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East African Leaders Announce Conclusion of Regional Force Mandate in DR Congo

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During a summit in Tanzania on Friday, East African leaders revealed that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has opted not to renew the mandate of a regional force deployed to address unrest in the volatile eastern part of the country. The East African Community (EAC) initially dispatched troops to the troubled region in November of the previous year in response to the resurgence of the M23 rebel group.

A statement issued after the summit disclosed that the EAC “noted that the DRC will not extend the mandate of the EAC regional force beyond 8th December 2023.” The leaders have directed defense force chiefs from the EAC and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to convene before December 8, “submitting their recommendations on the way forward to the defense ministers for onward transmission to the summit for consideration.”

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While the future of the deployment had been uncertain due to criticism from DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, the EAC had previously decided in September to maintain troops on the ground until the coming month. The eastern part of the DR Congo has been plagued by numerous armed groups, a legacy of the regional wars in the 1990s and 2000s.

The M23, led by Tutsi factions, resumed armed activities in late 2021, seizing territory in North Kivu province. Over the past six weeks, according to the United Nations, 450,000 people have been displaced, with 200,000 cut off from humanitarian aid. The DRC, home to nearly seven million displaced people, has accused neighboring Rwanda, an EAC member, of supporting the rebels—a claim Rwanda denies. The United States, along with other Western countries and UN experts, has also asserted that Rwanda is backing the rebels.

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In addition to the developments in the DR Congo, the EAC admitted Somalia to its grouping during Friday’s summit, making Somalia the ninth member alongside Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

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Hope Alice Birungi, Honored with Black History Month Appreciation Award

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In a heartwarming celebration of dedication and service, Hope Birungi, the esteemed President  of  African Descent Ontario (ADSON) , has been awarded the prestigious Black History Month Appreciation Award. This recognition stands as a testament to Birungi’s unwavering commitment to uplifting communities and transforming lives.

Birungi’s remarkable leadership at African Descent Ontario (ADSON)  has been characterized by a deep-rooted passion for social change and a relentless drive to advocate for marginalized groups. Through her visionary initiatives, she has spearheaded numerous programs aimed at empowering individuals and fostering inclusivity.

From educational initiatives to economic empowerment projects, Birungi has consistently demonstrated a profound understanding of the diverse needs within the community. Her innovative approaches and tireless efforts have touched the lives of countless individuals, inspiring hope and catalyzing positive change.

“We are incredibly proud to congratulate Hope Birungi on receiving this well-deserved award,” remarked a spokesperson for ADSON. “Her dedication to serving others and making a meaningful impact embodies the spirit of Black History Month. Hope’s leadership is a beacon of light, guiding us towards a future where equality and justice prevail.”

Birungi’s influence extends far beyond the borders of African Descent Ontario (ADSON) , resonating deeply within the community and beyond. Her ability to bring people together and foster collaboration has been instrumental in addressing pressing social issues and driving sustainable development.

Reflecting on her achievement, Birungi expressed gratitude for the support and collaboration of her colleagues and community members. “This award is a testament to the collective effort of everyone who has contributed to our mission,” she stated. “Together, we have the power to effect positive change and build a brighter future for all.”

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As Birungi continues to lead with compassion and determination, her impact will undoubtedly continue to ripple throughout the community, inspiring others to join in the pursuit of social justice and equality. Her unwavering dedication serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us all of the profound difference that one individual can make in the world.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions and unwavering commitment to serving the community, Hope Birungi stands as a shining example of leadership, compassion, and resilience. Congratulations once again on this well-deserved honor. Your legacy of impact will continue to inspire generations to come.

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BREAKING: Multiple people shot at Super Bowl parade in Kansas City

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In a shocking turn of events, a shooting occurred at the parade celebrating the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl championship, leaving multiple people injured. Reports indicate that shots were fired near Union Station, where the celebration was taking place, shortly after the festivities concluded.

Eyewitnesses described scenes of chaos as fans in red Chiefs gear scattered in response to the gunfire. Emergency responders swiftly arrived at the scene, with ambulances seen with flashing lights and at least one person spotted on a stretcher.

The shooting cast a shadow over what was meant to be a joyous occasion, with thousands of fans gathered to celebrate their team’s historic victory. Union Station, which had been bustling with excitement just moments before, became the center of a police investigation as authorities worked to secure the area and tend to the injured.

Despite the heightened security measures in place due to the large crowds expected for the parade, the incident unfolded rapidly, catching many by surprise. Police officers rushed to the scene, and two armed individuals were reportedly detained, although details surrounding their involvement remain unclear.

As the investigation into the shooting continues, questions arise about the safety measures in place at public events of this magnitude. The Super Bowl parade, a momentous occasion for Kansas City and its football fans, was marred by this tragic turn of events.

Authorities are urging anyone with information about the shooting to come forward as they work to piece together the sequence of events and identify those responsible. The incident serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of vigilance and security at public gatherings, even during times of celebration.

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The community’s thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the shooting and their families as they navigate this difficult time. As details emerge, the city of Kansas City rallies together in support of those affected by this senseless act of violence.

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Japan Passes Historic Legislation to Legalize Cannabis-Based Medicines

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In a landmark move, Japan’s parliament has approved a bill to legalize cannabis-based medicines, marking a significant revision of the country’s strict drug laws. While this decision opens the door to medical products derived from cannabis, it concurrently reinforces the ban on recreational marijuana use.

The modifications to Japan’s cannabis and narcotics control laws, passed in the upper house on Wednesday, herald the potential end to the prohibition of medical products incorporating cannabis-derived substances. Cannabis-based medicines, containing the active ingredient cannabidiol (CBD), are already employed globally to address various conditions, such as severe epilepsy, making this legislative change a victory for patient advocacy groups.

Nevertheless, the revisions represent a strengthening of Japan’s already stringent cannabis policy. The criminalization of marijuana consumption eliminates a previously existing loophole, which officials partially attributed to a recent surge in cannabis-related arrests.

Prior to these amendments, inhaling marijuana was technically legal, while possession carried a potential jail term of up to five years. The initial loophole was introduced to shield farmers from inadvertent inhalation of psychoactive smoke during hemp cultivation. However, alarmed by the rise in cannabis-related arrests, particularly among young people, authorities decided to close this legal gap.

Under the updated laws, individuals caught using or possessing marijuana may now face a prison sentence of up to seven years. Health ministry statistics reveal a record 5,783 cannabis-related arrests in 2021, with a notable increase among teenagers and individuals in their twenties.

A 2020 police probe into 748 people arrested for marijuana possession indicated that nearly 30 percent cited the absence of penalties for consumption as a contributing factor. “As more and more young people gravitate toward abusing marijuana, we hope this revision will put a brake on the trend,” remarked top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno after the bill’s parliamentary approval.

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While Japan’s CBD market has experienced substantial growth in recent years, reaching an estimated $59 million in value in 2019, CBD products will remain unregulated under the new consumption-focused rule. The regulation will specifically target THC, the psychoactive substance responsible for inducing a “high,” according to a health ministry official.

Japan’s Cannabis Control Act, established in 1948 during the post-war US occupation, is consistent with Asia’s prevailing trend of imposing severe penalties for drug use. Despite global shifts in attitudes toward cannabis, Japan has maintained a steadfast anti-drug stance, epitomized by the “dame zettai” (absolutely not) mantra. This unwavering stance has contributed to the stigmatization of marijuana in the country, with just 1.4 percent of the population reporting having tried marijuana, in stark contrast to figures in France and the United States. Notably, Japan’s stringent anti-cannabis laws have ensnared international figures, such as Beatle Paul McCartney, who faced a nine-day detention in 1980 after cannabis was discovered in his baggage.

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Rukungiri Parish Chief Faces Charges of Forging SACCO Documents and Misappropriating Funds

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Twesigomwe Justus, the Parish Chief of Kafunjo in Nyakishenyi Sub County, Rukungiri District, is confronting charges of forgery and abuse of office for his alleged involvement in misappropriating funds meant for a local Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO).

In late September, the Loans committee of the Parish SACCO approved a list of 75 individuals slated to receive funds. However, on the disbursal day, which occurred on Monday, November 20, 2023, the intended beneficiaries were shocked to discover that several names were missing from the list. To make matters worse, non-members, including civil servants, were mistakenly benefiting from the funds.

Upon investigation, it was revealed that out of the 75 approved members, only 11 actually received the funds. Surprisingly, 46 beneficiaries were from Kanungu and Rukiga Districts, and the funds designated for Kamusiime Vastina were redirected to the account of the Parish Chief, Twesigomwe Justus. Additionally, Twesigomwe forged the signatures of the SACCO Chairperson and secretary. Among the recipients was a secondary school teacher named Rubarema James, and some members alleged they were coerced into paying 50,000 shillings to ensure they benefited.

The SACCO Loans committee, under the leadership of Chairperson Tumukunde Polytazio, promptly reported the matter to the authorities. This led to Twesigomwe Justus being summoned and subsequently arrested at Rukungiri Central Police station. The case is currently under investigation and is documented under file SD REF 26/22/11/2023.

Tumukunde Polytazio has called for government intervention to discipline Twesigomwe Justus and recover the misused funds.

Rukungiri Resident District Commissioner, Steven Nsubuga Bewayo, has confirmed Twesigomwe Justus’ arrest and assured a thorough investigation into the matter. He has also cautioned other parish chiefs against engaging in such activities.

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