A freight train derailed in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo early Thursday, killing stowaway passengers who were riding on it, in the latest rail tragedy to strike the nation, officials said.
But in a chaotic situation, estimates of the death toll varied widely, from 10 to a hundred.
“Another disaster! Derailing at 3 am (01:00 GMT) in Tanganyika (province) near Mayibaridi. Provisional toll: 50 dead and several injured,” the minister for humanitarian action, Steve Mbikayi, said in a tweet.
In contrast, the provincial governor, Zoe Kabila, who is the brother of former President Joseph Kabila, issued a tweet that said, “Correction… provisional toll 10 dead, 30 injured and three railcars overturned.”
But witnesses at the scene and local media feared a hundred people could have been killed.
Victor Umba, the union head of the national rail company SNCC, said the freight train was travelling from the town of Nyunzu to the town of Niemba when two railcars fell on their sides, crushing many people underneath.
“Those who died in this derailment were stowaways. It is impossible for the SNCC to provide any kind of toll,” Umba told reporters.
He added that the SNCC’s chief was in the provincial capital of Kalemie trying to find a way to raise the carriages.
“It seems that many stowaways are trapped under the derailed carriages”.
Railways in the DRC have a poor record for safety, hampered by derelict tracks and decrepit locomotives, many of them dating from the 1960s.
In March, at least 24 people were killed and 31 were injured Sunday when a freight train carrying illegal passengers crashed in the central region of Kasai.
In November last year, 10 stowaways were killed and 24 injured near the eastern town of Samba when the brakes failed on a freight train.
In November 2017, 35 people were killed when a freight train carrying 13 oil tankers plunged into a ravine in southern Lualaba province.
Like many state companies in DR Congo, the SNCC is on the brink of bankruptcy.
After Kabila stepped down in January, its employees urged his successor, Felix Tshisekedi, to pay months of back wages. Its former head Sylvestre Ilunga is the country’s current prime minister.
Ex-health minister arrested for embezzling Ebola funds in DR Congo
Ilunga, who resigned as health minister in July, was detained while hiding in an apartment in Kinshasa
Former DR Congo health minister Oly Ilunga has been arrested over allegations he embezzled public funds to tackle the Ebola epidemic, police said on Saturday.
Ilunga, who resigned as health minister in July after being removed as head of the country’s Ebola response team, was detained while hiding in an apartment in the capital Kinshasa ahead of a bid to flee the country, officers said.
He is in custody due to “misdemeanors of the mismanagement of funds allocated to the Ebola response,” police spokesman Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu told AFP.
Ilunga will be referred to prosecutors on Monday, he added.
It comes after Ilunga was questioned in August as part of an inquiry into the management of funds to fight the outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives since August 2018.
Ilunga, 59, had already been banned from leaving the country.
He stepped down after criticising plans by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) to introduce a new, unlicensed vaccine to fight the epidemic.
His lawyer told AFP in September that some payments had been made to local chiefs after the killing of a WHO doctor in April.
More than 200,000 people have been vaccinated during DR Congo’s tenth and most serious Ebola epidemic.
It is the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.
2 journalists arrested in Equatorial Guinea for interviewing a suspended judge
Melanio Nkogo and Ruben Dario Bacale were picked up a week ago after broadcasting an interview with a judge, Nazario Oyono
Two journalists working for a private TV station in Equatorial Guinea are being held by police after they interviewed a suspended judge, sources told reporters on Wednesday.
The country has one of the world’s worst records for media rights, ranking 165th out of 180 on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Raul Obiang, head of news for Asonga TV, said journalists Melanio Nkogo and Ruben Dario Bacale were picked up a week ago after broadcasting an interview with a judge, Nazario Oyono.
Oyono was suspended on August 21 by the President of the Supreme Court for “irregularities.”
The pair are being held in the central police station in the town of Bata, Raul Obiang said.
He quoted the deputy head of security there as saying the two were being held because “they did work they shouldn’t have done.”
RSF called on the authorities to free the pair, adding that their arrest “shows the extreme vulnerability of journalists” working in Equatorial Guinea.
It recalled the case of noted cartoonist Ramon Nse Esono Ebale, who was jailed for five months before being released in March 2018.
Asonga is the only privately-owned TV and radio station in Equatorial Guinea, which has been run by iron-fisted President Teodoro Obiang Nguema for 40 years.
The station’s owner is his son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang, who many say is being groomed for succession.
Denis Mukwege launches fund for victims of sexual violence in DR Congo
Mukwege, who has been campaigning for such a fund since 2010, made the announcement in a statement from Bukavu
DR Congo’s Nobel peace prize laureate Denis Mukwege on Sunday announced the October 31 launch of a “World Fund” to compensate victims of sexual violence during armed conflict.
Mukwege, who has been campaigning for such a fund since 2010, made the announcement in a statement from Bukavu, in eastern DR Congo, issued by his Panzi Foundation, which is named after the hospital he runs there.
“We will continue to seek justice throughout the world for the victims, tracing a redline against impunity,” wrote Mukwege. Mukwege was the joint winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work helping victims of sexual violence committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He shared the 2018 award with Nadia Murad, the activist from Iraq’s Yazidi minority who campaigns for the thousands of women and girls abducted, like herself, by the Islamic State group in 2014.
In his statement, Mukwege said he hoped to be able to extend the treatment programme developed at Panzi Hospital to other countries hit by conflicts, such as the Central African Republic, Burundi and Iraq.
Mukwege said 20 years after the creation of Panzi hospital, they had treated more than 55,000 victims of sexual violence.
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