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DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeastern region

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one

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DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeast region
Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

The military in DR Congo said on Tuesday that sixteen militiamen have been killed in the northeastern part of the country, an area where ethnic violence has left at least 160 dead and forced hundreds of thousands to flee in the past two weeks.

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one.

“At the moment, operations are concentrated around the Kpadruma locality where there is violent fighting,” Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a provincial army spokesman, told reporters.

He said;

“The soldiers of the armed forces of the DRC have chased attackers from several localities which they were occupying and sowing insecurity.” 

He also added that four AK47 rifles were recovered.

Lieutenant Tshikudi did not reveal the name of the group that was targeted, but there have been repeated outbreaks of violence between different ethnic groups in that area.

Between 10 and 12 June, there was a flare-up in violence in the Djugu region in DRC’s volatile Ituri Province which led to the deaths of at least 160 people, local authorities said. Earlier death tolls put the figure at somewhere between 50 and around 70.

The UN refugee agency has voiced deep concerns over the developments, which it said had seen “multiple attacks” involving the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups since early June.

The agency has said the recent wave of violence in the area has forced more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, with “large-scale displacement” reported in three of Ituri’s five administrative territories, with people fleeing unrest in Djugu territory especially.

The region which is known to be rich in gold, has experienced extreme violence before, with deaths numbering tens of thousands due to clashes between the Hema and Lendu form the periods of 1999 to 2003.

The DRC counts an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people. Ituri and North Kivu province, just to the south, are battling with a major epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since August last year. Both provinces are in the eastern part of the DRC, where the country shares its border with Uganda.

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East Africa News & Stories

The battle for women’s rights in ‘new’ Sudan is not yet over

We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” – Amani Osmane

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She may have spent 40 days in jail for demonstrating against President Omar al-Bashir who has since been toppled but activist Amani Osmane says the battle for women’s rights in Sudan is far from over.

Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.

Osmane, who is also a lawyer, was detained on the evening of January 12 and escorted to “the fridge”, a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold.

“There are no windows, nothing, just air conditioning at full blast and the lights on 24/7,” she told AFP.

The fridge is part of a detention centre run by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in a building on the Blue Nile that runs through Khartoum.

Dozens of activists and political opponents of Bashir’s regime have passed through what NISS agents cynically refer to as “the hotel”.

Osmane, who spent 40 days behind bars after a frigid seven hours of questioning, said she was arrested “contrary to all laws… because I stand up for women in a country where they have no rights”.

Another activist, Salwa Mohamed, 21, took part each day in protests at a camp outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum that became the epicentre of the anti-Bashir revolt.

Her aim was “to have the voice of women heard” in a Muslim country where she “cannot go out alone, study abroad or dress the way I want”.

Student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement after a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car went viral on social media.

Portraits of Salah — dubbed “Kandaka”, or Nubian queen, online — have sprouted on murals across Khartoum, paying tribute to the prominent role played by women in the revolt.

‘We will no longer wait’

The unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead.

Doctors linked to the protest movement say that 246 people have been killed since the nationwide uprising erupted, including 127 people on June 3 when armed men raided the protest camp in Khartoum.

On Wednesday, protesters and the generals who took over from Bashir finally inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since his fall three months ago.

The accord stipulates that a new transitional ruling body be established, comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.

A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.

“We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” said Osmane, stressing that women wanted 40 percent of seats in parliament.

Amira Altijani, a professor of English at the all-female Ahfad University in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, said: “This movement is an opportunity for women to have their voice heard.”

For Osmane, Bashir “hijacked” sharia laws for three decades to oppress women.

“But a new Sudan is rising, with a civilian government that will allow equality,” she said.

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Political party delays creation of new state in Ethiopia

The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity

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The unofficial green, blue and red flag of the advocated region for the Sidama ethnic group

An Ethiopian political party pushing for the creation of a breakaway region said Thursday it was prepared to go along with new plans for a referendum announced by electoral officials. Leaders of the Sidama ethnic group in southern Ethiopia had planned to unilaterally declare their own federal state on Thursday – a move analysts warned could inflame Ethiopia’s political crisis and lead to bloodshed.

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regions. The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity within a year of them requesting it. The Sidama have agitated for years to leave the diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region of which they are a part, and create their own state.

The group – the largest in the state – said the deadline for the referendum was Thursday. However, Ethiopia’s election board said this week it would hold a referendum before the end of the year. It said it had not received the referendum request until November 2018, meaning it still had several months to hold the vote.

Though the Sidama Liberation Movement political party earlier said a referendum held after July would be unacceptable, spokesman Desalegne Mesa said Thursday that the party would accept the new timeline in the interest of peace.

“We agree to that point because even if the electoral board and the (ruling coalition) are ignoring the people and the constitution we are working to minimise the loss of life,” he said. “Our young people are calming themselves and staying at home. They have to get ready to prepare our referendum programme.”

It was not clear whether the party’s new stance would be endorsed by everyone in Hawassa, where residents said the streets were quiet Thursday morning and the security forces had ramped up their presence.

Many young people who had agitated for the creation of a new state are “not happy” with plans for a November referendum and people are wary of how they might react, one Hawassa resident told reporters. “If nothing is happening people may come out later,” the resident said. “I think most people are just staying at home for the time being.”

The Sidama issue is the latest headache for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is determined to reform the nation after decades of an iron-fisted rule but is facing ethnic violence in the diverse country that has displaced more than two million people.

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Rwanda raises travel alarm to neighbouring DR Congo over Ebola case

The case was detected in Goma, a city of around one million that is separated by a border crossing in western Rwanda.

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Rwanda raises travel alarm to neighbouring DR Congo over Ebola case
(File photo)

Rwanda’s health ministry on Monday urged citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a case of Ebola was discovered in a city straddling its border.

The case was detected in Goma, a city of around one million that is separated by a border crossing from the town of Gisenyi, in western Rwanda.

Goma is the biggest urban hub to have been affected by Ebola since an outbreak that has killed more than 1,600 people began in DR Congo’s North Kivu province last August.

READ: DR Congo urges calm after Ebola outbreak in Goma city

The crossing between Goma and Gisenyi is one of the most traversed in the region, with thousands making the journey back and forth each day.

The health ministry said while no cases of Ebola had been detected in Rwanda, it was vital that citizens played their part in helping prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

“The ministry of health reminds citizens and residents not to make unnecessary border crossings and travels to areas in neighbouring countries where Ebola has been reported,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We also advise that citizens and residents should not provide unnecessary accommodation to travellers who are coming from areas of neighbouring countries where Ebola has been reported.”

Health Minister, Diane Gashumba, who visited towns along Rwanda’s western frontier on Monday, said the government “would not close the border” but would bolster monitoring of those coming in and out of DR Congo.

READ: Ebola death toll tops 1,600 mark in DR Congo

Almost all the victims in this outbreak — the second-worst in Ebola’s history — were from DR Congo.

Two people who crossed from DR Congo into Uganda also died in June, but that country has now declared itself Ebola-free. 

Experts fret when a contagious disease occurs in a city, where contact, mobility, and anonymity make it far harder to contain an outbreak than in the countryside.

The Goma patient was described as a pastor who had been on a trip to Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the outbreak in North Kivu.

There, he preached at seven churches and regularly touched worshippers, “including the sick,” the country’s health ministry said. 

His symptoms first surfaced last Tuesday, it said.

Ebola spreads when humans touch the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids.

READ: Kenyan authorities say Ebola case is a “false alarm”

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