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North Africa Politics

Egyptians flout social distancing rules during Ramadan shopping

Store owners often struggle to persuade people to queue in an orderly way.

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FILE PHOTO: Residents of Ezbet Hamada in Cairo's Mataria district gather to eat Iftar, the meal to end their fast at sunset, during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

The fear of the novel Coronavirus in Egypt, a country of about 100 million people, with 7,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and 452 deaths, seems not to have stopped some citizens from carrying out their Ramadan shopping especially in the capital, Cairo.

While the government is running campaigns in newspapers and on billboards to encourage social distancing, shutting down cafes and eat-in service at restaurants, imposing a night-time curfew, social customs and economic pressures are still drawing people onto the streets, even as newly reported cases of the coronavirus continue to rise.

The curfew prompted a shopping rush during the day when many stock up for fast-breaking, or iftar, at 6.30pm.

Store owners often struggle to persuade people to queue in an orderly way.

 “Customers are not afraid of the coronavirus. It was very crowded (in the shop) at the start of Ramadan, so we were always asking people to stand further apart,” said Osama Ali Ahmed, 60, owner of a sweet shop near the historic al-Sayeda Zainab mosque in central Cairo.

 Customers, some wearing masks, jostled for space, as they did at a nearby grocery store.

 “People are careful, but this does not stop us from going out to buy the things that we get every year,” said Ashraf Ali, 52.

On Sunday Health Minister Hala Zayed Said urged Egyptians to take the lockdown measures more seriously.

“It is the citizen who will control the way we get through these dangerous times. The state has completed all procedures it is responsible for,” she said.

North Africa Politics

Sudan’s Former PM, Sadiq al-Mahdi, Dies from COVID-19

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Sudanese politician and former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi has died at the age of 84.

The octogenarian died from a coronavirus infection weeks after being hospitalized in the United Arab Emirates, according to family sources and a party statement early on Thursday.

Mahdi, 84, was Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister and was overthrown in 1989 in the military coup that brought former president Omar al-Bashir to power. Mahdi’s Umma Party was one of the largest opposition parties under Bashir.

Last month, his family said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was transferred to the UAE for treatment a few days later following a brief hospitalization in Sudan.

According to a statement by his party, Mahdi would be buried on Friday morning in the city of Omdurman in Sudan.

No successor has been named by the party but al-Mahdi’s daughter Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi, who is the party’s deputy leader has been the most visible party leader in political negotiations and the media in recent years.

Leading Sudanese opposition figure Sadiq al Mahdi talks during an interview with Reuters in Khartoum, Sudan, on April 25, 2019.

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South Sudan Appoints Awut Deng Acuil as First Woman to Chair University Governing Council

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South Sudan has appointed Awut Deng Acuil to chair the governing council of the University of Bahr El-Ghazal.

Acuil, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation from August 2019 until March 2020 and the current Minister of General Education and Instructions, became the first woman to be appointed to chair the governing body of a university.

Her appointment was announced in a presidential decree read on the national broadcaster, the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation.

The university was established in 1991, when South Sudan was still part of Sudan. The country gained its independence in 2011

Acuil was also the first woman to serve as South Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

She relinquished the post following the appointment of a unity government in February to end the conflict between rival groups in South Sudan.

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North Africa Politics

Italy Secretly Repatriating Undocumented Tunisians – Official

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Italy has continued the repatriation of undocumented Tunisians by secret flights that land at Enfidha-Hammamet International Airport, 100 kms south of Tunis, a security source in the Tunisian capital said on Saturday.

The Enfidha-Hammamet International Airport received flights on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with between 20 and 40 young Tunisians expelled by the Italian authorities, the source said.

Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said recently that Italy has recorded an increase in the flow of migrants since the beginning of the year, reaching 32,000 people of whom 12,000, representing 38.7 percent, were of Tunisian nationality.

The minister had discussed with Tunisian President Kais Saeid the issue of illegal migration and forced repatriation of illegal migrants arriving in Italy via the Mediterranean.

On 10 August, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, warned that “Tunisians arriving in Italy by boat will be repatriated at the rate of 80 weekly flights”.

Many civil society organisations in Tunisia have demanded the publication of the results of the negotiations between the Tunisian authorities and their Italian counterparts on the repatriation of Tunisians and the revision of the bilateral agreements on clandestine migration signed by the two governments.

The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights, the Euro-Mediterranean Commission and the European Union have called for the humane treatment of migrants by providing them with protection instead of forced repatriation.

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