PHOTOS: 117 Stranded Nigerians Return From Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania

In this photo released by @AzmanAir on August 2, 2020, returnees disembark from an airplane following their evacuation from three East African countries.

 

A total of 117 Nigerians stranded in three East African countries as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have returned home.

They were brought back to the country on Sunday from Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.

The airplane which evacuated the returnees from the three East African countries touched down at about 3am at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

A Nigerian airline, Azman Air, which conducted the evacuation exercise, announced the arrival of the returnees in an early-morning tweet.

 

In line with the guidelines of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on evacuation, the returnees are expected to go into self-isolation for 14 days.

At the end of the isolation period, they are also expected to take another test to ascertain their COVID-19 status before reuniting with the society.

 

US Evacuees Now 1,430

Their return to the country came barely a day after the Nigeria Government evacuated 300 more Nigerians stranded in the United States.

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in a tweet on Saturday, confirmed that a total of 300 citizens were brought back to the country.

 

According to the agency, the evacuation of the new set of returnees who also arrived at the international airport in Lagos via Ethiopian Airlines is the fifth from the US since the government began the exercise.

All the returnees had tested negative to COVID-19 before boarding the flight and would also observe the mandatory 14-day self-isolation as directed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The latest evacuation brings to 1,430 the total number of Nigerians who returned from the US.

Highpoints of the arrival of the stranded Nigerians from the three East African countries are captured in the photos below:

France Opens Probe Into Rwandan Genocide Suspect

A file photo of French President, Emmanuel Macron. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

France has opened a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by a top former Rwandan military official, Aloys Ntiwiragabo, during the country’s 1994 genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.

Anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP Saturday that a preliminary investigation was opened after Ntiwiragabo was found hiding in the suburbs of the city of Orleans, about 100 kilometres south-west of Paris.

French investigative news site Mediapart tracked down the former Rwandan spy chief, who was identified by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as one of the architects of the genocide.

Neither the ICTR, Interpol, France nor Rwanda were actively seeking him now and had dropped arrest warrants years ago.

The revelation of his whereabouts comes barely two months after another suspected genocide architect, Felicien Kabuga, was arrested on the fringes of Paris.

Kabuga, who evaded police in several countries for 25 years, is accused of financing the genocide.

Kabuga had asked for a trial in France, citing frail health and claiming the United Nations court in Africa would be biased against him, and possibly hand him over to Rwandan authorities.

France has long been known as a hiding place for wanted genocide suspects and French investigators currently have dozens of cases underway.

A plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, from Rwanda’s Hutu majority, was shot down in Kigali on April 6, 1994, unleashing the killing spree that would leave mainly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus dead.

 

AFP

Zambia Denies Accusations Its President Sponsored Rwandan Rebels

Zambia’s President, Edgar Lungu, (pictured) was accused of supporting “rebel attacks to remove Rwandan President Paul Kagame from power.

 

Zambia’s government on Tuesday rejected claims President Edgar Lungu had bankrolled a Rwandan rebel leader accused of orchestrating deadly attacks in his country’s border regions.

The claims were made by the rebel chief, Callixte Nsabimana, who is on trial for terrorism and other charges. He has already admitted to working with other foreign governments against Rwanda.

During his latest hearing on Monday, Nsabimana told a Rwandan High court that Lungu had promised his National Liberation Front (FLN) $1 million to help oust the administration in Kigali.

He said Lungu had made a down payment of $150,000 in support of “rebel attacks to remove President Paul Kagame from power”.

Zambia is surrounded by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. It is 1,258 kilometres away from Rwanda. Image: www.distancefromto.net

In a statement Tuesday the Zambian presidency said it “would like to categorically refute these claims”.

It stated “unequivocally that these allegations are false and must be treated with the contempt they deserve”.

“The governments and peoples of Zambia and Rwanda continue to enjoy strong and fraternal relations founded on mutual respect,” said the statement from presidential spokesman Isaac Chipambe.

Nsabimana, also known as “Sankara” has in previous hearings named Burundi and Uganda as supporters of the rebel activities against Rwanda.

The rebel commander is charged with terrorism, treason, incitement violence, murder and kidnap among other charges.

AFP

COVID-19: Uganda, Rwanda Take Delivery Of Mobile Testing Labs From Germany

Forensic experts of the police stand near the site where a shooter, believed to have a personal motive, launched an assault on January 24, 2020 in the town of Rot am See in southwestern Germany. Marijan Murat / DPA / AFP
Forensic experts of the police stand near the site where a shooter, believed to have a personal motive, launched an assault on January 24, 2020 in the town of Rot am See in southwestern Germany. Marijan Murat / DPA / AFP.

 

Uganda and Rwanda have taken delivery of two mobile diagnostic labs to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, the first in a network of German-funded units for East Africa, public investment bank KfW said Thursday.

While the project to procure the labs and train staff has been underway since 2018, “they’re arriving at exactly the right moment to help with fighting,” the virus, KfW board member Joachim Nagel said in a statement.

More of the mobile units “for speedy and modern diagnosis of infectious disease” will arrive in the six countries of the East African Community (EAC) region in the coming days, KfW said, for a total of nine in the first phase.

Under contract from the Development Ministry in Berlin, KfW has pumped 27 million euros ($29.1 million) into the project.

Lab staff from EAC countries Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda have undergone training at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for tropical medicine in Hamburg and in Tanzanian city Arusha.

Across Africa, only 25,461 people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus by 1900 GMT Wednesday, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

READ ALSO: WHO Warns Malaria Deaths Could Double Amid COVID Pandemic 

But the pandemic is still in its early stages on the continent, with fears the virus could spread quickly through densely populated cities and refugee camps.

German Development Minister Gerd Mueller urged Berlin to invest a further three billion euros in battling the pandemic in poorer countries, on top of just over one billion already earmarked.

Wealthy nations must help prevent “first hospitals and then entire states collapsing,” Mueller told the Funke newspaper group.

“Hunger, unrest and, in the end, uncontrollable refugee movements” could result otherwise, he warned.

Germany has begun easing curbs on public life after ministers said the contagion had been brought under control.

Rapid and widespread testing of the population for cases has been at the centre of Berlin’s containment strategy.

AFP

Rwanda Confirms First Coronavirus Case

 

Rwanda on Saturday confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus — an Indian citizen who arrived last week from Mumbai, the health ministry said.

“He is currently under treatment in stable condition, isolated from other patients. The tracing of all contacts has been conducted for further management,” the ministry added.

Rwanda is the third East African nation to confirm a case in the past two days after Kenya and Ethiopia reported their first infections on Friday.

The region had remained unscathed until now, but Rwanda has stepped up preparation, placing washbasins with soap and sanitiser around the capital Kigali.wandAir has cancelled flights to China, Israel and India, while concerts, rallies, trade fairs and sports events have been cancelled.

AFP

Rwanda Scraps Tax On Sanitary Pads To Make Them Cheaper

(PHOTO USED TO DEPICT THE STORY) In this file photo taken on April 10, 2018 Indian employees at the Myna Mahila Foundation prepare sanitary pads at their office in Mumbai.PHOTO: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP

 

Rwanda announced on Wednesday it was scrapping an 18 percent value added tax on sanitary pads to make them cheaper for girls who are often forced to skip school during their periods.

The country becomes the latest to drop the controversial tax which has increasingly infuriated women around the globe who argue tampons and pads are basic necessities and should not be subject to taxes.

“The Government of Rwanda has added Sanitary Pads to a list of goods that are VAT exempted in a bid to ease their affordability,” the ministry of gender and family promotion announced on its website and on Twitter Wednesday.

The move came after fierce lobbying from feminist groups and NGOs urging government to act to reduce the price of sanitary pads in the country.

“This is a step in the right direction but not the ultimate solution. It is a shame that girls have to drop out of school just because of a biological process, so it is a good step what government is trying to do,” Annette Mukiga, a feminist activist in Rwanda told AFP.

“Our target is to make sure that sanitary pads are free, not just cheap but free in all schools, so that girls do not have to worry about this challenge anymore.”

In 2017 a study conduction by the education ministry showed that girls aged 16 and above were eight percent more likely to drop out of school than boys, especially in rural areas.

The report cited lack of access to sanitary pads during menstruation as one of the reasons for this.

Kenya is credited with being the first country to abolish taxes on menstrual products in 2005, and in recent years many have followed suit.

However Tanzania in June decided to re-introduce the tax after having done away with it in 2018, arguing it was counterproductive as retailers had not lowered their prices.

AFP

Rwandan Cycling Boss Resigns Over Corruption, Sexual Harassment Allegations

Cycling is a much-loved sport in the country, and President Kagame once considered making it the national sport.

 

The president of the Rwanda Cycling Federation, Aimable Bayingana, has resigned following multiple allegations of corruption and sexually abusing female riders.

Bayingana stood down together with his entire executive committee including two vice-presidents, advisors, secretary general and treasurer.

He is also the spokesperson of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), which has ruled Rwanda since 1994 under strongman President Paul Kagame.

The federation authorities declined to comment on the development.

The Rwanda Investigative Bureau announced that they had received “the case and it is under investigation” and were not willing to comment further.

The sports ministry is also investigating the allegations.

“The resignations by the cycling federation officials happened last evening and we are also investigating the allegations. But since these are crimes, we cannot comment any further; we will leave it to Rwanda Investigative Bureau to do its work,” Shema Maboko, Permanent Secretary at the sports ministry, told AFP.

Following the scandal, the ministry of sports is now planning to introduce a policy against sexual abuse that will govern all sports federations and activities in the country.

The scandal rocking the federation unfolded after the former national team coach Jonathan ‘Jock’ Boyer and Kimberly Coats, also founders of the Africa Rising Cycling Centre in Rwanda’s Northern Province, fell out with Bayingana and exposed the goings-on in the cycling federation.

The duo, credited for the success of the national team, left Rwanda after disagreeing with Bayingana on several issues affecting cycling.

In an open letter addressed to Bayingana, published by a local publication, American Boyer accused the cycling federation boss of frustrating efforts to develop the sport, arrogance, having excessive power, mistreating cyclists and sexual harassment among other accusations.

“We are aware that sexual assault and corruption happens and it is our prerogative to fight it. We are strong on it. We have been using the national policies against sexual exploitation,” Maboko added.

Investigations into Bayingana began shortly after local media reported that he was allegedly sexually exploiting female riders –- most of whom are poor and uneducated.

Cycling is a much loved sport in the country, and President Kagame once considered making it the national sport.

 

AFP

Rwanda Parades Five Suspects Linked To Militia Attack

 

Rwandan authorities have paraded five suspects in a deadly weekend attack who told journalists they were from the FDLR Hutu militia based in neighbouring DR Congo.

The attack, in which 14 civilians were killed, took place near the Volcanoes National Park, which is famous for its mountain gorilla sanctuary.

It is an area repeatedly targeted by Rwandan rebels operating from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One such group is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), created by Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern DRC after the 1994 genocide of Tutsis by majority Hutus in Rwanda.

The five rebels allegedly captured in an operation in which police said 19 “terrorists” were killed, were paraded in front of the media on Sunday night, answering direct questions from journalists.

They said their aim was — as long stated by the FDLR — to “overthrow the government” in comments whose veracity could not be independently confirmed.

“We came to kill soldiers but our commanders started killing civilians and ordered us to do the same,” said Emmanuel Hakizimana, 27, who said he joined the FDLR in 2018 in Uganda.

Another member of the group Theoneste Habumukiza said he was a student in Uganda when he went to the DRC and was “asked to join FDLR and to liberate Rwanda from tyranny.”

“After entering Rwanda and shooting some people, we faced fire from Rwandan soldiers and we tried to escape but we could not. So we surrendered and gave up our arms to the soldiers.”

Aside from the 14 killed, another 14 residents of the Musanze district, which borders DRC, are still in hospital.

The Congolese army announced last month it had shot dead FDLR commander Sylvestre Mudacumura who was wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crime charges.

The last attack by rebels in this region happened in December and resulted in the deaths of two Rwandan soldiers.

AFP

Eight Killed, 18 Wounded In Rwanda Attack

 

Unidentified gunmen killed eight people and injured 18 during an overnight attack in northern Rwanda near the border with DR Congo, police said Saturday.

The attack took place in Musanze district which attracts tourists because of its Volcanoes National Park and its mountain gorillas, they said.

Six people were killed with machetes or knives and the others were shot dead, a police statement said.

“Security forces were quick to provide emergency services to the residents of the area and investigations are still ongoing to find these terrorists,” it added.

The area has repeatedly been targeted by Rwandan rebels operating from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One such group is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, created by Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern DRC after the genocide of Tutsis by majority Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.

The last attack by rebels in this region happened in December and resulted in the deaths of two Rwandan soldiers.

AFP

Rwanda Charges 25 Suspected Rebels With Plot To Topple Government

 

A Rwandan military tribunal on Wednesday charged 25 men accused of belonging to a banned armed rebel group with attempting to overthrow the government and conspiring with a foreign power.

The charges against the accused — all allegedly members of the Rwandan National Congress (RNC), an armed militia opposed to President Paul Kagame — carry a jail term of 25 years to life.

“All the suspects are charged with attempting to overthrow the government by use of military force, collaborating with a foreign government with the intent to wage a war, formation and joining a criminal association, and joining illegal armed group,” the three-judge panel said.

READ ALSO: Two Killed As Terrorists Attack Mali Military Posts

Some of the suspects were captured by soldiers following heavy fighting in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), prosecutors told the courtroom.

Others surrendered to MONUSCO, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in DRC.

Three of the accused identified as Burundian citizens, two said they were Ugandan and one told the court he was Malawian.

They did not appear with lawyers.

A military prosecutor told the court the suspects were “all members of RNC and were recruited by Kayumba Nyamwasa and his operatives”.

Nyamwasa, who lives in exile in South Africa, is a Kagame foe and former military chief who runs the RNC.

The UN has reported that Nyamwasa could be raising a rebel army in the DRC.

The RNC was founded in 2010 by Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s former head of intelligence and another vocal critic of Kagame, who has ruled the country since 1994.

The former spy, who oversaw foreign intelligence services for a decade, was jailed in 2005 and 2006, and in 2007 went into exile, heading also for South Africa.

Once there, he became a fierce critic of Kagame, describing the Rwandan leader as a dictator and alleging he had first-hand knowledge of the state killing of Rwandan dissidents abroad.

Karegeya was found strangled in his hotel room in Johannesburg on January 1, 2014.

South African prosecutors identified four suspects and an inquest into his murder in January 2019 suggested there could be ties to Kagame’s regime.

The Rwandan government has over the years denied any involvement and wrongdoing.

Rwanda Welcomes First Group Of African Refugees From Libya

This handout picture from Rwanda’s Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA) taken on September 26, 2019, shows Rwanda’s UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, senior protection officer Zahra Mirghani (C) welcoming the first arrival of 66 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya at the Kigali international airport in Kigali, Rwanda. PHOTO:CYRIL NDEGEYA / RWANDA’S MINISTRY OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (MINEMA) / AFP

A group of 66 African refugees and asylum-seekers have arrived in Kigali from Libya, the UN said, the first in what could be thousands of people being helped to flee the conflict-torn country.

The move follows a pledge by President Paul Kagame in 2017 to offer a “home” to Africans after reports emerged of the torture, sexual violence and forced labour they suffer in Libya.

Earlier this month, Rwanda signed a deal with the African Union (AU) and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR agreeing to take in African refugees and asylum-seekers stranded in Libya.

The Rwandan government has said it is prepared to accommodate as many as 30,000 evacuees, although the plan is for the programme to unfold in batches of 500 to prevent the country of 12 million from feeling overwhelmed.

“Just landed!” the United Nations refugee agency wrote on its Twitter account as the group landed in the Rwandan capital late Thursday.

The youngest passenger was a two-month-old girl born in Libya to Somali parents.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva Friday that 26 of the evacuees were unaccompanied children.

“One evacuee had not been outside a detention centre for more than four years. All evacuees were either Sudanese, Somali or Eritrean,” he said.

A UN official told AFP Wednesday that a subsequent flight carrying 125 people was planned for “between 10-12 October”.

They will be housed in a transit centre in Rwanda before being resettled elsewhere unless they agree to return to their home countries.

“UNHCR will provide persons evacuated from Libya with shelter, education, food items, basic hygiene products and health care services,” Olivier Kayumba Rugina, permanent secretary at the ministry of emergency management, told AFP.

The new arrivals will be resettled at the Gashora Refugee Transit Centre in Bugesera District, approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Kigali.

The facility was established in 2015 to host Burundians, about 30,000 of whom have transited the country to flee political violence in their homeland.

Asylum-seeker status

Baloch said a psychologist, counsellors and other health professionals to aid those “who survived torture, sexual violence and human rights abuses during their time in Libya.”

“The entire group has been granted asylum-seeker status, pending an assessment of their refugee claim by UNHCR,” he said.

In the chaos that followed the fall and killing of former dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 uprising, Libya became a key transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe.

The UN says some 42,000 refugees are currently in Libya.

Kagame first offered to take in Africans stuck in Libya after a CNN report showed what appeared to be a slave market there.

The issue took on new urgency in July when more than 40 people were killed in an airstrike on a migrant detention centre in the Libyan town of Tajoura.

The UN has been criticised for its handling of a transit mechanism for evacuees from Libya established in 2017 on the other side of the continent, in Niger.

The facilities there have struggled with overcrowding and the slow pace of resettlement.

But UN and Rwandan officials say they have learned from Niger’s experience.

While the influx of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers to Europe has become a political flashpoint, countries in East Africa are often praised for their openness to those displaced by conflict in the region.

Uganda is host to around 800,000 refugees from war-torn South Sudan while countries in the region host hundreds of thousands of refugees from Burundi, Somalia and elsewhere.

At the end of 2018 the region hosted over four million refugees and asylum-seekers, according to the UNHCR.

AFP

Rwanda Shuts Border With DRC Over Ebola Scare

 

Rwanda has shut its frontier with Ebola-hit Democratic Republic of Congo after a third case of the deadly virus was detected in the border city of Goma, the Congolese presidency said Thursday.

In a statement, it said there had been a “unilateral decision by the Rwandan authorities” that affected citizens from both countries who had to cross the border as part of their daily life.

Goma, a city of two million people and a major transport hub, shares the border with the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, which has a population of more than 85,000.

Cross-frontier links are intense. Many people have jobs on the other side of the border while others have homes or put their children in schools in the neighbouring city.

READ ALSO: South Africa Unemployment Hits Record 29 Percent

“On the basis of a unilateral decision by the Rwandan authorities, Rwandan citizens cannot go to Goma and Congolese cannot leave Gisenyi but are prevented from going home,” the statement said.

“This decision harms a number of Congolese and expatriates who live in Gisenyi but work in Goma.”

The announcement came just hours after a third case of Ebola was recorded in Goma, widening the scope of the epidemic on its first anniversary.

Since August 1 2018, 1,803 lives have been lost in the second worst outbreak of Ebola on record, according to figures released Wednesday.

Two of the three cases in Goma have died, sparking a race to find people who have had contact with these patients.

Health experts fear outbreaks of contagious diseases in major cities.

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

AFP