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Senegal Opposition Leader To Be Released Pending Rape Trial

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Senegal Opposition Leader Calls For Larger Protests

A Senegalese court has on Monday cleared the way for opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to be released pending his rape trial in a case that already has sparked deadly protests in the country.

A planned new round of protests is expected in Senegal from today Monday as most prominent opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, make a court appearance in the capital, Dakar, to face questions about a rape charge following his arrest last week Wednesday.

Sonko has said his prosecution is politically motivated.  His detention last week sparked days of unrest during which five persons died, including a schoolboy, in what is described as the worst violence for years in Senegal, a country that has been seen as a stable west African nation in a volatile region.

Opposition supporters protested, setting cars on fire.  The protests highlight grievances over falling living standards during the pandemic.

Demonstrators reportedly looted shops and hurled stones at police during the anti-government protests.  Schools in Senegal are shut for a week until next Monday amid violent unrest. The education ministry said on Sunday, days of violent protests have paralysed parts of the capital, Dakar, and are expected to continue.

President Macky Sall’s opponents have called for further protests on Monday.

The education ministry has strongly recommended in a statement that parents keep a close eye on their children to safeguard them from the risks posed by the protests.

Pressure increased on Saturday after a 17-year-old boy was killed by gunfire in southern Senegal.

The influential league of imams and preachers of Senegal on Sunday called for the release of Sonko and a “return to calm.”

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DR Congo Begins COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

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African Countries Keen On AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine - WHO

The Democratic Republic of Congo will begin its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Monday after suspending the exercise over fears regarding the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

In early March, more than 1.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines arrived in the DR Congo as part of the COVAX initiative but the country postponed the vaccination after studies in South Africa questioned its efficacy on the variant that is dominant in the country.

Having now reassured the public that the doses are safe for use, the country’s health minister Eteni Longondo said priority will be given to health personnel, people who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and basic social personnel, that is to say those who are in constant contact with the public.

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Zimbabwe Frees Some Inmates To Reduce COVID-19 Risk In Jails  

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Zimbabwe government has begun releasing prisoners amid concerns of overcrowding and coronavirus pandemic. About 3,000 prisoners have been released under a presidential amnesty aimed at easing congestion to reduce the threat of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails.

Zimbabwe’s prisons have a capacity of 17,000 prisoners but held about 22,000 before the amnesty declared by president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

400 prisoners were released from Chikurubi prison and other jails in the capital, Harare, on Saturday with more coming from other prisons countrywide.

Those to be released had been convicted of non-violent crimes. All females imprisoned for non-violent crimes and who served a third of their sentences are to be released, and all disabled persons convicted of non-violent crimes.  Africa centers for disease control and prevention data show, Zimbabwe has recorded 37,534 cases of covid-19, including 1,551 deaths.

Authorities say, those convicted of crimes such as murder, treason, human trafficking, and sexual offenses will not benefit.

President Mnangagwa also commuted death sentences to life sentences for many prisoners on death row. Zimbabwe still has the death penalty but has not hanged anyone in years.

Authorities have suspended visits to prisons while plans are made to vaccinate inmates as part of measures to combat the spread of the virus. Political activists who have been sent to prison as part of a government crackdown on dissent have spoken of dire conditions, which they said put inmates at risk of both starvation and disease outbreak.

In another response to the pandemic, Zimbabwe has canceled the independence day celebrations planned for April 18 to combat the spread of COVID-19.

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Egypt: At Least 11 Killed, 100 Injured In Train Crash North Of Cairo

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Egypt: At Least 11 Killed, 100 Injured In Train Crash North Of Cairo

At least 11 persons have been killed in Egypt in a train accident. Egypt’s health ministry said in a statement, at least 100 persons were also injured on Sunday in the crash in Egypt’s Qalioubia province north of Cairo. Around 60 ambulances were sent to take the injured from the scene to nearby hospitals.

Railway authorities say at least four train wagons ran off the tracks at the city of Banha in the province. The train was travelling to the Nile Delta city of Mansoura from the Egyptian capital.

Sunday’s train accident came three weeks after two passenger trains collided in the province of Sohag, killing at least 18 persons and injuring 200 others, including children.

The government says it has launched a broad renovation and modernization initiative in the railway system.

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