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Uganda: DR Congo Refugees Escaping Violence Risk Spreading Ebola to Uganda

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People fleeing violence in an Ebola-hit region of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are being forced to cross the border illegally into Uganda, risking the virus spreading into the neighboring East African nation, aid groups said on Friday.

More than 60,000 people in Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Beni region in North Kivu province have left their homes since the latest wave of armed attacks began on March 30.

While some have found legal refuge in Uganda, others are being used as human shields by armed groups who prevent them from reaching official border points to be registered, screened for Ebola and given sanctuary.

Uganda will continue to keep its doors open to refugees as this is our policy. We must allow those people who need refuge to come to Uganda, but we must also be vigilant not to compromise the health of the people of our country.

As a result, some displaced people are forced to cross illegally into Uganda – trekking through dense forests or taking boats across a shared lake – raising the risk of the virus spreading undetected.

“These unofficial crossings are placing people in search of refuge at an increased and totally unnecessary risks of sexual exploitation and abuse,” said Francis Iwa, executive director of Care for Forced Migrants (CAFOMI), a Kampala-based charity.

“Once they enter Uganda, they also are avoiding official immigration procedures and registration as refugees – which means they may not be screened for Ebola and will be unable to access the very services prepared to assist them.”

CAFOMI is one of 18 charities, including Oxfam, Action Against Hunger, Care, Catholic Relief Services, Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children, warning Congolese and Ugandan authorities of a potential humanitarian crisis.

Musa Ecweru, Uganda’s minister for disaster management and refugee affairs, said surveillance teams and authorities along the border were on red alert for suspected cases of Ebola.

“Uganda will continue to keep its doors open to refugees as this is our policy,” Ecweru told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Kampala.

“We must allow those people who need refuge to come to Uganda, but we must also be vigilant not to compromise the health of the people of our country.”

Congo’s Beni region has been at the epicentre of an Ebola outbreak since August 2018. It has infected an estimated 1,495 people and killed 984 in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

The outbreak of the virus, which causes severe vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding, is the second largest behind the 2013-16 West African epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people.

Attacks by armed groups on civilians, Congolese soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers have hampered efforts to contain the epidemic.

Congolese officials blame rebels from a Ugandan Islamist group in the area for dozens of attacks that killed hundreds of civilians over the past five years.

Independent experts say other factions and Congolese soldiers are also responsible. The charities said tens of thousands of displaced people were trapped between Uganda and Beni by armed groups.

“The fighting makes it very difficult, if not impossible sometimes, for our teams to reach some of these areas of displacement,” said Dana Hughes, East Africa and Great Lakes regional spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

 


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24 Hours Across Africa

Inter Milan cancells pre match conference ahead of Fiorentina clash

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Inter Milan cancelled a pre-match news conference on Saturday after what it called an “offensive letter” about manager Antonio Conte was printed in Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport.

The Serie A club said the letter, submitted by a reader, was accompanied with a comment from one of the paper’s journalists “justifying its aggression”.

“In order to send out a message to all media outlets that they must ‘guarantee respect for people’, there won’t be a press conference today,” the club said.

Inter were eliminated from the Champions League on Tuesday, losing 2-1 to a young Barcelona team to finish third in their group behind the Spanish giants and Borussia Dortmund.

In the letter, a Bologna fan said that he “enjoyed seeing the great Inter outclassed by Barcelona B”, who had shown Inter’s “worn-out” coach how to play football.

The fan added that although Conte has won a lot of games in his career, he has “never shown a good game” and despite spending more than 150 million euros (£125m), Inter could not beat Slavia Prague and lost to Dortmund in the Champions League.

A journalist added a comment to the letter, saying that Inter have “thrown away the Champions League and maybe the rest too” by loaning striker Mauro Icardi to French side Paris St-Germain.

The journalist added: “No Icardi, No Party”.

Earlier this month, Roma, along with Inter’s rivals AC Milan, announced they would not work with Corriere dello Sport until January in response to the paper using the headline ‘Black Friday’ accompanied by images of Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling.

Corriere dello Sport defended the “innocent” headline in a comment piece on its website, saying it was a way to celebrate diversity.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Thailand: Thanathorn call for protest against possible ban

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Thai opposition party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit called for a peaceful protest on Saturday after asking supporters to mobilize in the face of a possible banon his Future Forward party.

Thanathorn, 41, has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of the government headed by former junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, 65, since elections in March that the opposition said were manipulated to favor the army.

“We reject all of violence, be it from the demonstrators or be it from government officials”.

“We believe that it’s time for the people who will not tolerate any more the NCPO regime to show themselves, to show their willingness to participate in politics,” he said, referring to the name of the former junta, The National Council for Peace and Order.

The call by Thanathorn for supporters to mobilize has revived memories of the spasms of protest in Bangkok over the past two decades of turbulent politics that were interrupted by coups in 2006 and 2014.

Thanathorn said he did not want to revive those disturbances or to call protests like those that have rocked Hong Kong this year.

Police in the Bangkok district to which Thanathorn has called his followers to gather said they had not received a request for a gathering in line with a law on public meetings, but have not said they would try to block it.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters it was inappropriate to organize a demonstration towards the end of the year.

Thailand’s election panel has asked the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Future Forward Party, accusing it of infringing laws governing political parties by accepting multi-million dollar loans from its leader Thanathorn.

Last month, the Constitutional Court found Thanathorn guilty of holding shares in a media company on the date his candidacy was registered for the election, disqualifying him as a member of parliament. Thanathorn disputed the ruling.

On Saturday, Thanathorn signed an agreement with six parties in an opposition alliance to push for changes to the constitution that was drawn up by the junta before the elections.

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