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Catholic Bishops Call for Inclusive Dialogue

By Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

In a communiqué released on 10 September, Burundian catholic bishops call on Burundians to engage in an inclusive dialogue for the great interests of the nation to prevent war.

“We would once again insist on the inclusive dialogue that must be prioritized for the great interest of the nation for blocking the way to all those who opt for the path of war,” Burundi catholic bishops said.

They said Burundians have suffered so much from war casualties and no responsible citizen can accept that the country plunges once again into war. “Everyone knows that disagreements between politicians have resulted in mutual exclusion, killings and assassinations,” they said.

They also said this situation has forced many Burundians to flee the country to neighboring countries where they live in terrible conditions. “Among them there are politicians, law enforcement and security officials, economic operators and leaders of various civil society organizations,” they said.

Bishops said that Burundians cannot work together to build their homeland together since some are forced to stay abroad. They called on all Burundians to join their forces to build a better country. “Those who are in power or those who seek to conquer it and ever all Burundians are like travelers who share the same road.

Everyone needs the contribution of the other, “according to the bishops of the catholic church in Burundi.

They said they fear if the inter-Burundian- dialogue is delayed, the problems the country is facing will become more complicated.

On 6 September , Burundian Ombudsman, Edouard Nduwimana announced that the last round of the inter-Burundian dialogue of Arusha, led by former Tanzanian President, William Benjamin Mkapa will be held by October. He said the people prosecuted in Burundi will not be invited to this peace talks.

Burundi has plunged into a violent political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced a controversial run for a third term, which he won in contested elections in July 2015. Since then, a dialogue between the Burundi Government and the opposition has been demanded by the UN, AU, EU, EAC and other partners to restore peace. A proper dialogue never took off. A series of meetings organized by the EAC that Burundi’s leaders committed to -but failed to attend- initially.

Burundi

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How Land ‘Surveyor’ Ended Up Taking 1,000 Acres From Family

By Ali Twaha

On Friday last week, SWAIB YIGA appeared before the Catherine Bamugemereire-led commission of inquiry into land matters.

Yiga is accused of torture, masquerading as a surveyor, compromising government officials and fraudulently grabbing more than 1,000 acres of land from beneficiaries of the late Yokobo Lukwago’s estate in Nakaseke district.

During cross-examination by Ebert Byenkya, the commission’s lead counsel, Yiga denied any wrongdoing as he explained how events unfolded. Ali Twaha captured the proceedings.

Byenkya: My lord, I had just reminded Swaib that he took oath in Luweero district. Mr Swaib, you have been attending a number of hearings since you testified.

Yiga: Yes, my lord.

Byenkya: Since you testified, we have had a bit of evidence regarding various matters. We heard a surveyor, [Francis Barungi], who helped you in sub-diving and surveying. We have heard some members of Yakobo’s family that you dealt with. We have heard from the bibanja holders, the OC police station at Kapeeka.

Others are Ssekalogo Godfrey who was arrested for apparently taking maize from your firm; Steven Mukumbya who says you committed an act of torture when you accused him of stealing. There are a lot of witnesses. Before I ask you, is there any matter that you want to say first in response to all these testimonies?

Yiga: I request this commission to be very impartial and handle this issue carefully.

Byenkya: Is there anything you want to say in particular to any witness testimonies?

b I have carefully listened to the surveyor’s evidence touching the matter. But it’s unfortunate that he [Barungi] has told so many lies to this commission.

Among them is denying that he has [ever] received money from me. Before we started the job in Balitira and Naluvule, we had an agreement. At Naluvule, we agreed with him that he will do the job at Shs 50 million. I first paid Shs 42 million. After carving off Naluvule land, he stopped working and demanded for his balance first. I used to pay Shs 20,000 for his accommodation and I have all the receipts to prove it.

Byenkya: So, you have all those receipts?

Yiga: I have not come with them today.

Byenkya: Make a note and provide those receipts. Regarding the money you said you paid him as professional fees, do you have any receipts for that?

Yiga: No, I don’t. But I gave him that money in the presence of six witnesses including the LC-1 chairperson of Senda.

Byenkya: So, you don’t have receipts?

Yiga: We didn’t make one.

Byenkya: Is it true when Barungi describes you as a broker?

Yiga: It’s true, my lord.

Byenkya: We have been listening to testimonies and it seems that you go around presenting yourself as a surveyor.

Yiga: I have never done that. In fact, that’s why I brought [Barungi] because he knows everything. When I get a job, I bring in technical people.

Byenkya: Were you here when Simon Lwanga [heir to late Lukwago’s estate] was testifying?

Yiga: Yes, my lord.

Byenkya: We were told that you were introduced to them by Ssentongo in the capacity of a surveyor.

Yiga: Ssentongo found me in the company of surveyors, who were working on some land.

Byenkya: Let’s go to a survey report by Survey Tech. According to the report Barungi presented, he said initially he had instructions to open up Block 292 and 273. Are you familiar with those two blocks?

Yiga: Yes, my lord.

Byenkya: It transpired that his report was purely about Block 292. What happened to 273?

Yiga: That’s another lie. Because he is the same person who opened the boundaries of Block 273.

Byenkya: It seems the Administrator General doesn’t know about it. Since you know about it, what happened?

Yiga: We agreed that Block 292 is not inclusive. Block 273 is in Kapeeka sub-county. The land title was not available at the moment…

Byenkya: And in whose name was Block 273 on the blue page?

Yiga: [The late] Lukwago.

Byenkya: So, it belongs to the estate of Lukwago?

Yiga: Yes, my lord.

Byenkya: What happened to that land?

Yiga: We were told that we should survey the land and make titles and transfer them from the blue page to the white page.

Byenkya: And who gave you those instructions?

Yiga: We agreed with the beneficiaries of Eriasaf Ssali.

Byenkya: How big is Block 273?

Yiga: I don’t remember. But the titles were made.

Byenkya: In whose name is that title?

Yiga: In the names of the Administrator General. It was later transferred to the names of Simon Lwanga and Edith Ssali.

Byenkya: Do you own any part of Block 273?

Yiga: Not currently. But I had been promised part of that land, around 15 acres.

Byenkya: What were the particulars of the title that came out?

Yiga: On Block 273, there is Plot 12 and 29.

Byenkya: And you say you cannot remember the sizes of those two plots?

Yiga: I can’t remember.

Byenkya: Since they are on the blue page, it was in the name of Yakobo. How did it end up with the children of Eriasaf Ssali?

Yiga: Those children, after surveying their land at Balatila, they were supposed to get 185 acres plus 44 acres. However, the land they got was measuring 135 acres. And they were supposed to get the other land in Kapeeka.

Byenkya: Are you saying it’s in the Administrator General’s name? Because our evidence indicates the land was not revealed to her.

Yiga: That title was transferred and it belongs to the children.

Byenkya: Was it through the Administrator General or did you do your own arrangements?

Yiga: The Administrator General.

Byenkya: You also heard us discuss Plot 188, the 400 acres. The surveyor testified that initially, the residue of land of Yakobo at Balatila was 1,418 acres.

Yiga: I don’t remember the acres. On the 400 acres, I got the chance to see the file while at the DSSI. We found out that Wamala’s signature had been forged and I photocopied that file.

Byenkya: That doesn’t answer the question. The land on the blue page was still in the name of Yakobo. Whether they were forged documents, they were not affected.

Yiga: That’s not the way it was.

Byenkya: But this is your surveyor, Mr Barungi. It’s the report you gave to the Administrator General. So, had the 400 acres been transferred because they were still on the blue page, in the names of Yakobo?

Yiga: It was in the names of Robert Wamala and Joyce Namugambwa. And that file was to carve it off to the white page.

Byenkya: The 400 acres; is it the one you told the family you had recovered?

Yiga: That land had a lot of controversies involving one Badru, who claimed ownership. There were other buyers I heard about… After a long fight with them at Bukalasa land office, they accepted defeat and gave up on the land.

Byenkya: So, you then asked to be given extra payment for helping solve the dispute?

Yiga: I was given land and an agreement was made.

Byenkya: And how much did they agree to give you?

Yiga: According to the agreement, they gave me 75 acres. When we got to the Administrator General, they requested that I reduce the acreage by five acres, which I accepted much as the agreement states 75 acres.

Byenkya: So, this 400 acres was supposed to be paid after you recovered that land?

Yiga: They were satisfied with what I had done to get that land.

Byenkya: I am reading from the report: “That land became Plot 188.” Isn’t it?

Yiga: I don’t remember, my lord.

Byenkya: I am telling you. This is a survey report you presented to the Administrator General. And it says Plot 187 was measuring 1,003 acres. And then Plot 188 acres measuring 415.43 acres. Is that true?

Yiga: Yes, my lord.

Byenkya: According to the report, 188 was sub-divided further as follows; Plot 203, Plot 204, Plot 205, and Plot 206. And a certificate of titles of 203 was issued on July 23, 2015 for 100 acres. And they say, 70 acres was given to Swaib Yiga and counsel Kawalya.

Yiga: That report was not true.

Byenkya: But this is the report that you presented with your partner to the Administrator General?

Yiga: That surveyor is technical [person]. I am not technical.

Byenkya: When you say, the report is not true. Why is that?

Yiga: Because there was a balance of 30 acres and I had taken 70 acres.

Byenkya: Yes, that is what I’m talking about, the 100 acres…

Yiga: The 30 acres were given to the children of the late Catherine Nagawa.

Byenkya: You have admitted to getting 70 acres, what was not true?

Yiga: Since the surveyor made that report, I have never seen that provision.

Byenkya: Anyway, I’m more interested in you and Plot 188. Who owns Plot 204?

Yiga: The family sold that Plot to Mr Daniel Kasoma.

Byenkya: I have a list here, and when you look at the inventory, it says, Plot 204 was sold to Swaib by Nampewo Jessica and Namugambwa. Are you sure you are not the owner of Plot 204?

Yiga: I am sorry. Kasoma bought 205.

Byenkya: Somehow 204, which had no title, ended up in your name?

Yiga: I only bought off 204 from the beneficiaries and I have the agreements.

Byenkya: When did you buy that?

Yiga: On January 16, 2017.

Byenkya: What I am wondering about is; this is your survey report. According to the surveyor, you are partners. On that day, when you were reporting to the Administrator General, you told her that only one title had come out. And these other plots you didn’t mention them.

And then, immediately, the Administrator General transferred to you those titles even without the other titles being accounted for. What happened?

Yiga: It’s true, I was given Plot 203 but the other two plots I have never been given.

Byenkya: Which other plots?

Yiga: Plot 204 and 206.

Byenkya: On my list, it says “taken by Swaib, Plot 206 measuring 102 and 744 acres” it seems you also ended up with that title. Are you sure, if we check, the title of Plot 206 is not in your name?

Yiga: Plot 206 is not in my names.

Byenkya: You know that it’s very easy to trace these divisions and transfers in the land office. That’s why I want you to stick to the truth.

Yiga: The titles I have from that Plot is 244 and 249.

Byenkya: Let me give you some other plots and see whether they are not in your name. How about Plot 237?

Yiga: That one is in my names.

Byenkya: Plot 204.

Yiga: I have not transferred it yet.

Byenkya: But you’re in the possession of the title?

Yiga: The title is there.

Byenkya: Plot 205.

Yiga: That one too, but not yet transferred into my names.

Byenkya: Plot 236, with 17 acres.

Yiga: I bought it from Jessica Nampewo and Namugambwa.

Byenkya: Plot 245.

Yiga: It’s in my names measuring 135 acres. I bought it from the beneficiaries of the late Eriasaf Ssali.

Byenkya: Plot 247.

Yiga: I bought it from Nampewo Jane, the eldest daughter of the family.

Byenkya: Plot 248.

Yiga: I don’t remember that one.

Byenkya: Do you have part of Plot 200 bought from Ssali Wamala?

Yiga: Yes, but it hasn’t been carved off. He still demands some money from me. I bought 29 acres.

Byenkya: Plot 242 of Lwanga.

Yiga: I bought it.

Byenkya: Plot 243, with 29 acres.

Yiga: I bought it.

Byenkya: Plot 244.

Yiga: It is mine.

Byenkya: It says here you received it as a surveyor.

Yiga: That was for the work of surveying the land.

Byenkya: But you’re not a surveyor.

Yiga: But I facilitated that job. It was not an easy job.

Byenkya: I’m just concerned on what you and Barungi were contracted to do. This estate used to have 1,418 acres of land. Is that correct?

Yiga: I don’t remember very well.

Byenkya: It’s in your survey report. How many of those acres do you own?

Yiga: It is about 1,000 acres.

Byenkya: So, you’re sitting on more than two thirds of the property and the beneficiaries are complaining. How is it possible that it’s only you who buys their land?

Yiga: They tried to source for buyers but I’m the only one who had cash available.

Byenkya: Do you know a young man called Steven Mukumbya?

Yiga: Yes, I do.

Byenkya: How do you know him?

Yiga: On April 10, 2015, I was in Kampala. I was called by Kiggundu [my worker] and he told me there was trouble on the farm.

Some three days ago, I had deducted salaries from my employees for theft of my properties. I told them that I won’t make losses yet I paid them to take care of the farm. The workers resolved that they will search for a thief. I don’t know what happened after that. I think they locked him [Mukumbya] up in the house; all that I was being told, my lord.

Byenkya: Did you know him?

Yiga: Yes, Mukumbya never attended school.

Byenkya: Was he your employee?

Yiga: I used to see him on the farm.

Byenkya: So, it’s possible he was your employee?

Yiga: He wasn’t my employee. Even in my records, I don’t know if he exists. I saw him when he was caught.

Byenkya: So, what happened to him when they brought him to you? Do you know how old he is?

Yiga: I don’t know.

Byenkya: He is 15 years old now.

Yiga: I just heard that today.

Byenkya: When you saw him, how old did you think he was?

Yiga: He’s not that old. I warned my workers not to beat that boy.

Bamugemereire: Why were you saying that? Were they beating him and you could hear it?

Yiga: No. I told them I’m driving back. I instructed Kiggundu to keep an eye on Mukumbya not to be hurt. When I arrived, I found him up a tree.

Byenkya: Who had told him to be on the tree?

Yiga: It was Kiggundu. Before he could climb down, I first asked him, if he had stolen. He replied to me that “Yes, I stole your things.”

He said he had one phone at home. But the second one, he had sold it to his brother at Shs 10,000. I told him to climb down. His uncle and some villagers were around.

Byenkya: Was the name of his uncle Jackson Kinene?

Yiga: Yes, he also sold me four acres of land.

Byenkya: Did you put him in your car boot?

Yiga: I can’t do that.

Byenkya: How did you take him?

Yiga: I told him, Kiggundu, and his uncle to get inside and we drove off up to the chairperson of Kabira because he is in charge of his area of residence… The chairman told me he was fed up of Mukumbya’s behavior. He said that Mukumbya had just been accused of ‘raping’ a pig.

Bamugemereire: Is that why you also chose to touch his genitals?

Yiga: I didn’t. I am a Hajji!

Bamugemereire: Then explain to us why the child is in that state?

Yiga: My lord, I am speaking the truth. I have children too. I can’t get pliers and squeeze someone’s genitals.

Byenkya: But you know that’s what he has accused you of?

Yiga: I was told. I can’t do something that terrible. I ask that the boy be taken to a good hospital and checked. If there is evidence that I tortured him, only then, will I be answerable.

Byenkya: Did you report the case?

Yiga: I always report things. If his mother was not sure that her son stole my things, she would not have agreed to pay me.

Byenkya: Do you know that she had to sell her cow for Shs 900,000 to pay you?

Yiga: I dint know about that. I only wanted my compensation for the loss.

Byenkya: Evidence before us shows you tortured this compensation from the boy and the mother.

Yiga: I have never done that.

Bamugemereire: Mr Swaib, this evening, you will go with my police and show us whether you made a statement at police. If the statement is there, they will let you go. If it’s not there, they will take you to Wandegeya police and you make a statement. Thank you.

Uganda: Shs 30bn Lent Out Through Mokash

By Our Reporter

MTN Uganda says it gave out Shs 30bn in loans through MoKash, a product where customers can save and borrow through their phones.

MoKash was launched in August 2016 in partnership with Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA). It works on their mobile money platform.

“Since the launch of MoKash a year ago, 2.5 million customers have enrolled onto the service,” said the MTN press statement.

At least 1.2 million people are active users. Mobile money customers borrow up to a maximum of one million and the minimum is Shs 3,000. One can save on the platform from as low as Shs 50 to Shs 1 million.

MoKash is being seen as an intervention in easing access to cheaper credit, and deepening saving levels, although the amounts remain relatively small. Through MoKash, customers are also relieved of the burden of the paperwork that financial institutions ask for when processing loans.

Already, mobile phone subscribers are borrowing money through airtime and data. The average interest rates on these products is about 12 per cent.

As much as Shs 2.5tn is transacted through mobile phones monthly, according to official figures. This makes mobile money one of the fastest-growing platforms for money transfers.

Uganda

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The Secret Behind Rwanda’s Successful Vaccination Rollouts

analysisBy Agnes Binagwaho

The best medical treatment option in the world can’t save a single patient unless it is delivered at the proper time, with the proper plans and processes in place.

That’s why implementation science for health matters. It can best be described as a collection of principles that, if applied, will ensure the best possible health care is delivered to a specific community. It involves using evidence-based research to identify the obstacles to delivering health services, and the best ways to overcome them. The research must take into account things like geographical limitations, the social and economic make up of a community as well as cultural practices. Once established for one community, the methodology can be reused in others.

Through my own experience – as an academic and as former health minister of Rwanda – I am convinced that, unless we adopt this approach we won’t be able to achieve universal health coverage and other United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. This is particularly true for Africa where health services are stretched because of a lack of resources.

If we incorporate efficient, evidence-based practices into our service delivery models in Africa we’ll save millions of lives, as well as millions of dollars.

A vaccination programme rolled out in Rwanda illustrates what I mean.

The Rwandan example

In 2011 Rwanda began a vaccination programme for human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. 33 countries had rolled out vaccination programmes, but few of them were in developing countries and none were in Africa.

In 2010, when we were preparing our first campaign, Rwanda seemed an improbable candidate for achieving near-universal HPV vaccination coverage. After all, we were ranked the 15th poorest nation in the world. International skeptics argued that developing countries couldn’t manage because of their weak scientific base, poor infrastructure, economic difficulties and overemphasis on curative, rather than preventative, medicine.

At the time even the developed world had achieved only moderate coverage of HPV vaccinations. The US had less than 35% of its adolescent female population fully vaccinated, and France also had a low coverage. If countries like this couldn’t realise HPV universal vaccination roll-outs, how could low and medium income countries manage?

But we weren’t deterred. We convinced HPV vaccine producers to ignore the global disapproval by presenting our evidence-based strategy of how we would roll-out a programme across the country. They listened, and then signed a public private partnership agreement, which funded the programme.

Despite the seemingly impossible odds, Rwanda achieved 93% HPV vaccination coverage within a year of initiating the campaign. The coverage level has been maintained ever since

What is the secret to Rwanda’s success? The answer is simple. We put our trust in implementation science.

Implementation science in action

For the rollout we collected evidence, adapted distribution methods to our setting and set clear targets and outcomes.

Every step of HPV distribution was evidence-based. To analyse the cultural implications of our program, the Ministry of Health conducted a series of interviews and discussions with community members. We set up a task force which included all stakeholders – religious, educational, political, parliamentary, and community leaders – and designed a strategy of nationwide community education to spread awareness of cervical cancer, the benefits of the vaccine, and the proper time to receive it. Since almost all types of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus, it was important first to explain the link with cancer.

Using the same focus groups, we developed a method of defining and reaching the target population. Since HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, we wanted to vaccinate girls before they became sexually active. The task force researched the proper age bracket for this. Its conclusion was that a school-based vaccination scheme of 12-year-old girls would be most effective. Over 97% of female Rwandan pre-teens are enrolled in primary school and few have sexual intercourse at that age.

Another research component was on the cold chain management. We needed to know how much vaccine to procure, how much storage space and money this would require, how many transport vehicles we would have to mobilise and where to send them. We also drew from our experience in rolling out other vaccination programs to create a rotating decentralized storage system.

Once all the evidence had been evaluated, we put a detailed delivery plan in place. We organised a distribution system to transport the vaccine from the cargo plane, to Kanombe International Airport, to the national warehouse, to the 30 district hospitals, to the 436 health centres – at that time, to the primary schools.

We also collaborated with Rwanda’s 45000 community health workers and all the teachers concerned. They identified girls who were absent from school on the day of vaccination to make sure they were covered too. And teachers were taught how to monitor students in the days after the vaccination so that they could report any adverse side-effects and be a key pillar of the HPV vaccine pharmacovigilance system.

The principles of implementation sciences applied for the success of the HPV vaccination roll-out have been used in other vaccination campaigns. Today in Rwanda we have more than 90% of all children fully vaccinated for 11 vaccines, with an additional HPV vaccine for all girls.

The need for research and education

As Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda we are introducing researchers to implementation science.

Like any science, it requires research. At the moment, the global focus (and therefore global funding) is on clinical research and fundamental sciences. Last year less than 2% of all research grants offered by the National Institute of Health, the largest funder of health research in the world, have been dedicated to implementation science.

But to improve health care we must also invest in implementation research to improve service delivery. Sure, we need basic science to create cheaper, more effective technology. But we also need implementation science to provide cost-effective ways of delivering and promoting universal health coverage.

Disclosure statement

Agnes Binagwaho does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Plan to Instal Device for Phones Has Sinister Motive

The Communications Authority (CA) is not a stranger to controversy. This time round, it has sparked a dispute over a proposal to instal a device onto computer systems of mobile phone operators to detect fake gadgets.

Reactions have come fast and furious, with the accent being that it is intrusive and a breach of the law. But the authority’s chief executive Francis Wangusi has denied this arguing that the objective of the device management system is noble – eradicating counterfeit phones in the market.

Fighting counterfeits is welcome. But that is not the case here. Mr Wangusi is being economical with truth. In fact, by imagining that he can convince the public that the device is harmless and that he is up to a noble goal, he is being too ambitious. The public is deeply appalled and believes there is something sinister.

The mobile phone service providers – Safaricom, Airtel and Orange – who have raised the alarm cannot just be sensational. They know there is a hidden motive behind this device. It is camouflage for tapping into and exposing personal and private information. Since they hold customers’ personal and private information, they are under obligation to keep the privacy and cannot be party to a contrary machination.

The suspicion is not without merit. Evidence shows that given a chance, governments have the proclivity to tap into personal communication to exercise control. Thus, the imperative is to be sceptical at all times and lock out governments from snooping into people’s lives. For ordinary people, the question is: what does the CA want to achieve? If it is purely to detect fake gadgets, aren’t there cheaper systems to do that? Why invest so much when there are easier options?

Respect for and protection of privacy is a constitutional guarantee that a government or any of its agencies must respect. This plan raises fundamental questions as it poses serious threat to civil liberties and hence must be resisted. It cannot be explained away as easily as Mr Wangusi wants us to believe.

Kenya

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East Africa: Experts Call for Early Cancer Screening, Opinion Divided On Better Methods

By Sarah Ooko

As the world marked the World Cancer Day on February 4, this time under the theme “We can, I can,” the appropriate screening methods remained contentious.

This year’s theme encouraged countries to explore how every individual can go through screening to detect cancer early enough to turn the tides against the disease. East Africans marked the day with controversy surrounding recommended screening methods.

Take the Protein Specific Antigen (PSA) test used for prostate cancer test in men, which though commonly used has been dismissed by experts. Studies show that in most people, the test results are misleading. Since prostate cancer is associated with elevated PSA protein levels in the blood, men with higher scores are at times thought to have the disease when they actually don’t have it.

This is because some medicines and other conditions such as inflammation or enlargement of the prostate can also cause elevated PSA levels.

“With all these uncertainties, I fear taking the test as I may end up being treated for a disease that I am not suffering from,” said Michael Otieno, 45-year-old accountant in Nairobi.

Asim Shaikh, an oncologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, said people should not worry about getting wrong results since PSA is just used for screening for prostate cancer but not for diagnosing the disease.

If PSA levels are high, and other possible causes for it have been ruled out, another follow-up test known as a biopsy is conducted to make the right diagnosis.

During this process, tissue samples are extracted from the prostate gland and examined to determine whether they are cancerous or not.

Tests still recommended

New technology is improving the diagnosis process. Among those with elevated PSA levels, a recent Lancet study found that MRI scans can be used to determine those likely to have the cancer, and thus in need of a biopsy, from those that do not require it.

Despite the controversies surrounding them, PSA tests are still recommended for men above 50 who are at risk of the disease. The age reduces to 45 for those with a family history of prostate cancer.

“But in each of these cases, doctors should first inform people about the benefits and disadvantages of the tests so that they go in knowing what to expect,” said Dr Shaikh.

Another bone of contention is the mammogram, which is recommended for early screening and detection of breast cancer for women above 40.

A Dutch study published in Internal Medicine found that one out of every three women with breast cancer detected by a mammogram is treated unnecessarily. This is because some of the tumours it detects are slow-growing and harmless. These are lumps that may never grow to a level of causing the disease in the lifetime of a woman.

“Imagine getting exposed to the radiation that comes with mammogram screening, undergoing surgery and suffering the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for a tumour that may have never harmed you. It can be devastating,” said Mercy Wangui, a mother of two in Nairobi.

Accuracy of screening

Unlike prostate cancer, where early screening with PSA tests does not necessarily improve treatment and survival, early screening of breast cancer with mammograms saves lives, says Dr Shaikh.

“At the moment, the benefits of mammograms far outweigh the disadvantages. So women shouldn’t ignore them.”

He added that the accuracy of the screening technique has also increased with the development of digital mammograms with superior image quality.

VIDEO – Significance of using mammograms in breast cancer screening

Aside from mammograms, ultrasound scans are also used to screen breast cancer. Since the latter method does not use radiation, some women opt for it.

Dr Shaikh notes that one screening method cannot replace the other since each is used for a specific purpose.

He said ultrasound work better for women below 40 because as they are equipped to navigate the dense breast tissue, common among women in this age group, and identify any hidden lumps or tumours.

But for older women with less breast tissue, the mammogram is the ideal screening method.

Despite the rollout of HPV vaccines in most East African countries, Dr Shaikh noted that pap smear tests, which screen for cervical cancer, are still important for sexually active women.

“The vaccine only protects people against a few viruses that cause the cancer. So another virus that isn’t covered can still cause the disease.”

Philip Ouma, patient support manager at Faraja Cancer Support Trust in Nairobi observed that going through cancer screening is not an easy task for most people.

“People therefore need counselling and lots of support or encouragement from friends and families before undergoing any check-ups,” said Mr Ouma.

Don’t Spend Christmas Alone, You Will Die

opinionBy Janet Napio

Last Christmas, I was so in love with me. So much that I spent the day with myself. I know! It is not acceptable. In fact, it is criminal to spend Christmas alone.

I have since repented; I swear I will never do it again. I lied to everyone that I was at the other’s place when in fact, I was home eyeballing the telly.

I felt extremely guilty, not because I had lied, but because I had broken the unwritten law. The one that states: “On Christmas, thou shalt not be by thyself. Thou shalt put on a happy dress and seek out family and friends, honour lunch, dinner and in-between invitations, engage in communal laughing, and eat like you might die if you stop.

The only time you are allowed to spend Christmas and the general holiday season alone is if you are far from family and friends and can’t travel, if you have a contagious disease, or are simply a spoilt Grinch.

It is hard to break tradition. Since we were little, Christmas was a family affair. We stole a tree from a neighbour’s fence, planted it in a bucket and decorated it with toilet paper, balloons and other shiny things whose names I don’t know.

Then our hair was plaited or hot combed, new clothes were bought. On the morning of Christmas, we sauntered to church all shinny in our new plastic shoes, before coming back home to eat all day like little fools. So you see getting together is an age-old tradition.

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows how to cook and has chairs in their living room. So don’t be alone. If no one invites you, invite yourself! Sometimes, you have to be shameless.

But if you choose to gatecrash, make sure you are carrying something, probably food or drinks to add to the menu. That way your host won’t be mad that you have gatecrashed.

Christmas is not the time to have ‘me time’. Save all that philosophical yada yada for later.

So what if you don’t believe in the Christmas story, it’s still a season to relax and catch up with family and wear those weird t-shirts to work, without anyone pointing fingers.

Enjoy, mix, mingle, eat, and drink. Be happy, at least force a smile, the heart usually catches up after sometime.

Don’t get worried about Christmas presents. After all it is not compulsory that you should receive or get.

But woe unto you who are stingy and yet you love to receive. Or you who gives worn-out clothes, with holes in the armpits and dirty collars and shriveled shoes as Christmas presents.

May the Grinch that stole Christmas kidnap you.

Well, me I am still in love with myself, so much that I intend to share some of me with my family and friends this Christmas.

There shall be no lie-telling this time but lots of communal teething, eating and drowning in drink (milkJ). Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Rwanda: Student Turns Mushroom Growing Into a Cash Cow

opinionBy Lydia Atieno

When I visited her, she was packaging mushrooms that she had just harvested from her small backyard garden. Pascaline Uwineza, a resident of Nyamabuye sector, Muhanga District in Southern Province, says the enterprise started as a hobby, but she later realised she could earn a living from growing mushrooms as a business.

The 25-year-old student says the family backyard and some little start-up capital was all she needed to set up the project. Uwineza says mushroom growing is a low-cost investment that brings in big returns.

The third year student at Akilah Institute of Women in Kibagabaga, Gasabo sells most the mushrooms while some are for home consumption.

Starting out

Uwineza says she was inspired to venture into agribusiness by her entrepreneurship studies at Akilah, adding that it empowered her to find ways of creating employment instead of looking for jobs in other people’s companies.

She says being from a humble background, she was determined to turn around her fortunes and support her family and young siblings who were also in school. Uwineza says she had previously sold snacks to fellow students and teachers during her first and part of second year at college.

She also opened a savings account with a Muhanga-based co-operative called CPF Ineza. She says she used the little proceeds from the snacks business to start up the mushroom project early this year.

“Because I had little capital, I started with 50 tubes of mushroom in April this year. I also used old and unused cradle as a garden. Since this was quite small in terms of production, I could only sell to neighbours initially,” she says.

At the beginning of the project, she used to harvest about 5-10kg, “which was far below the demand from customers.” Uwineza says this presented her a huge challenge, which she capitalised on to expand her enterprise. She says she withdrew Rwf200,000 she had saved with the co-operative to expand the business.

“With this money, I was able to expand the mushroom growing space. This enabled me to plant 500 tubes, up from the previous 50 tubes of mushrooms,” she says.

Uwineza says mushroom tubes can go on producing for up to three months before replanting fresh ones. The young entrepreneur notes that the development was a turning point for the project as it helped her serve all her customers and expand market reach, and reap big returns in the process.

One kilogramme of mushrooms goes for Rwf2,000. Uwineza produces over 40kg per harvest, earning about Rwf80,000.

Uwineza distributes most of her mushrooms to Lamina Supermarket and St Andrew Hotel both in Muhanga satellite city. She also gets orders from Kimironko and Nyarugenge markets in Kigali.

Rwf2 million boost

During the third year, students at Akilah are supposed to come up with fundable business ideas for their final year projects under a programme dubbed as “From idea to action”.

Uwineza says she took advantage of the opportunity to present her oyster mushroom project, thanks to the Akilah Entrepreneurship Fund (AEF). The fund allows finalist students to pitch business ideas at various levels of the entrepreneurship contest. Five top students compete in the finals.

Uwineza says her mushroom project enabled her to make the cut “since I already had what to present during the various levels of the contest”.

“It was an opportunity for me to present my dream business plan that was already underway. The competition, however, helped me to do more research on my idea and develop it further,” she says.

Having made it to the top five, Uwineza says she used her earlier knowledge and experience in mushroom growing, especially on the availability and demand of mushrooms in the country, to convince the judges at the finals and bag the Rwf2 million grand prize.

“I am now planning to expand the enterprise further and open new markets, especially in Kigali and Huye.

Achievements, plans

From her earnings, Uwineza is able to support her family and siblings. She says she is now able to meet her financial needs at college, thanks to earnings from the mushrooms project.

She has also empowered other youth in her community, teaching them how to grow and market mushrooms. She says after completing college in December, she will focus on the project, particularly value-addition to mushrooms to increase their shelf life. She also plans to start making her own tubes instead of buying other farms, as well as expand the project further to grow more than 2,000 tubes of mushrooms to ensure steady supply.

Challenges

The success of the project has not come on a silver platter. Uwineza says juggling studies and work has always been a big challenge. She says she is able to sail through due to her determination to prosper despite the odds against her.

“Since I am a boarding student, I work on my farm mostly during weekends. However, when I have no classes during weekdays, I take off time to go and work on the farm. These schedules have made it possible for me to manage the two tasks with ease,” she says.

She says she has not been able to meet demand to supply all her customers’ orders. She however says with the Rwf2 million prize money, she will soon solve the issue. Though demand is still high, the crop’s prices are not always stable, and Uwineza says this and high transportation fees from Muhanga to Kigali are affecting her returns.

Advice

The young entrepreneur says to stay ahead of competition, one needs to research regularly about their sector, noting that there are always new trends and ways of doing business.

As an entrepreneur, being ready to take risks and handle challenges is the key to business success, she adds. Seeking advice from the experts is essential, according Uwineza. She advises aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly the young and women, to start with the little money they have and work on expansion later.

“Youth should also aim at job-creation but not to wait for white collar jobs,” she says. She adds that there are many government and NGO programmes that support young entrepreneurs, which Rwanda youth especially graduates can exploit to start up their own business ventures and employ other youth.

Rwandans Urged to Embrace Bamboo Farming

Rwandans have been called upon to embrace planting of bamboo trees as a culture to safeguard the environment and improve socio-economic status of the populace and the nation as a whole.

Eng. Coletha Ruhamya, the director-general of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), made the call, yesterday, as the World marked the Bamboo Day.

The World Bamboo Day was established on September 18, 2009, at the 8th World Bamboo Congress held in Bangkok. Since then, people and businesses from around the world use this day to raise awareness on the benefits of bamboo and to promote its use in everyday products.

The day represents an opportunity to raise awareness and understanding of bamboo and to improve and promote the use of bamboo and bamboo products for the sake of the environment and economy.

In a statement, Eng. Ruhamya observed that bamboo provides a rich means of livelihood and life improvement for communities.

“We are encouraging Rwandans to adopt bamboo as a way of promoting a safe and sound environment and better living conditions,” she said.

“By embracing bamboo growing culture we would be heavily contributing to the protection of our natural resources and our environment and of course we would be setting ground for a strong bamboo industry with a high economic potential.

Eng. Ruhamya also urged private sector actors to invest in the bamboo sector.

Bamboo is a valuable resource with vital ecological, commercial and socio-economic importance, according to experts.

It is widely used to control erosion, in paper and rayon manufacture, construction, architecture, engineering, handicraft, food and medicine across the world.

The plant is also credited with abilities to sequester 30 per cent more carbon than other tree species and releases 35percent more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees.

REMA urged Rwandans to adopt bamboo culture to boost their welfare and contribute to environment protection.

The Government of Rwanda promotes bamboo growing, particularly in its efforts to protect riverbanks and degraded areas. REMA is one of the institutions that have heavily invested in bamboo culture for their environmental and economic potentials.

In Rwanda, it is estimated that bamboo plantations cover 4,381 hectares of land, about 1.82 per cent of the total national forest cover.

Rwanda

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New Rules for Gaming Sector

By Kayitesi Kaven

Rwanda has introduced new standards in the gaming sector to be implemented by the end of this year.

Already, a temporary suspension of gaming across the country has been in place following a public outcry in July this year.

“We want to develop specific standards especially for the premises where gaming activities will be carried out as well as the kind of slot machines to be used. The gaming law currently in place only addresses this issue in general but there are no specifics,” said Jean Claude Mushimire, head of the Services Industry Development Policy at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

“The temporary slot machines were suspended after we discovered that some operators were operating in unauthorised premises that allow easy access to persons under 18, which is illegal,” he added.

Tax law

Having kicked off in 2004, the trade is a cashcow, contributing significant amounts to revenue, especially after the introduction of the gaming tax law.

“Since the law came into force in 2012, this industry has contributed more than Rwf1 billion ($1.2 million) to the economy,” said Mr Mushimire.

The gaming tax law requires betting companies as well as telecom firms to pay 13 per cent of their earnings from gaming and promotions, while a withholding tax of 15 per cent is levied on a player’s winnings.

“Sports betting is the most popular; with as little as Rwf300 ($0.37), one can place a bet on their favourite football team today and wake up a millionaire tomorrow,” said a gambler.

“Betting should only be done for fun and not as a full-time economic activity, and while business is booming for us, we expect people to be responsible,” said a manager at Lucky Bets Rwanda.

Rwanda

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