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72,000 flee DRC in four days as army battles to dislodge M23 rebels

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In the last four days, not less than 72,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to escape being caught in the middle as fighting between the army and M23 rebels rages on, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday.

The UNHCR said in a statement that resumed clashes in the Rutshuru territory, an enclave which has been the usual scene of fighting with the M23 militia, have spread week to the neighbouring territory of Nyiragongo, and Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, forcing the residents to flee for safety.

“Thousands of families have been forced to flee this new wave of violence. Some had to walk more than 20 km to reach the outskirts of Goma,” said Caitlin Brady, UNHCR’s director in the DRC.

“UNHCR is deeply concerned about the urgent and significant needs of more than 72,000 people displaced” by the fighting since May 19,” the UN agency said in a statement.

The UNHCR statement noted that since last November, at least 170,000 civilians have been driven from their homes by fighting in eastern DRC, adding that “at least 1.9 million people are displaced in North Kivu, a province bordering Rwanda and Uganda. In total, the DRC has 5.6 million displaced people, a record in Africa.”

“In the past week, some 7,000 Congolese have taken refuge in Uganda, where some 25,000 others had already arrived during earlier fighting in late March,” UNHCR said.

“The thousands of recently displaced people have been huddled in churches, schools and other sites that are not suitable for such an influx, leaving them vulnerable to cholera, malaria and other diseases.

“They lack food, clean water and basic equipment; $5 million is currently needed for operations in North Kivu,” the Refugee agency said.

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Sudan recalls Ambassador from Addis Ababa after accusing Ethiopia of executing soldiers

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Sudan has recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia after accusing the Ethiopian army of executing seven Sudanese soldiers and a civilian who had been held in captivity.

The Sudanese military had said on Sunday that the Ethiopian soldiers had executed the captives and displayed their bodies in public while negotiations were ongoing for their release, promising that there would be “an appropriate response” to the execution.

“It is an act that contravenes all laws and customs of war and international humanitarian law, the Ethiopian army executed seven Sudanese soldiers and a citizen who were their captives.

“This treacherous act will not pass without a response,” the Sudanese military said.

The Ethiopian government however, denied complicity by its military in the killing of the Sudanese soldiers, blaming the Sudanese forces for crossing into its territory and provoking a clash.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa, issued a statement expressing regret over the incident but said Ethiopia has been misrepresented.

“The Government of Ethiopia categorically rejects the misrepresentation of these facts by the Sudanese defense forces that unjustly put the blame on Ethiopia, while it was the Sudanese army unit that crossed (over) the Ethiopian border, provoking the incident.”

But in an announcement late Monday, Sudan said it would recall its envoy from Addis Ababa as well as summon the Ethiopian ambassador from Khartoum.

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Uganda’s Government changes position, invites striking art teachers for negotiations

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The Ugandan government has made a turn on its decision to sack all arts teachers involved in the industrial action.

The change in position comes barely days after the government threatened to dismiss the teachers. Minister Raphael Magyezi had revealed that the government had reached a final position to have Arts striking teachers sacked if they do not get back to class.

The government backed down and invited the leaders of the tutors’ union for negotiations to end the ongoing strike that has paralysed learning in public schools for two weeks now.

Art teachers across Uganda downed tools last week, threatening to throw the country’s education sector into yet another crisis, a few months after schools came out of two years of a shutdown that kept thousands of learners at home.

The general secretary of the Uganda Professional Science Teachers Union, Mr Aron Mugaiga, had advised the leadership of the Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) to encourage their art counterparts to return to class.

“I urge members to go back and teach because if they continue with the industrial action, the lost time will never be recovered when the government affects their pay enhancement. I believe the doors for negotiations are still open,” Mr Mugaiga said.

The ongoing strike is just five months after Uganda reopened schools following a two-year closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has already caused outrage as more than eight million children in public schools miss out on learning.

Over 300 percent pay increment was allocated for science teachers in Uganda’s budget for the 2022/23 financial year, which starts in July but the allocation does not include arts and humanities teachers.

It is not uncommon to see prolonged industrial actions in Africa. Elsewhere in the continent, Nigeria, University teachers have been on strike since February over salary related agreement the academic union had with the government in 2009.

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