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Government official says Ebola patient in Goma has died

The case has sparked deep concern in neighbouring Rwanda

Kathleen Ndongmo

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The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the eastern DR Congo city of Goma has died, the governor of North Kivu province said on Tuesday.

The case – the first in a major urban hub in the region’s nearly year-old epidemic of the disease – has sparked deep concern in neighbouring Rwanda and at the UN.

France meanwhile appointed a top immunologist, Yves Levy, to spearhead its response to the outbreak.

“Unfortunately, I can confirm that the patient died,” the governor of North Kivu, Carly Nzanzu, told reporters. 

The patient has been described as an evangelical preacher who had travelled from Goma to Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the outbreak.

A motor taxi driver gets his hands washed at an Ebola screening station on the road between Butembo and Goma on July 16, 2019 in Goma. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

While there, he preached at seven churches and regularly touched worshippers, including the sick, before taking the bus back to Goma last Friday, the health ministry said.

On his return on Sunday, he went to a clinic with a fever, was diagnosed with Ebola and sent back to Butembo, which is better geared than Goma for treating the disease, it said.

“He died during transfer by road,” Nzanzu said.

‘Potential game-changer’

More than 1,600 people have died from Ebola since August 1, when the haemorrhagic virus erupted in North Kivu and spread to neighbouring Ituri. 

Health experts fear outbreaks of contagious disease in a major city.

In cities, density of population, high mobility and anonymity make it far harder to isolate patients and trace contacts compared to the countryside.

Goma is a border city of about one million people located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, adjacent to Rwanda. 

It has a port that links to Bukavu and South Kivu province and an airport with flights to Kinshasa, the Ugandan capital Entebbe and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

The city abuts the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, and there is a high number of daily border crossings, involving workers and people who have jobs or homes on the other side of the frontier.

A woman gets her temperature measured at an Ebola screening station as she enters the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Rwanda on July 16, 2019 in Goma. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday warned the Goma case was a “potential game-changer” in the fight to roll back the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It said it would reconvene a key panel to see whether the outbreak required a heightened global response. 

Separately, Rwanda said Monday it would step up border monitoring and urged its citizens to avoid “unnecessary” travel to the eastern DRC.

Levy, as a former head of France’s prestigious National Institution of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), is well qualified for his new role coordinating the French response.

His appointment was announced a day after a top UN health official voiced criticism of France’s financial contribution to the Ebola campaign.

“We rely on the government of France for a lot of technical cooperation,” Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, told reporters in Geneva on Monday.

“But as of this moment, WHO has not received any financial contribution from the government of France.”

At the same Geneva meeting, British International Development Secretary Rory Stewart also called on French-speaking countries to do more.

Health workers communicate information about Ebola at an Ebola screening station on the road between Butembo and Goma on July 16, 2019 in Goma. – The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the eastern DR Congo city of Goma has died, the governor of North Kivu province said on July 16, 2019. The case — the first in a major urban hub in the region’s nearly year-old epidemic of the disease — has sparked deep concern in neighbouring Rwanda and at the UN. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

“We need French-speaking expertise and above all we’re going to need a lot of money – into the hundreds of millions of dollars – to really get the depth of response we need.”

The latest epidemic is the second deadliest on record globally. The worst Ebola outbreak, striking three West African countries between 2014-2016, claimed more than 11,300 lives.

People infected with Ebola do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

High fever, weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat are often followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding. In the current epidemic, the mortality rate is running at 66 percent.

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Sudanese ex-President Bashir admits receiving $90 million from Saudi royal

Bashir faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the International Criminal Court

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Sudanese ex-President Bashir got $90 million from Saudi royals -Investigator
Sudan's deposed military ruler Omar al-Bashir stands in a defendant's cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum on August 19, 2019. - Bashir has admitted to receiving $90 million in cash from Saudi monarchs, an investigator told a Khartoum court today. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Omar al-Bashir received $90 million in cash from Saudi royals, an investigator told a court at the opening Monday of the deposed Sudanese strongman’s corruption trial.

The former President, who was forced from power by months of protests in April after 30 years in power, sat in a metal cage wearing a traditional white gown.

His relatives chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) as proceedings got underway in the Khartoum court where he arrived in a huge military convoy.

Bashir faces a raft of charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the International Criminal Court over his role in the Darfur war but Monday’s trial is over graft allegations.

READ: Former president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor

Large amounts of cash were found at this residence after he was toppled and the investigator said the case brought forward to the court probed some of that money.

“The accused told us that the money was part of a sum of $25 million sent to him by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be used outside of the state budget,” investigator Ahmed Ali said.

According to him, Bashir had said he also received two previous payments of $35 million and $30 million from Saudi King Abdullah, who died in 2015.

“This money was not part of the state budget and I was the one who authorised its spending,” the investigator quoted Bashir as saying.

Sudan’s deposed military ruler Omar al-Bashir stands in a defendant’s cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum on August 19, 2019. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Bashir had said the Saudi money was exchanged and spent and that he could not remember how nor did he have documents providing further details, he added.

READ: Sudan to begin trial of former leader Bashir August 17

Bashir looked calm during the nearly three-hour session, which a photographer and correspondent attended. The next hearing was scheduled for August 24.

Darfur crimes –

In May, Sudan’s prosecutor general also said Bashir had been charged over killings during the anti-regime protests which eventually led to his ouster.

London-based rights watchdog, Amnesty International has warned, however, that the corruption trial should not distract from his Darfur indictments.

“While this trial is a positive step towards accountability for some of his alleged crimes, he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty urged the country’s new transitional institutions to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute, a move that would allow for his transfer to the international tribunal.

The Hague-based ICC has for years demanded that Bashir stand trial, and has renewed its call since his fall.

The head of Bashir’s defence team, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, said in July that the ousted leader’s trial had no “political background”.

“It is an absolute criminal case with a baseless accusation.”

It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December that sparked the mushrooming protests which led to the toppling of Bashir by the army in April.

Sovereign Council –

The trial comes as the composition of the joint civilian and military sovereign council that will steer the country of 40 million through a 39-month transition was due to be unveiled on Monday.

The line-up had been expected to be announced on Sunday but it was delayed after one of the five nominees put forward by the opposition alliance representing protest leaders turned down the job.

READ: Sudanese leaders sign historic deal for civilian rule

Sudanese ex-President Bashir admits receiving $90 million from Saudi royal
Sudan’s protest leader Ahmad Rabie (2nd-R), flashes the victory gesture alongside General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (C), the chief of Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), during a ceremony where they signed a “constitutional declaration” that paves the way for a transition to civilian rule, in the capital Khartoum. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

The ruling sovereign council will be composed of 11 members including six civilians and five from the military. 

It will be headed by a general for the first 21 months and by a civilian for the remaining 18 months.

The council will oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration including a cabinet and a legislative body.

The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding the pariah status the Darfur atrocities and Bashir’s international arrest warrant had conferred on it.

Amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable, however, within the protest camp that brought about one of the most crucial changes in Sudan’s modern history.

One of its main causes is the omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a paramilitary commander and one of the signatories of the documents, whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.

And it remains unclear how the transitional institutions will tackle the daunting task of pacifying a country plagued by several conflicts, including in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.

READ: Sudan’s new sovereign council faces delayed unveiling

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Sudan’s new sovereign council faces delayed unveiling

The ruling sovereign council is to comprise six civilians and five military nominees but all the members are yet to be announced

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Sudan's new sovereign council faces delayed unveiling
Sudan's protest leader Ahmad Rabie (C) and General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo "Hemeti" (R), deputy chief of the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), sign documents during a ceremony to sign a "constitutional declaration" that paves the way for a Sudanese transition to civilian rule, in the capital Khartoum on August 17, 2019, accompanied by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L). (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Sudan was expected to form its sovereign council Sunday, the first step after the landmark adoption of a transitional constitution, but the day closed with no announcement.

More celebrations were held on the streets of Khartoum Sunday, a day after rare scenes of jubilation filled the streets of the capital to hail the signing of the documents that will govern Sudan’s three-year transition to civilian rule by generals and opposition leaders.

The ceremony in a hall by the Nile River was attended by several high-ranking foreign officials, the biggest such event in years to be held in the country.

READ: Sudanese leaders sign historic deal for civilian rule

Worldwide congratulations poured in after the signing, which revellers and officials alike hailed as the beginning of a “new Sudan” after 30 years of rule by the now-detained Islamist General, Omar al-Bashir.

“I welcome this historic moment for Sudan. This agreement responds to the demands of the Sudanese people who have tirelessly called for change and a better future,” said Britain’s Minister for Africa, Andrew Stephenson.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo vowed his country would support the establishment of “a government that protects the rights of all Sudanese citizens and leads to free and fair elections”.

According to the green book of documents signed on Saturday, several key steps will be taken before embarking on the long road to 2022 polls.

New institutions –

The ruling sovereign council is to comprise six civilians and five military nominees.

Opposition sources told reporters that five names had so far been chosen, including only one woman, but the six other names had still not been revealed by the close of day.

It was unclear what was holding up the announcement of the council’s full line-up, which was now expected on Monday.

The body, which will replace the Transitional Military Council, will be headed by a military general for the first 21 months, and a civilian for the last 18 months of the transitional period.

Abdalla Hamdok, a former UN economist who was on Thursday picked by the protest camp to be Prime Minister, is due to be formally appointed on Tuesday.

READ: Sudanese protest group nominates Abdalla Hamdok for PM job

A cabinet is then to be formed before Sudan’s new institutions can tackle the main challenges that lie ahead, first among them measures to rescue a moribund economy.

Making the most of a new freedom acquired during eight months of protests — and clashes with men in uniform that left at least 250 dead — Sudanese families took to the streets for wild celebrations Saturday night.

Youths spilling out of honking cars drag-raced down the main Nile-side road deep into the night, while groups sang and danced — the same two words echoing across the entire city: “Madaniya, Madaniya”.

It loosely translates as “civilian rule” and one would be hard-pressed to find somebody on the streets of Khartoum publicly opposing that goal.

Some members of the opposition alliance that organised the protests, however, fear that the euphoria could be short-lived.

Deep distrust remains between the incoming sovereign council’s main players.

Short-lived euphoria? –

While the power-sharing compromise reached earlier this month was widely hailed as the best Sudan could hope for, some members of the protest camp feel it short-changed their revolution.

The omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — a paramilitary commander who was one of the signatories of the documents on Saturday — is one of the main causes of unease.

His forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests and many suspect the man best-known by his nickname “Hemeti” is simply biding his time to pounce on power and nip democracy in the bud.

Sudanese analyst Abdel Latif al-Buni stressed however that one of the most immediate perils facing the transition was a desire for vengeance.

READ: Sudan reach “full agreement” for transition to civilian rule

“A spirit of revenge against the former regime is dangerous,” he said. “It will lead to a clash between the former regime and the new rulers.”

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges for crimes committed in the Darfur region, faces trial on corruption charges but his fate remains unclear.

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North Africa Politics

Libyan Navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body

Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara

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Libyan navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body
(File photo)

The Libyan navy said Sunday 335 migrants had been rescued and one body recovered in separate operations off the coast, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told reporters.

He said they were from Ethiopia and Egypt. 

The rescue came days after Libyan navy patrols on Tuesday “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats northwest and northeast of Tripoli”, Kacem added.

The operations took place off the coasts of the cities of Khoms, 120 kilometres east of Tripoli, and Sabratha, located 70 kilometres west of the capital.

READ: IOM reports over 100 migrants missing off Libyan coast

According to the statement, 128 Sudanese were on the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea, including 35 women and 11 children.

One body was also recovered by the coastguard.

Libya, which has been facing transition crisis since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.

In general, migrants rescued at sea are first met by humanitarian agencies that provide medical care and food.

They are then taken into the charge of the body working to combat immigration at the interior ministry of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

On August 9, the Libyan navy accused the authorities of failing to manage migrants rescued at sea, claiming that it could be forced to let people go free once brought back to land.

READ: From Sudan to Libya, nightmare for migrants continues

Despite the risks, migrants continue to attempt to reach Europe by sea, preferring to take their chances than stay in Libya, where they are subject to abuse, extortion and torture, according to humanitarian organisations. 

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