This Week in the Great Lakes: Rwanda is obstructing the trade of ... something

A roundup of this week's news from Africa's Great Lakes region, from biofuels in Rwanda to threatened terrorist attacks against Burundi and Uganda by Somali Islamist militias.

Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Africa's Great Lakes region: Bukavu is the capital of the Sud-Kivu province, and is located on the south-eastern section of Lake Kivu, shown in this file photo.

Rwanda is accused of obstructing trade in electro-welded black tubes from Uganda. No word on what those are. Police intercept a car carrying 2.3 million Rwandan francs (nearly $4,000) worth of Hotel Waragi. That one's easier: It's an illegal and “lethal” Ugandan home brew, classified by Rwanda as an illicit drug.

After tapping methane in Lake Kivu, the country gets into the biodiesel game, urging residents to cede arable land to the jatropha tree. “Every family should grow at least 100 trees on his plots, mixed with other crops,” one mayor insists. The climate event La Nina is expected to leave food shortages around the region, after likely flooding in Uganda and drought in parts of Rwanda and Burundi over the next six months.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is $7.35 billion richer – sort of – after The Paris Club of international creditors forgives more than half the country's debt. The United Nations peacekeeping mission builds a 93-mile road, increasing the reported total surface area of roads in Africa’s biggest country by a third.

Under a government ban on mining, minerals illegally plucked from the earth are piling up in South Kivu, according to what I heard this week in Bukavu. American companies are not in fact prohibited from importing Congolese minerals, despite recent legislation on the topic, a Congressional aide clarifies.

Australia defends the visa it issued to a top Congolese minister accused of human rights abuses and who met with four mining companies there. Eight police officers are on trial in Kinshasa for the assassination of a Congolese human rights activist in June.

Peace won’t come through “secret presidential commitments,” says a new International Crisis Group report.

In Burundi, all but one candidate pulls out of the running for ombudsman, five months after all but one candidate pulled out of the running for president. At a summit on Somalia, important people pledge to continue doing what they're doing, and Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza warns the world that Al Shabab attacks on Kampala are only the beginning.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, imprisoned four months ago for an article which raised doubts about Burundi’s ability to fend off an Al Shabab attack in the capital, remains in jail. Police kill three unidentified men in a shootout near the capital.

Jina Moore is a freelance reporter based in Kigali, Rwanda who blogs at

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