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Friday, March 1, 2024

Foreigners in East Africa face hostility over coronavirus

Panic over the global coronavirus pandemic has led to reports of discrimination against foreign nationals in East Africa.

From Ethiopia, to Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Westerners have been verbally and physically abused over fears that they may be infected with Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

This is because many of the first cases of the virus reported in the region, were brought in by travellers from Europe and the US.

In Iten town in western Kenya, known worldwide for producing Olympic and World champions in athletics, foreign athletes training there have in recent weeks been verbally and physically attacked by locals who accused them of being infected with coronavirus.

Spanish conditioning coach Totti Corbalan was the first to go public after he was pelted with stones and called “corona” during a run in the town.

At least four other athletes have told the BBC they have experienced similar treatment.

Last month, Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel peace prize winner Abiy Ahmed appealed to Ethioipians not to target foreigners after the US embassy issued an alert to its citizens living there because some Westerners had been stoned, chased and spat at.

In DR Congo, an aid worker, who did not want to be identified, told the BBC that foreigners working with humanitarian agencies had been forced to relook at their security arrangements after several aid agency convoys were pelted with stones. Some had also been verbally abused and called “coronavirus” in the streets.

Much of the fear spurring on discrimination has been spread on social media and governments across the region have cracked down on fake news about the virus.

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