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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

President Cyril Ramaphosa accused of misleading parliament

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South Africa’s corruption watchdog has accused President Cyril Ramaphosa for deliberately misleading the parliament.

The finding was made at the same time that the country’s former President Jacob Zuma announced he was withdrawing from a separate corruption inquiry.

It’s been a dramatic morning in South Africa as the country struggles to tackle high-level corruption.

First came the news that the former President Jacob Zuma was refusing to continue giving evidence at a public inquiry into the corruption that took place on his watch.

He accused the judge-led inquiry of being biased against him. Judge Ray Zondo disagreed and expressed his disappointment.

Then came a separate announcement from the public protector – a state official charged with exposing corruption.

Busisiwe Mkhwebane said the current president had misled parliament over a donation his election campaign received, via his son.

Mr Ramaphosa insists he knew nothing about the donation at the time.

There is speculation here that the public protector has become a partisan figure – and that a sinister campaign is under way, a fight-back by marginalised elites in the governing ANC, who are looking to seize power.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Iran dismissed U.S claim over destroying their drone

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Iran has deny claims the U.S destroyed one of their drone after U.S. official, stated they brought down Iran’s drone through electronic jamming.

Iran officials dismissed report said by President Donald Trump’s assertion that the U.S. Navy has destroyed one of its drones,

saying all of its unmanned planes were safe, but there was no sign of a major Gulf escalation despite fears both sides could blunder into war.

In the latest episode to test nerves around the strategic waterway, Trump said on Thursday the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards (914 meters) of the U.S. warship Boxer in a “provocative and hostile action” and had ignored several calls to stand down.

“All drones belonging to Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz … returned safely to their bases after their mission of identification and control,” Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior armed forces spokesman, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

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