They also mean additional accommodation expenses for the crew and general disruption of vital supply lines.

The targeted testing started in April, and at its worst, has seen trucks queue for as long as 40km (24 miles).

During the time the drivers wait to get tested or receive their results, they walk freely - crossing between Kenya and Tanzania, eating in local hotels and sleeping on either side of the border. There’s a big concern among locals that the free movement could be spreading the virus.

The truck drivers’ union in Kenya has complained that the targeted testing of its drivers has caused them to be stigmatised; they say some neighbours avoid them, and while on the road, some of them get insulted.

Kenya has enforced heavy restrictions on movement during the pandemic, while Tanzania has a more relaxed approach, which has left the Kenyan side of the border suspicious of drivers coming in from Tanzania.

Read more:

Rwanda woman fighting against expensive periods

Yvette Kabatesi

BBC Great Lakes Service, Kigali

Blandine Umuziranenge shows off one of her pads

Blandine Umuziranenge is determined to make affordable sanitary pads for girls and women in Rwanda.

A packet of 10 pads costs around $1 (£0.80) in Rwanda. Despite the government promising to drop vale added tax (VAT) in December, the prices have not yet fallen.

“I wanted a sustainable, safe and affordable solution for us,” she told the BBC.

Her organisation, Kosmotive, started making reusable sanitary pads three years ago called KosmoPads.

Workers at Kosmotive

“After each use, the pad can be washed and reused. One can last for two years,” Ms Umuziranenge said.

A pack of five sells at between $3 and $6, saving users money over the long term.

Health experts warn there are risks in reusing a piece of cloth during menstruation, but Ms Umuziranenge says the KosmoPads are made with menstrual hygiene in mind.

Production has slowed since the outbreak of coronavirus as the cost of importing materials from China has tripled.

Kosmo pads pack
Dads in Rwanda are taking classes to learn how to be better fathers and husbands
Dads in Rwanda are taking classes to learn how to be better fathers and husbands.

Covid-19 hits bank lending in East Africa

Russell Padmore

Business correspondent, BBC News

Kenya's bank notes

Central banks in East Africa have been cutting interest rates to encourage businesses to borrow, but the strategy is not working.

Companies are holding back from approaching a bank for a loan, amid concerns about the dramatic slowdown in economic activity across the region, caused by restrictions aimed at containing the Covid-19 pandemic.

The banking sector in East Africa has seen demand for credit by the private sector fall since the onset of the health crisis.

Measures like closing borders, banning buses and cars, as well as overnight curfews, have hit business activity by limiting spending by consumers.

Central banks have cut interest rates, to make borrowing cheaper, hoping to encourage people to buy various goods, as well as convince entrepreneurs to take out a loan, to make investments that would boost the economy.

Kenya and Uganda have reduced their benchmark rates to 7% and Rwanda's central bank has pushed its key lending rate down to 4.5%.

However, between March and April, the value of loans issued by banks in Uganda fell more than two thirds to $132,000.

In Kenya banks have been very cautious about lending, after a rise of 11% in the value of non-performing loans. This is lending by banks to customers who are not making repayments.

East Africa’s banks are sitting on cash and their usually profitable business of issuing loans has stalled.