Sources

When Land Shortages And Poverty Force A Nation To Turn To Cremation

In Rwanda, where 60% of people live below the poverty line and land is scarce, burying the dead comes at too high a price. A new bill before Parliament would introduce cremation, a totally novel concept in this country.

A grave site in Rwanda (elisa finocchiaro)
A grave site in Rwanda (elisa finocchiaro)
Venant Nshimyumurwa

KIGALI - To reduce the cost of funerals and conserve arable lands, the Rwandan government plans to introduce cremation, a custom that is totally foreign to Rwandan culture.

The prices of tombs in Rwandan cemeteries are exorbitant for the poor seeking to bury their dead. "In Kigali and elsewhere, people sometimes have to abandon their dying family members out of fear that they won't have enough to pay for the funeral," says a villager. In Rusororo, a town 20 kilometers from Kigali, a funeral costs from $25 to $1,500 depending on the size of the grave and the materials used.

Moreover, cemeteries take up space in arable lands that aren't cultivated. Yet, the country has over 390 inhabitants per square kilometer -- over 800 in some areas -- and farms are getting smaller and smaller (an average 0.2 hectares in the more populous north of the country). But farmers have to wait at least 20 years to cultivate cemeteries once they have stopped being used. "Some families believe the land where their family members are buried is sacred, and prefer to keep it uncultivated," explains an Eastern villager.

To fix these problems, the Rwandan parliament is mulling a law on the organization and operation of cemeteries, and the introduction of cremation as an alternative to burial.

"The State will create a columbarium where cinerary urns can be kept. Cremation has advantages: it is cheaper and less cumbersome," says an official at the general secretariat of the House of Representatives.

"Even if Rwandans usually bury their dead in tombs, in the future they will have to cremate their family members, whether they like it or not," asserts a member of parliament.

"Brutality of incineration..."

Many Rwandans won't want to be present at the cremation of their family members. "The violence and brutality of incineration are unbearable. In order to respect the human body, which is God's work, when a man dies, you have to bury him," believes Anaclet Kayitare, a Catholic from Kigali. An opinion he shares with this woman from the southern province, who says "cremating a dead person is like mutilating him or her."

Resistance to cremation, which was institutionalized in Asia by Buddhism and Hinduism and is widespread in Europe, is due to the fact that it is totally absent from Rwandan culture and that the population was not consulted on the subject.

Legislators also want tombs to be built with light materials. For the representatives, those used today -- cement, stone, metals -- not only push costs up but also pollute and take a long time to decompose. "You can easily tell the rich from the poor in a cemetery," says a Gasabo villager. The tombs of the rich are built durably, with tiled walls and written inscriptions for identification.

In rural areas, until recently, it was possible to bury your dead at home or on private land. The new law would make it illegal to bury someone anywhere else than in a cemetery or places of worship.

Read the original article from Syfia in French.

Photo - Elisa Finocchiaro

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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