Africa Media Review for April 15, 2020

Haftar Forces Pound Libya Capital after Losing Towns
The forces of Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar rained rockets on the capital Tripoli early on Tuesday after being ousted by government loyalists from a string of towns to its west. Salvo after salvo of rockets caused loud explosions throughout the night, AFP correspondents reported. Several homes were hit around Mitiga airbase in the eastern suburbs, the capital’s sole if intermittently functioning airport. There was no immediate word on any casualties. The UN-recognised Government of National Unity, which has been battling an offensive against the capital for just over a year, accused Haftar’s forces of taking revenge against Tripoli’s civilian population following their losses on Monday. “The criminal militia and mercenaries have taken out their anger on residential neighbourhoods of Tripoli to avenge their defeat, firing dozens of rockets and missiles on the capital indiscriminately,” spokesperson Mohamad Gnounou said. On Monday, the unity government recaptured the coastal cities of Sorman and Sabratha and several inland towns. AFP

Egyptian Policeman, Seven Suspected Militants Killed in Cairo Gunbattle
An Egyptian policeman and seven suspected militants were killed on Tuesday in an exchange of gunfire, the ministry of interior said in a statement late on Tuesday. It said three other policemen had also been wounded. The exchange took place in the al-Amiyira district, the public prosecutor said in a statement. The ministry received information “that there is a terrorist cell, whose elements embrace Takfiri ideology, using several areas as a shelter in eastern and southern Cairo as a starting point to carry out terrorist operations,” the statement said. Egypt uses the term takfiri to refer to Islamist militants who often accuse their victims of being infidels. Two private television stations broadcast what they called footage of the shooting, which Reuters was not immediately able to verify, and asked residents to stay indoors. Weapons and ammunition were found with the suspects, the ministry said. The public prosecutor said a team of investigators has been despatched to the scene of the attack. Reuters

Man Believed to Be Brazil’s Biggest Cocaine Supplier Arrested in Mozambique
One of Brazil’s most wanted people, an alleged drug baron accused of running international cocaine operations for the country’s biggest gang, has been arrested in Mozambique. Gilberto “Fuminho” Aparecido dos Santos, believed to be the leader of the First Capital Command (PCC), was arrested in an international sting that included agents from Brazil, Mozambique and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Mozambican police confirmed the arrest on Tuesday. He is accused of shipping tonnes of cocaine around the world, the Brazilian federal police said “The accused was considered the largest cocaine supplier” for the PCC, and had been on the run for more than 20 years, it said. Dos Santos was arrested at the Montebelo Indy, a luxury hotel in Maputo, along with two Nigerian nationals. He had arrived in the southern African country in mid-March, a Mozambique police spokesman, Leonardo Simbine, said. … Simbine said: “He does not operate alone, he is part of a gang. We are still investigating whether there are other gang members in Mozambique.” AFP

Terror in the Countryside, Coronavirus in the City: In Burkina Faso, There’s No Safe Haven
On the day Burkina Faso reported its first coronavirus death, militants killed four men in a northwestern village. A few evenings later, as four government ministers tested positive for the virus, attackers torched a national park office and kidnapped a forest ranger. And as confirmed cases multiplied into hundreds, gunmen abducted a rural town’s head nurse, stole military gear in violent raids and executed several soldiers. In this West African nation engulfed by conflict and the pandemic, every day brings more chaos and infection, rendering those caught in the middle doubly vulnerable. Both threats are overwhelming the government. Fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State control much of the countryside, and the outbreak is rocking the capital, Ouagadougou. There are 11 ventilators for roughly 20 million people. Places once thought to be safe now feel increasingly dangerous, residents say: Hundreds of thousands of Burkinabes who have fled the violence are squeezing together in cramped quarters just as they’re supposed to be sheltering apart – and police are enforcing dusk-to-dawn curfews with whips and automatic weapons. The Washington Post

Somalia Sees Spike in COVID-19 Cases in Last 24 Hours
Somalia has registered a spike in confirmed Covid-19 cases after 35 People tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours. The Federal Minister for Health, Dr Fawzia Abikar Nur, said the country now has 60 confirmed cases from 25. “We hereby confirm 35 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country to 60,” the Minister told the media in the capital Mogadishu. Three of the new cases were in the breakaway region of Somaliland. … In the daily Covid-19 update, Minister Nur explained on Monday that 52 of the confirmed cases were recovering in their houses, being self-isolated. One more patient is recuperating at an isolation centre in the Halane camp, the base of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). … Meanwhile, on Sunday, the government announced a night curfew in Mogadishu effective April 15th. General Abdi Hassan Hijar, the commander of Somali Police Force, said the move is meant to contain the spread of coronavirus in the capital. The East African

Lockdown in Sudan Capital from Saturday after Third Coronavirus Death and 29 Infected
On Monday, the Sudanese Ministry of Health reported 10 new cases of coronavirus (Covid-19), bringing the total number of cases in the country to 29, with three deaths to date. The authorities have decided to impose a total lockdown in Khartoum, effective from Saturday April 18. Minister of Health Akram El Tom confirmed in a press statement that 10 new cases have been recorded in Sudan. All except one are in Khartoum. The other case was recorded in Abu Hamed in River Nile state. El Tom said that a foreigner has died of coronavirus which raises the number of Covid-19 deaths to three. The minister appealed to the Sudanese people to follow the instructions and the guidance of the Ministry of Health. “Undermining these instructions and guidance will have consequences. Anyone who feels symptoms must come forward,” he said. He further urged the security forces to play their role in protecting health personnel who are on duty. Radio Dabanga

Malawi Announces 21-Day COVID-19 Lockdown
Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday announced that the landlocked country will implement a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has claimed two lives. In a televised national address, Mutharika said the lockdown will be effective from midnight on Saturday and will end on May 9. “This lockdown may be extended beyond 9th May as circumstances warrant, he cautioned. “I would like to urge you to fully comply with the measures because they are for the good of our country.” So far, 16 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Malawi mainly in the main cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, the special cabinet committee announced on Monday. Mutharika warned that up to 50,000 lives could be lost if measures were not put in place to spread the of the virus in the southeastern African country. … When the first case was declared on April 2, Malawi announced the closure of all schools countrywide and restricted public gatherings to no less than 50 people. AFP

Ethiopia Opens Aid Transport Hub to Fight COVID-19
Ethiopia and the United Nations on Tuesday opened a humanitarian transport hub at Addis Ababa airport to move supplies and aid workers across Africa to fight coronavirus. The arrangement, which relies on cargo services provided by Ethiopian Airlines, could also partially offset heavy losses Africa’s largest carrier is sustaining because of the pandemic. An initial shipment of 3 000 cubic metres of supplies – most of it personal protective equipment for health workers – will be distributed within the next week, said Steven Were Omamo, Ethiopia country director for the World Food Programme (WFP). “This is a really important platform in the response to Covid-19, because what it does is it allows us to move with speed and efficiency to respond to the needs as they are unfolding,” Omamo said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Addis gateway is one of eight global humanitarian hubs set up to facilitate movement of aid to fight Covid-19, according to WFP. In Africa, there are also hubs in Ghana and South Africa. AFP

COVID-19: Ethiopia to Buy Life Insurance for Health Workers
The Ethiopian government is due to buy life insurance for health professionals in direct contact with Covid-19 patients. Health minister Lia Tadesse said on Tuesday that the government last week reached an agreement with the Ethiopian Insurance Corporation but did not disclose the value of the cover. The two sides are expected to sign an agreement this week to effect the insurance grant. According to the ministry, the life insurance grant is aimed at encouraging health experts who are the most vulnerable to the deadly coronavirus. Members of the Rapid Response Team will also benefit. … Meanwhile, Ethiopia on Tuesday reported an additional eight new COVID-19 cases bringing the total number of confirmed cases so far to 82. State Health minister, Dr Lia said, country has tested a total of 447 suspected individuals during the past 24 hours and of the total eight were tested positive for Corona Virus. Daily Nation

Virus Choking Off Supply of What Africa Needs Most: Food
In a pre-dawn raid in food-starved Zimbabwe, police enforcing a coronavirus lockdown confiscated and destroyed 3 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables by setting fire to it. Wielding batons, they scattered a group of rural farmers who had traveled overnight, breaking restrictions on movement to bring the precious produce to one of the country’s busiest markets. The food burned as the farmers went home empty-handed, a stupefying moment for a country and a continent where food is in critically short supply. It was an extreme example of how lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus may be choking Africa’s already-vulnerable food supply. Lockdowns in at least 33 of Africa’s 54 countries have blocked farmers from getting food to markets and threatened deliveries of food assistance to rural populations. Many informal markets where millions buy their food are shut. About one in every five people in Africa, nearly 250 million, already didn’t have enough food before the virus outbreak, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. A quarter of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished. AP

Press Freedom Violations throughout Africa Linked to COVID-19 Coverage
African journalists are increasingly harassed or threatened by security services while reporting the news during the Covid-19 period, according to a number of media watchdogs and journalist associations that have been tracking abuse of reporters. According to Austria-based International Press Institute (IPI), which is tracking media freedom, 104 violations have been noted worldwide, including 22 on the African continent. Verbal and physical attacks, like the NTV journalist, make up the majority of violations. Among the violations cited was an unnamed freelance journalist halted by police in Harare en route to report on the Covid-19 lockdown. “Reporter claims he was forced to lie down and beaten by officers who released him 15 minutes later,” according to the IPI report. French-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) notes that “Zimbabwe is currently Africa’s biggest press freedom violator in connection with Coronavirus crisis, with no fewer than five arrests of journalists” over the past two weeks. RFI

South Africa: Police Officers, Prison Officials and Inmates in Isolation as COVID-19 Hits Correctional Services
Fifteen police officers have tested positive for Covid-19. National police spokesperson Vish Naidoo told the Mail & Guardian that even though they did not have a clear breakdown of how many officers have tested positive in each province, the 15 officers were infected in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. “For now, we’re trying by all means to procure enough consumables such as sanitisers, masks and other material for our members. This includes having our members screened,” said Naidoo. Despite the massive task police officers are faced with during the lockdown – they are at the forefront of ensuring that the public adheres to the rules – Naidoo added that they were trying hard to contain the spread of the virus. “In terms of containing the spread of Covid-19 in holding cells, all those detained will be screened upon being arrested and the holding facilities are being sanitised thoroughly to make sure they don’t pose the risk of infecting others,” said Naidoo. The news comes as the number of people testing positive within the prison system are increasing at an alarming rate in the Eastern Cape with 77 cases reported at correctional facilities… Mail & Guardian

‘Will We Die of Hunger?’: How COVID-19 Lockdowns Imperil Street Children
Timothy, a teenager on the streets of Mombasa, wonders how he will eat. “Rich people can stay home … because they have a store well stocked with food,” he says. “For a survivor on the street your store is your stomach.” However, says another, if the rumours are true and street children are arrested in the city during the Covid-19 crisis, he’d be happy to go to Shimo women’s prison, because there “you are sure to get free food, shelter and medical services.” As the pandemic takes hold across the globe, few groups are as vulnerable as the children who rely on the streets for food and shelter, who risk being further stigmatised and criminalised when cities lock down. In Kenya’s second city, a 7pm-5am curfew has been imposed, and fear is mounting. … “Street children are precisely in the space that everyone is supposed to be getting out of,” says Duncan Ross, CEO of UK-based StreetInvest, which has launched an urgent appeal for its partner organisations working with street children and is calling for cities to allow them to lead the response. “The usual response to these children is: ‘how do we get them off the streets,’ and Covid-19 has brought this into sharp focus.” The Guardian

Coronavirus Contact Tracing: Nigeria Traces over 9,000 People – Minister
Over 9,000 persons suspected to have come in contact with COVID-19 patients have so far been traced, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said. Mr. Ehanire, while spreaking at the daily Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing on Tuesday, said 99 per cent of the Individuals have exceeded the 14 days observation period. “We have made significant progress in contact tracing and have to date, followed up 9,029 persons of interest, 99 per cent of whom have exceeded their 14-day observation period,” he said. He did not elaborate further. The minister noted that the daily COVID-19 testing capacity has increased due to more capable laboratories situated in the country. “We have increased daily testing capacity by activating more COVID-19 capable laboratories and shall work with the private sector to outsource and diversify sample collection sites and also improve logistic support. … The country’s COVID-19 testing regime is limited to only those with travel history and people who have made contact with them. As a result, testing has not been widespread. Nigeria is currently processing 1,500 COVID-19 tests per day, according to Mr Ehanire. Premium Times

Nigeria: Lagos Residents Defend Homes against Curfew Bandits
Two weeks ago, when Nigeria’s government ordered an impending lockdown of the three key states of Lagos, Ogun and Abuja to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, residents were advised to stay at home and observe the quarantine. The announcement prompted Wasiu Kolawole to go on a last-minute shopping spree to stock up on food for the next 14 days, as well as buy petrol for a generator to power his home in Lagos. The 54-year-old, a commercial bus driver, was looking forward to spending some quality time with his four children. Most days, he leaves his house in Lagos’s Iju-Ishaga area before they wake up and sometimes returns home after they have already gone to bed. Four days into the lockdown, however, this downtime with his family was interrupted when a criminal gang stormed a nearby street to rob residents of their belongings. … With similar attacks also taking place in other areas of Lagos during the lockdown, some residents have now formed vigilante groups to keep guard against possible neighbourhood looters. … Such incidents are not restricted to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, as some communities in neighbouring Ogun state have also reported similar attacks. Al Jazeera

COVID-19 Has Kenyan Refugee Camp on Edge
In some respects, life continues as usual in Kakuma. Shops remain open, and the afternoon streets are full of people. But come 7pm a blare of police sirens reminds residents of the nationwide curfew. Those who ignore the warning risk fines and imprisonment. Shopkeepers complain it is hurting business as their busiest times are normally in the evenings between 7pm and 9pm. Since Kenya confirmed its first case of coronavirus on 12 March, infections have been limited to the capital, Nairobi, and three coastal counties. None have been reported in Turkana – the arid county bordering Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia where Kakuma is located. The combination of crowded living conditions, under-resourced and understaffed medical facilities, and high levels of malnutrition put refugee camps at particular risk during a pandemic like COVID-19. Kenya is sheltering nearly 500,000 refugees. In response, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has set up a COVID-19 taskforce working in coordination with national and county governments, as well as NGOs. “During the past three weeks, we’ve focused heavily on prevention,” said Kahin Ismail, senior operations manager for UNHCR in Kakuma. The New Humanitarian

US Mobile Hospitals Help Fight Coronavirus in Africa
As Africa braces for the next wave of the global coronavirus pandemic, three U.S.-donated mobile hospitals with medics trained by U.S. forces are helping Ghana, Senegal and Uganda respond to local outbreaks. The U.N.-standard level-2 hospitals are receiving patients and are each equipped with three or four ventilators, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials said in an exclusive VOA interview. Ghana, which has nearly 600 coronavirus cases, has deployed its hospital in the Accra suburbs and is using it to treat COVID-positive patients. For now, Senegal and Uganda have deployed their mobile hospitals for overflow, AFRICOM’s deputy command surgeon Col. Krystal Murphy told VOA, taking in non-coronavirus patients to free up local hospital beds and local medical professionals so they can devote more of their resources to isolating and treating those with the virus. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones