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South Sudan Armed Group, SPLA-IO, Apologises over Arrest of UN Staff

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South Sudan’s main opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army In Opposition (SPLA-IO), has apologised following a report that its forces last month arrested UN staff.

SPLA-IO, a signatory to a 2018 peace agreement ending six years of conflict and saw its leader, Riek Machar, appointed as vice-president reportedly arrested and detained UN staff and civilians at Farajalla village in Western Bahr El-Ghazal State.

Maj Gen Martin Abucha, a SPLA-IO representative, condemned the incident.

“I would like to apologise on behalf of SPLM-SPLA-IO for the incident that happened where a number of NGO staff were detained, but subsequently released.”

“That was unfortunate and we do not condone it in any way. We have taken measures to ensure that it doesn’t repeat itself,” Gen Abucha said.

Ceasefire monitors also reported that the parties to the peace agreement “continue to violate the truce” and blamed them for non-compliance.

South Sudanese various forces are expected to form a unified national army of 83,000 soldiers in accordance with the peace agreement, but they are yet to unify a command and graduate forces.

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North Africa

452 Illegal Migrants Rescued, Returned to Libya in One Week – IOM

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No fewer than 452 illegal migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast in the past week, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports.

“In the period of January 19 to 25, 2021, 452 migrants were rescued/intercepted at sea and returned to Libya,” the IOM said.

The organisation also said that 12 illegal migrants died and 67 others went missing on the Central Mediterranean route so far this year.

Thousands of illegal immigrants choose to cross the Mediterranean from Libya towards Europe, as the North African country has been mired in insecurity and turmoil since a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-backed uprising killed the country’s long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In 2020, 323 migrants died and 417 others went missing on the Central Mediterranean route, while 11,891 illegal migrants were rescued and returned to Libya, according to the IOM.

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Health

Tunisian Foreign Minister Tests Positive for COVID-19

The minister said he had been exhibiting severe symptoms and urged Tunisians to protect themselves from the virus.

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Tunisia’s foreign minister, Othman Jerandi has tested positive for COVID-19.

Jerandi made his COVID status public on his official twitter page.

“My COVID-19 test was positive today, although I complied with health protocols and adhered to all measures,” Othman Jerandi said on Twitter.

Tunisia’s foreign minister said he had been exhibiting severe symptoms and urged Tunisians to protect themselves from the virus.

“This has made me more insistent on the supply of vaccines to protect my country’s people from the pandemic,” he added.

According to a tally by US-based Johns Hopkins University, Tunisia has reported more than 197,000 infections and over 6,200 deaths from the virus. More than 144,000 people have so far recovered.

Since December 2019 when the virus originated in China, the pandemic has claimed more than 2.12 million lives in 192 countries and regions.

According to Johns Hopkins, recorded COVID-19 cases worldwide have exceeded 99.13 million, with recoveries over 54.69 million.

In terms of cases, the worst hit countries remain the US, India and Brazil.

Earlier this month, a 4-day nationwide lockdown was imposed in Tunisia. The lockdown started from Thursday January 14, as authorities moved to curb alarming covid-19 contaminations.

The measure which the country took reduce the spread of the virus includes a nationwide curfew from 4pm to 6am, suspension of school classes until January 24, and a ban on all cultural events. Restaurants and cafes were ordered not to provide seats for their clients.

The move came a few days after President Kais Saied lambasted the government over the handling of the pandemic despite several measures put in place to stem contaminations.

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News

100,000 Displaced, 250 Dead in Sudan’s Renewed Violence

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No fewer than 250 people died in a flare-up of violence between communities in Sudan’s Darfur region over the past week, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on Friday.

According to the UNHCR, at least 100,000 people were left displaced in the renewed hostilities.

The UN Human Rights Office, which published a slightly lower death count, said armed clashes broke out between Arab communities and internally displaced people of the Masalit community on Saturday and Sunday in West Darfur.

As gunshots were fired and homes torched, 160 people were reportedly killed and 215 injured, the UN Human Rights Office said.

In a separate incident on Monday, 72 people died and 73 were injured in South Darfur’s town of Gereida in a land dispute between the Falata and Reizigat tribes, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

“These incidents raise serious concerns about the imminent risk of further violence in Darfur,’’ UN rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said at a news briefing.

She added that the region was rife with decades-old ethnic and tribal tensions.

Ramdasani urged Sudan’s government to restore order and to break the cycle of armed citizens taking the law into their own hands to avenge attacks on members of their communities.

The clashes occurred about two weeks after the UN peacekeepers discontinued their patrols in the Darfur region, preparing for a full withdrawal.

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