South Sudan rebel leader-turned-VP tests positive for coronavirus

South Sudan's former Vice President and former opposition leader Riek Machar attends the signing ceremony of the agreement on peace and ceasefire in Juba, South Sudan October 21, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 May 2020

South Sudan rebel leader-turned-VP tests positive for coronavirus

  • Machar “has issued a public statement declaring that he is found positive, and from today will self-quarantine in his residence"

JUBA: South Sudan’s first vice president, the former rebel leader Riek Machar, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, his office said Monday.
Machar’s wife, Defense Minister Angelina Teny, and “a number of his office staff and bodyguards” have also been infected, according to a statement posted on the office’s Facebook page and attributed to press secretary James Gatdek Dak.
Machar “has issued a public statement declaring that he is found positive, and from today will self-quarantine in his residence for the next 14 days,” the statement said.
South Sudan, which is emerging from a devastating six-year civil war, has so far recorded 339 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths, according to the latest figures from the health ministry, also released Monday.
Although the number is relatively low, only 3,908 tests have been conducted.
Aid agencies have been sounding the alarm over a sharp rise in cases in recent days.
Last week, officials announced the virus had reached a camp of some 30,000 displaced people who have been seeking United Nations protection in the capital Juba since 2013. Two cases have been confirmed there.
A case has also been confirmed in a similar camp in northern Bentiu, home to almost 120,000 people.
The country continues to be gripped by humanitarian emergency and hunger, even after Machar and President Salva Kiir — the main rivals in the civil war — formed a unity government in February.
The two men remain deadlocked on key issues such as the control of regional states.
Until last week, Machar had been serving on a taskforce intended to combat the coronavirus.
But on Friday Kiir dissolved the taskforce, removing a number of politicians including Machar.
The statement Monday from Machar’s office said “a number” of other former members of the taskforce had also tested positive.
It said Machar was “healthy and with no symptoms.”


UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

Updated 30 October 2020

UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

  • Husband Richard Ratcliffe: Iran has ordered Nazanin to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen”

LONDON: Britain on Friday warned Iran against throwing detained woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe back in jail, after hauling in Tehran’s envoy for a dressing-down over her emotive case.
The Foreign Office summoned Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad on Thursday to hear renewed demands from a senior official for an end to the British-Iranian captive’s “arbitrary detention.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC radio Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in a “horrific position,” after her husband said Iran has ordered her to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail.
Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen,” Raab said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who will turn 42 on Boxing Day, has been on temporary release from Tehran’s Evin prison and under house arrest since earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016 while visiting relatives with her young daughter.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — denied charges of sedition but was convicted and jailed for five years.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016. (AFP)

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said this week that the Foreign Office’s handling of the case “seems disastrous,” and that “the UK is dancing to Iran’s tune.”
Raab told the BBC: “We’ve made it very clear we want to try to put the relationship between the UK and Iran on a better footing.
“If Nazanin is returned to prison, that will of course put our discussions and the basis of those discussions in a totally different place. It is entirely unacceptable.”
Richard Ratcliffe linked the latest development to the postponement of a hearing that was due to take place on Tuesday in London to address Iran’s longstanding demand for the repayment by Britain of hundreds of millions from an old military equipment order.
“As Nazanin’s husband, I do think that if she’s not home for Christmas, there’s every chance this could run for years,” he said, accusing Iran of “hostage diplomacy.”