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SWEDEN

Sweden freezes Rwanda aid after rebel backing

Sweden announced Monday that it was provisionally suspending aid to Rwanda pending clarification of reports that the central African nation has backed rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We have chosen to hold off with aid to shed light on what is going on Congo and how they (the Rwandan authorities) are involved,” Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson told public radio SR.

“We have not stopped, we have chosen to freeze” a part of the aid budget, she said, adding that Rwanda should “take up its responsibilities for the development of the region.”

The United States, the Netherlands and Germany have already suspended all or part of their aid to Rwanda since a UN report in June accused high-ranking Rwandan officials of backing army mutineers in eastern DR Congo, who have formed a rebel group called M23.

Rwanda strongly denies the allegation and has in turn accused the Kinshasa government of backing Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who also operate in eastern DR Congo and are opposed to the Rwandan regime of President Paul Kagame.

Asked by AFP what a partial freeze of Swedish aid would entail, the Swedish foreign ministry gave no details.

In 2011, Sweden gave Rwanda aid worth 215 million kronor ($32.2 million).

A summit of the African Great Lakes nations, which include Rwanda and DR Congo, was held last week to open the way for a neutral force to eradicate the armed groups operating in eastern DR Congo, but it ended Wednesday with no significant outcome.

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NORWAY

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

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