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Special Report

Leading UK University Soon Setting Up Office In Rwanda, Under Fire Over “Sexual Predators”

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Coventry University, one of the leading Universities in the UK, is undergoing pressure to investigate and prosecute or dismiss members of its to leadership for allegedly involving themselves in what sources describe as “sexual exploitation.”

The university, according to press reports in the UK, “is facing calls for an independent investigation into sexual misconduct claims against a senior leader after it emerged key witnesses have not been contacted by its internal review.”

The Times of UK published a story on January 5, saying that “Coventry is investigating allegations that Gary Armstrong, an associate pro vice-chancellor, had an inappropriate relationship with a young woman during student recruitment trips to Kenya in 2010 and 2011. He was exonerated by an internal inquiry in 2011 and has “vehemently denied” any wrongdoing.

The article is here.

In November 2020, Taarifa learnt that Coventry University is about to set an office in Rwanda. The institution has plans to open an office in Kigali in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

Gary Armstrong

Meanwhile,  in undertaking our research, we came across a rather disturbing story from several years ago which was originally published in Kenya.

We learnt that one of the University’s administrators had been accused of being a “sex-tourist” while working in Kenya on behalf of Coventry University.

Gary Armstrong was pictured (see photos below) with a number of young girls in a range of compromising positions. The story suggested that he gave small amounts of money to the families of the girls in what seems to be an abusive and sexually exploitative relationship.

 

For many sources we contacted, to verify the authenticity of the allegations, they said This kind of behaviour is all too common in Africa by such kind of so called “expats”.

Taarifa contacted the university’s leadership via email for comment. The University dismissed the allegations and demanded that to comment Taarifa would first provide evidence, share material and all details we have.

One of the University’s administrators threatened to sue Taarifa.

“We must inform you that under English law, the publication of unsubstantiated allegations is likely to constitute defamation. We understand that the law is similar in Rwanda and so, in circumstances where you are refusing to provide further information or documentation, we must reserve our position to seek Rwandan legal advice and take appropriate action,” said Keith Perry in an email.

Keith Perry is the Assistant Director, Group Communications and External Affairs, Marketing and External Affairs of the University.

In The Times’ article, it is reported that Coventry University’s handling of the claims “led a senior MP to question a loophole that exempts universities from scrutiny by the charity regulator, despite enjoying charitable status.”

According to the UK’s publication, “The allegations resurfaced in November and the university, which earned £120 million last year in international student fees, has launched a “rigorous” new inquiry. The Times understands that university officials who were in Kenya with Mr Armstrong, have not been asked for their accounts.”

“I was never contacted by the 2011 inquiry either, in fact until I read about it in The Times I didn’t know there had been any inquiry,” one is quoted as saying.

Apparently, the new inquiry is being carried out under university whistleblowing procedures, which the University insisted we go through to submit the information we have, “yet John Latham, the vice-chancellor, told staff not to talk to the media.”

Coventry’s branch of the University and College Union said earlier this month that the investigation should be handed over to an external reviewer. A statement is quoted saying that, “Without transparency there can be no confidence in the vice-chancellor.”

Latham, who ignored all our emails, is accused of of desperately seeking to use all possible means to increase student numbers, especially international students, and thus reason to set up office in Rwanda.

Latham, who has the burden to defend his lavish salary of £368,000 as vice-chancellor, according to media reports, “has created a “bloated” management team of 24 senior figures including four deputy vice-chancellors, nine pro vice-chancellors and five associate pro vice-chancellors.”

Meanwhile, Armstrong has confirmed to UK press that he indeed gave money to “a woman called Flora.” Gary’s brief bio is here.

He is quoted saying that, “I vehemently denied the allegations of misconduct and continue to do so. I will continue to co-operate fully with the ongoing investigation.”

Anonymous sources told Taarifa that Rwandan parents must worry of their children’s safety if some of the university’s recruiters are sexual predators. “It is scary,” a source told Taarifa. “The University is one of the most respected in the UK, but it seems that its credibility must be questioned when it comes to this subject matter, especially recruiting students in Africa.”

“We are aware Rwanda is a friendly country towards investors, but it also is one of the countries that doesn’t tolerate sexual abuse, definitely this will get complicated,” another source knowledgeable about the the matter spoke to Taarifa under strict anonymity.

Meanwhile, the University has not yet responded to any queries from Taarifa.  However, it issued a statement to the press in the UK saying, “For the investigation to be conducted in a timely manner, the investigating officer has set a timetable for the initial collection of any information or evidence. The investigation will be rigorous.”

CORONA VIRUS

She Was Demoted, Doubted And Rejected. Now, Her Work Is The Basis Of The Covid-19 Vaccine

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(CNN)Covid-19 vaccines are starting to roll out in several countries, a momentous breakthrough that hopefully signals a light at the end of this dark pandemic. For Katalin Karikó, the moment is particularly special.

Karikó has spent decades of her career researching the therapeutic possibilities of mRNA, a component of DNA that is considered to be one of the main building blocks of life.

Through multiple setbacks, job losses, doubt and a transatlantic move, Karikó stood by her conviction: That mRNA could be used for something truly groundbreaking. Now, that work is the basis of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Karikó, 65, began her career in her native Hungary in the 1970s, when mRNA research was new and the possibilities seemed endless. But the call of the American dream (and more researching and funding opportunities) took root.

In 1985, she and her husband and young daughter left Hungary for the US after she got an invitation from Temple University in Philadelphia.

They sold their car, Karikó told The Guardian, and stuffed the money — an equivalent of about $1,200 — in their daughter’s teddy bear for safekeeping.

“We had just moved into our new apartment, our daughter was 2 years old, everything was so good, we were happy,” Karikó told the Hungarian news site G7 of her family’s departure. “But we had to go.”

She continued her research at Temple, and then at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. But by then, the bloom was off the rose of mRNA research, and Karikó’s idea that it could be used to fight disease was deemed too radical, too financially risky to fund. She applied for grant after grant, but kept getting rejections, and in 1995, she was demoted from her position at UPenn. She also was diagnosed with cancer around the same time.

“Usually, at that point, people just say goodbye and leave because it’s so horrible,” she told Stat, a health news site, in November. “I thought of going somewhere else, or doing something else. I also thought maybe I’m not good enough, not smart enough.”

From doubt to breakthrough

But she stuck with it.

Eventually, Karikó and her former colleague at the University of Pennsylvania, Drew Weissman, developed a method of utilizing synthetic mRNA to fight disease that involves changing the way the body produces virus-fighting material, she explained on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

That discovery is now the basis of the Covid-19 vaccine, and some have said both Weissman and Karikó, now a senior vice president of the Germany-based BioNTech, deserve a Nobel Prize.

“If anyone asks me whom to vote for some day down the line, I would put them front and center,” Derek Rossi, one of the founders of pharmaceutical giant Moderna, told Stat. “That fundamental discovery is going to go into medicines that help the world.”

While recognition, after all of this time, must be nice, Karikó says scientific glory isn’t what’s on her mind right now.

“Really, we will celebrate when this human suffering is over, when the hardship and all of this terrible time will end, and hopefully in the summer when we will forget about virus and vaccine. And then I will be really celebrating,” she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Karikó said she plans to get the vaccine soon, along with Weissman, and she said she’s “very, very confident” it will work. After all, it was their discoveries that contributed to it.

In the meantime, Karikó said she allowed herself a little treat to celebrate the vaccine news: a bag of Goobers, her favorite candy.

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Special Report

How Israel Airforce Can Attack 3000 Targets in 24hours

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On Tuesday at noon, something absolutely wrong happened- an Israeli jet fighter was shot down by the Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon. The Israelis summoned all their airpower might into action.

In a simulated situation, the entire air force is scrambled to participate in a broad offensive against Lebanon, including attacks against infrastructure such as bridges, power plants and airports spanning 24 hours.

During the drill, the IAF proved its ability to strike at 3,000 Hezbollah targets within a 24-hour period.

“We practiced defending Israel’s skies against cruise missiles and operating our active [aerial] defense system against the rockets that they will want to use to target air force bases and densely populated areas,” a senior IAF officer said.

“We practiced attacking high-value targets in quantities in a way we never did before,” the officer added. “It was 24 hours with more than 3,000 targets attacked, causing severe damage to the operations of the enemy.”

Despite the limitations imposed by the covid-19 pandemic, about 85% of IAF personnel participated in the exercise, which involved all branches, including technicians, ammunition officers and reservists, who were called up to participate.

One of the main tasks simulated was achieving air superiority over Lebanon. This was achieved by destroying all elements that could threaten Israeli aircraft, including antiaircraft launchers, especially in southern Lebanon and Beirut, where Hezbollah has its headquarters.

Two weeks ago, Hezbollah tried to shoot down an IAF drone over Lebanon. The surface-to-air missile missed, and the drone continued its reconnaissance mission, the IDF said at the time.

While the drill focused on Hezbollah and Lebanon, the IAF considers the North as a single front and understands that Hezbollah also operates in Syria and that Iran is present throughout what is referred to as the “Shi’ite Crescent,” spanning Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the senior officer said.

“We look even further east, but we operate there only in response to [incidents],” he said. Lt.-Col. S., commander of the 201st Squadron that flies the F-16I and participated in the drill, told local media his unit practiced a wide range of missions, including collecting intelligence and using many types of munitions in attacking multiple targets.

“This drill demonstrated a response to a mistake the other side made,” he said. “It shows the enemy what the air force will do in response to an attack on a fighter jet.”

During the 60 hours of the exercise, the entire staff of the squadron, including pilots and technicians, practiced loading and unloading different types of munitions onto and off of their fighter jets, all of which participated in the drill, S. said.

“We’re talking here about lifting munitions weighing tons… We basically did everything we will do in a war, except actually flying to the operational area, and dropping the bombs,” he said.

Another aspect of the exercise was getting the participants into the mood of the drill and hoping that reservists, who are considered a vital element in the air force, drop their day-to-day lives and attend.

“On Sunday morning we got the call that the drill is starting,” S. said. “It caught us by surprise. We changed all our plans and started operating in war mode.” “People who planned to be with their loved ones on Valentine’s Day had to cancel the plans,” he said.

“Our reservists who planned on going to work on Sunday and Monday had to call their bosses or their colleagues and tell them they couldn’t come.”

“But above all, it was a mental exercise,” S. said. “Just after the lockdown and the uncertainty, people understood that this is what they have to do, and they attended the drill.”

Jerusalempost

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Special Report

World War II Veteran Denied ‘Kagame Cow’

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Epimaque Ngashotsi aged 101 is one of the few living distinguished Rwandans that have a remarkable contribution to Rwanda’s liberation and the defeat of the Nazi regime in Germany. Taarifa visited him for a casual conversation.

The 2-meter-tall World War II veteran and Inyenzi fighter with an acute memory, now lives a humble life with his two granddaughters in remote Kamamesa village in Gatsibo district.

“I was born in 1920 at Gahini village part of present day Kayonza district,” Nyagashotsi told Taarifa from the comfort of his home on a Sunday afternoon.

Growing up through an entire century, Nyagashotsi says that his main food has been beans, potatoes, sorghum bread and large amounts of milk.

In 1941, Nyagashotsi was a very energetic young man and vividly remembers when he was enlisted into Britain’s colonial King’s African Rifles under the 7th Battalion. He was sent to Nairobi, Kenya for World War II- a conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during 1939–45.

Nyagashotsi was fighting on the side of Britain against a tyrannical Adolph Hitler of Nazi Germany that sought to conquer the world.

At the end of World War II, Nyagashotsi was decorated with a service medal and returned to Rwanda.

The World War II veteran married in 1952 and later had his first child- a girl in 1953. He was hard working and had managed to raise 50 cows.

From 1959 to 1961, the situation in Rwanda was tense with extreme ethnic violence targeting the Tutsi- some political analysts describe the period as a Social Revolution which saw the country transition from a Belgian colony and a monarch to an independent republic.

The revolution began in November 1959, with a series of riots and arson attacks on Tutsi homes and forcing hundreds of thousands into exile.

Nyagashotsi remembers that Parmehutu militia wrecked havoc across the country as they hounded every Tutsi they came across.

A helicopter hovered over villages and dropped match boxes so that the Parmehutu militia would set ablaze homes of Tutsi families.

“My house was burnt, cows looted and eaten by Parmehutu militia,” he says, adding that he fled immediately and crossed to Uganda just like other 336,000 Tutsi that fled to neighbouring countries and living there as refugees.

Exiled Tutsi refugees restless for an immediate return to Rwanda, were split between those seeking negotiation and those wishing to overthrow the new regime.

“I was bitter that the extremists had grabbed the country from us. I was determined to fight and rescue my country from the extremists,” Nyagashotsi sharply recounts the tense period that saw pooling of exiled refugees leading to the creation of an armed militia known as ‘Inyenzi‘.

In late 1963, the Inyezi launched an attack that approached the capital Kigali. The extremist Parmehutu government fought back and defeated these rebels and killed thousands of the remaining Tutsi in Rwanda. The defeated rebels retreated into Uganda and there was no more threat.

“King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa found us at Kazinga and told us that we were not strong enough for a fight against the government forces. He told us to instead train the youth and mobilise them to liberate their country,” Nyagashotsi explains adding that he actively took part in the attacks against government but were defeated because of poor weapons and lack of war skills.

Indeed in the 1990’s refugee youths grouped under the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army attacked and forced the government into negotiations. But inside the country, a genocide against the Tutsi was being executed leading to the killing of more than a million Tutsi before RPF took control and stopped the Genocide in 1994.

The King’s African Rifles (KAR) was a multi-battalion British colonial regiment raised from Britain’s various possessions in East Africa from 1902 until independence in the 1960s. It performed both military and internal security functions within the colonial territories, and served outside these territories during the World Wars.

A message to President Paul Kagame

The war hero is full of words of wisdom. He also has a message for the president.

“I would thank him very much for his leadership. I fought for this country, am an old man now and am very poor. You should come to my rescue. This is what I would tell President Kagame,” Nyagashotsi noted.

Nyagashotsi was listed by local authorities among those that would benefit from the one-cow-per family program. He has never received this cow and thus feels devastated.

He told Taarifa that local leaders in his area have repeatedly blocked him from accessing the cow. “My village leader asked for Rwf2,000 to get me the cow. He told me other beneficiaries give him about Rwf20,000 to Rwf50,000 to be put on the list. I refused and told him that in my entire life I have never given or received a bribe.”

With this back and forth chase to get a ‘Kagame cow’ as he calls it, Nyagashotsi is angry at his local leaders, “there is a problem of local leaders, I don’t know whether they have a different government.”

Referring to a parcel of documents, Nyagashotsi says that he has been among those listed for VUP direct financial support from government. VUP is an Integrated Local Development Program to Accelerate Poverty Eradication, Rural Growth, and Social Protection.

“I kept walking about 5 kilometres to the Sector office but was told someone else receives my cash. I complained and one day was given Rwf10,000 and the sector officials promised to remove the person (a wife of our village (mudugudu) leader) and replace my name.”

A bitter Nyagashotsi said nothing was done and nowadays receives nothing, “I have given up on the VUP money and I wish the president may help me one day. I can’t keep walking many kilometers to ask for this money because am now an old man.”

Nyagashotsi Epimaque is a decorated World War II soldier, his medal was burnt in his house by Parmehutu militia in 1959

Patriotism and youth

Nyagashotsi is concerned that the Rwandan youth are reckless and should mind their health. “They are consuming too much crude alcoholic concoctions which affects their health. They need to regulate and eat health food and change their behaviour.”

According to this WW II veteran, the Rwandan youth should consider enlisting in the army to ensure that they guard the country and the progress achieved, “I don’t regret fighting for this country and also mobilized my sons to join the liberation struggle,” Nyagashotsi advises the youth to love their country and be ready to defend it.

Comparing the Rwanda in the early 50s and today, Nyagashotsi could not hide his emotions because for him Rwanda today is “paradizo” (paradise), “in our past, Rwanda was very backward and underdeveloped including violence. Today, we are very safe and the country has greatly developed.”

While, in Uganda, Nyagashotsi was working at Kigungu landing site in Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria- One day President Field Marshal Idi Amin had driven to the site sandwiched by ruthless commandoes. Amin noticed a very tall Nyagashotsi and recognized him because they had all served in the 7th battalion of Britain’s colonial King’s African Rifles.

“Here is a real soldier and my comrade we served together in the KAR in Kenya,” Amin said as he quickly approached Nyagashotsi and hugged him twice and exchanged pleasantries.

“Amin gave me Shs50,000 (aprox U$7000) it was allot of money and was really grateful that the President recognized me,” Nyagashotsi remembers.

Below: Watch full-length video conversation with the centurion Nyagashotsi.

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