Sudan, major rebel group agree to resume peace talks



Sudan’s power-sharing government and a major rebel group active in southern borderlands have agreed to hold new peace talks hosted by South Sudan, both sides said on Friday.

The Office of Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, said on its website.

This happened days after Khartoum signed a peace deal with other groups.

The government agreed the move with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, one of the groups that did not join a deal signed on Monday to end wars stemming from the rule of ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

Hilu’s group has now agreed with the Khartoum government on the “necessity” to reach a complete political solution in Sudan and address root the causes of its conflicts, Hamdok said.

It said both sides had agreed to set up workshops for different issues but gave no time-frame or details.

Hilu’s group, one of the biggest rebel forces which controls territory in southern borderlands, confirmed the agreement.

“Yes, it is true. The meeting has taken place in Addis Ababa between us and Prime Minister Hamdok,” Aman Amum, the group’s chief negotiator, said.

“We will continue negotiation under Juba Mediation. So far, there’s no agreed date for the talks.”

There was no immediate comment from South Sudan, which hosted the talks that led to Monday’s deal.

Hilu’s group had originally joined the Juba talks but then suspended its participation.

His group operates in a region inhabited by minority Christians and followers of African beliefs, who complain of long discrimination under Bashir, who was ousted last year, and seek a secular democratic state for the Muslim majority country.

The joint statement published by Hamdok’s office said both sides had agreed to achieve equality for all Sudanese.

Sudan has been riven by conflicts for decades.

After the oil-rich south seceded in 2011, an economic crisis fuelled protests which led to Bashir’s ousting.

Three major groups signed Monday’s deal, including factions from Darfur where more than 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since 2003.

Sudan’s civilian and military leaders, who have shared power since then, say ending conflicts is a top priority to help bring democracy and peace to a country in crisis.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)


UN agency says 10 refugees missing in Uganda after deadly clash with locals



The UN refugee agency in Uganda on Tuesday said 10 refugees were still missing in the Sept. 11 deadly clash with the locals that left 10 refugees dead in the northwestern part of the country.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Uganda, Joel Boutroue, said this in a statement issued in Kampala.

Boutroue called upon authorities to search for the missing people immediately.

The agency said on Sept. 11, 10 South Sudanese refugees were killed, 19 others were injured, and one member of the host community was killed in Madi Okollo district.

The clash erupted after a dispute between locals and refugees near a shared water point at the Tika village in Rhino refugee settlement, where refugees from South Sudan refugees reside.

“The disproportionate violent reaction by the host community to a communal dispute signals a threat to the delicate balance of peaceful coexistence in the rural villages where refugees live alongside their Ugandan hosts,” Boutroue said.

“We urge for calm and are working with the authorities to ensure that additional security measures are adopted, and this deadly incident is investigated to help clarify the circumstances, including the role of local authorities,” Boutroue added.

UNHCR said it had immediately deployed teams on the ground to support refugees who were deeply traumatised by the attack and work with government counterparts and partners to respond to the needs of those affected.

Clashes between Ugandan nationals and refugees, mainly of South Sudanese origin are common in the East African nation which hosts about 1.4 million refugees.

In December 2019, four people were killed and 16 others injured following a clash between South Sudan refugees and the local community in Uganda’s northwestern district of Adjumani.

In July, three South Sudan refugees in Uganda were killed, six injured and hundreds displaced after tribal clashes erupted at the Palorinya refugee settlement in the northwestern district of Obongi.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Peter Ejiofor)
Source: NAN
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650,000 people affected by floods in Sudan – UN



About 650,000 people have been affected by flash floods caused by heavy rains that hit Sudan in mid-July, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) was cited to have reported that 650,000 people had been affected by floods in 17 out of Sudan’s 18 states.

More than 111,000 houses were either destroyed or damaged.

Floods also destroyed 1,700 ha (4,200 acres) of agricultural land, 179 public facilities (schools, health centres and government offices), 359 shops and warehouses and killed 5,500 head of livestock,’’ the UN agency said in a report.

More than 110,000 people have been affected by floods in the first week of September alone, the OCHA said

It added that nearly 43 per cent of those 650,000 are in the states of Khartoum, North Darfur and Sennar.

“The situation could deteriorate over the coming days, as heavy rains forecast in Ethiopia and several parts of Sudan will likely cause a further increase in water levels in the Blue Nile, leading to more flooding and destruction,’’ the report added.

Since mid-July, Sudan has been experiencing an unusual level of heavy rains, which intensified over the last week.

This has prompted the government to declare a three-month state of emergency in the country.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Source: NAN
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Cambodia sends 218 troops to peacekeeping mission in Mali amid COVID-19 pandemic



Cambodia has dispatched 218 Blue Helmets to join the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the conflict-torn West African nation of Mali, the Khmer Times reported on Monday.

A ceremony to send them off on Friday was presided over by Director-General of the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NCPF) Gen. Sem Sovanny at the Phnom Penh International Airport.

According to NCPF, the 218 peacekeepers, of whom 18 are women, are replacing the equal number of Blue Helmets who are on their way back home.

Speaking at the event, Gen. Sovanny said the personnel being sent have certificates stating that each individual has tested negative for COVID-19 before departure and upon arrival will undergo 14-day quarantine before beginning their mission.

According to him, Cambodia takes COVID-19 transmission seriously and will take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the peacekeepers.

He said the NCPF also reminds all Cambodian forces who are on overseas missions to be vigilant and take measures to prevent transmission of the virus.

“Despite the global pandemic, Cambodia is committed to keep sending personnel for peacekeeping missions as part of its obligations as a member of the United Nations,” Gen. Sovanny was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

According to NCPF, Cambodia has so far committed some 800 of its Blue Helmets, including 80 women, to UN peacekeeping missions across Lebanon, South Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Ali Baba-Inuwa
Source: NAN
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COVID-19: Virologist says Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, yet to undergo full clinical trials



Dr Solomon Chollom, a Virologist based in Jos, on Thursday said the Russian Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, Sputnik V, has not gone through entire clinical trials protocols.

Chollom told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, that this should be a cause for concern for all health care practitioners and the Nigerian public.

According to him, it is only the full clinical trials that will guarantee evidence-based approval from regulatory bodies and confident use by professionals.

He said that for the purpose of clarity, vaccine development was a combination of intensive laboratory-based work and extensive field or clinical trials to generate evidence around safety, efficacy and potency.

”We are expressing our interest for the COVID-19 vaccine so that we will have the opportunity to work elaborately,” he said.

NAN reports that the Federal Government recently got delivery of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Russian scientists for assessment.

It reports that Russian had earlier said the vaccine was in the third phase of clinical trials and pointers showed promise.

It reports that if eventually passed by authorities after going the full length of clinical trials, it would be the first vaccine to be passed for use against the ravaging pandemic of SARS CoV-2 virus.

Chollom said that clinical trials for vaccines are in four phases.

“Phase one has to do with administration of the candidate vaccine to a very small group of healthy volunteers to assess safety parameters.

”At this stage, the bioavailability and tenure of the vaccine in the target area is also assessed.

“Phase two is usually carried out subsequent to the success of phase one trials.

”A larger group of healthy volunteers is usually mobilised and administered the vaccine and then exposed to the disease-causing agent to assess if they will come down with the disease or stay protected by the administered vaccine.

”This phase is out to generate evidence around the effectiveness (efficacy) and dosage of the product,” he explained.

Chollom said that the success and proven evidence from Phase two would guarantee the Phase three trials.

“Here, the trial is done in a very large population, usually a multi-national study involving volunteers in thousands.

”This stage is peculiar because it brings on board different races, demographics and other possible human and environmental factors under scrutiny.

”Safety, efficacy and most importantly, potency are assessed on a larger scale across many parameters; some are host-specific and others environment-specific.

“Phase III trials usually take a long time. After successful and proven evidence from this phase, regulatory bodies are at liberty to approve the drug for clinical use,” he said.

Chollom said that the last phase was the Phase IV trials. This, he said was usually done as postmarket evaluation/validation of claims on the vaccine.

He said that parameters of safety and efficacy along with emerging realities in the population were generated during this phase in real life experience.

The virologist said that this was critical to monitor safe and efficacious use of the vaccine, adding that Scientists were curious that the Russian vaccine was at best a fast food.

He said this was because it had not gone through the gamut of protocols to generate rounded scientific evidence to convince the world on safety (especially long term adverse effects on essential human organs or the possibility of reversion to a virulent strain or the virus.

Chollom said that the efficacy and potency of a vaccine, given stiff competition from both host and environmental factors that might not have been envisaged.

According to him, this caution is timely in light of the disturbing development over the re-emergence of polio virus in Sudan and Republic of Chad arising from the administration of oral polio vaccine.

“This is coming barely two weeks after Africa was given certificate of freedom from polis virus by World Health Organisation (WHO),” he said.

Chollom, however stated that a little compromise in the process of vaccine development could have severe consequences on safety, efficacy and potency of the vaccine.

He also drew attention to the emerging development as reported by Associated Press that AstraZeneca has put on hold late-stage clinical trials of another Corona vaccine trial as a volunteer in the exercise developed a strange illness.

“The body reported that the halt in the trials was in tandem with global best practices to unravel the cause of the untoward reaction by the volunteer as it raises sincere questions on safety.

“Such is the meticulousness involved in vaccine development process” Chollom added.

NAN reports that no fewer than 25 researchers and scientists worldwide have published and signed a letter stating concerns about the Russian COVID-19 vaccine.

The experts questioned the the legitimacy of the data in a recent article outlining the early clinical trials of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine published in The Lancet.

Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Donald Ugwu
Source: NAN
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