Africa Media Review for April 2, 2020

African Conflict Zones in Need of Cease-Fires for Coronavirus Aid
Africa security experts say efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic has been complicated by armed conflicts on the continent.  Calls are growing for cease-fires to give health care workers safe access to all those at risk. As African nations gear up and lock down to fight the spread of the coronavirus, security experts say armed conflicts across the continent are hampering efforts. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, the dean of academic affairs at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College, says the virus poses additional problems for African countries in conflict. “Those countries experiencing war throughout the world are at great risk because already, there are no good systems in place, and where there are no good systems, combating the virus or combating the epidemic has been found to be very disturbing,” he said. There are at least 15 armed conflicts across Africa and almost all nations on the continent have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. There are growing fears that the most vulnerable will be worst affected by both conflict and the respiratory disease caused by the virus, COVID-19. Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for a global cease-fire to help stop the coronavirus, calling it the world’s common enemy. VOA

Proposed UN Resolution Calls COVID-19 a Threat to Peace
Tunisia has proposed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would call the coronavirus pandemic “a threat to humanity and to international peace and security” and call for an immediate global humanitarian cease-fire to respond to “the unprecedented threat posed by COVID-19.” The U.N.’s most powerful body has not addressed the pandemic sweeping the globe, but Dominican Republic Ambassador Jose Singer, the current council president, said Wednesday he expects members to meet on COVID-10 “for sure next week, or before.”… Singer said negotiations on the resolution were taking place among the 15 council members. The draft resolution, which diplomats say has support from the 10 non-permanent council members, stresses the importance of “urgent international action to curb the impact of COVID-19.” It underscores “that combating this pandemic requires greater international cooperation and solidarity, and a coordinated, comprehensive and global international response under the leadership of the United Nations.” In calling for a global ceasefire, the proposed resolution “demands that all efforts emphasize on fighting the pandemic and saving lives.” AP

South Africa Needs ‘Hundreds of Thousands’ of Virus Tests – Health Minister
South Africa needs to conduct “hundreds of thousands” of coronavirus tests to understand the true number of infections and halt their spread, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday. South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, and the government is worried that infection rates could get out of hand if the virus starts spreading rapidly in the country’s poor and overcrowded townships. Officials have imposed some of the toughest anti-coronavirus measures on the continent, including a 21-day “stay at home” lockdown that started on Friday. Mkhize said officials were moving away from a testing model focused on people with symptoms to one that also targeted communities where people with mild symptoms could be slow to seek medical help. Mkhize told a news conference that testing criteria had been “reactive and restrictive.” “We need to test hundreds of thousands of the population to get a better picture and refine our containment strategy,” he added. South Africa has conducted around 47,000 tests, with 1,380 confirmed cases of the virus and five deaths. It can currently conduct around 5,000 tests a day and hopes to expand that to 36,000 a day by the end of April, according to the national laboratory service. Reuters

Ugandan Police Accused of Abusing Lockdown Laws after LGBT Arrests
Police in Uganda have charged 20 LGBT people with disobeying rules on physical distancing and risking the spread of coronavirus, in what campaigners say is a clear case of authorities in parts of Africa abusing newly imposed restrictions to target sexual minorities. Fourteen gay men, two bisexual men and four transgender women were taken into custody on Sunday when police raided a shelter on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. … Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said the arrests were “a clear case of discrimination” against the LGBT community. He said the raid followed complaints to police about the shelter from neighbours, and the lockdown-related charges were brought only when it was clear that there was no other justification for holding the detainees. … Activists in Uganda said the pandemic had contributed to a rise in homophobic rhetoric in Uganda, with the LGBT community being blamed by some for the disease. The Guardian

Fears for Civilians in Chad after Army Suffers Devastating Boko Haram Attack
The Chadian army that lost nearly 100 soldiers to a Boko Haram ambush a week ago has declared the Lake Chad borderlands a war zone, heightening fears that civilians will suffer an escalation in violence. President Idriss Déby travelled to the region to announce the Wrath of Boma operation, named after the island where Boko Haram launched a seven-hour assault that Déby said was the worst the country’s military had ever suffered. More than 2 million people have been displaced by violence in the Lake Chad basin, across its borders with Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, and experts have warned of more problems ahead. Remadji Hoinathy, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies Africa, said the attack had dented the pride of a Chadian military that has been deployed across the region to fight militants. “This image of a big army fighting extremist groups has been wounded,” said Hoinathy. “This may call for a more radical reaction from the state. What we fear is how far this reaction will go and what will be the side-effects of this offensive on the populations and communities living in the lake province, and on the islands within the lake. The Guardian

Nigeria: UN and Partners Acting to Avert Coronavirus Spread in Displacement Camps
The UN system in Nigeria and its partners are working to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus disease in some of the most vulnerable areas in the country: communities and camps housing millions of internally displaced people (IDPs) uprooted by the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast. Teams are supporting authorities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states in developing emergency response plans that take into account the living conditions in many communities and IDP camps, where overcrowding can increase the risk of disease outbreaks. “Humanitarian partners are installing hand-washing stations in IDP camps and ensuring supply of clean water. Partners are also distributing soap and teaching women how to produce their own,” said Edward Kallon, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria. “More than ever, it is crucial for vulnerable people to have access to not only water, soap, shelters, but also food, education and protection.” The decade-long crisis in the BAY states, which has spilled over into the Lake Chad region, has left more than seven million people in need of humanitarian assistance. UN News

Health Minister Expects Spread of Coronavirus in Sudan
The Sudanese Minister of Health expected the spread of Coronavirus in the country after the detection of seven confirmed cases coming from outside the country so far. “From the seven cases, we fear and expect that the spread of the disease will start inside the country,” said Akram Eltom in a daily press briefing about the respiratory disease. Eltom further urged Sudanese to adhere and observe the measures taken to prevent the spread of the pandemic in Sudan. “We call on the citizens to increase their cooperation and report suspected cases,” he added. The South Kordofan on Wednesday announced its first suspected case of a Sudanese who recently returned from Egypt. The Sudanese government has adopted a number measures aiming to spread the spread of COVID-19 such as the closure of airports and border crossing points, a curfew as of 24 March from 08.00 pm to 06.00 am, ban of gatherings and closure of schools and universities. … The minister added that an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers will take place on Thursday to discuss the health situation in the country and expected to announce additional measures in the country. Sudan Tribune

Guinea: Protests, Postponements and the Last Stand of an African Strongman
Even before the pandemic there were postponements. Before that, there were protests. From a large armchair positioned beneath his own portrait, the 82-year-old president of Guinea is not answering the key question preoccupying his country whether or not he wants to remain in situ until he is 94. … On 22 March, Guinea voted in a referendum on allowing Condé to change the constitution. The electoral commission said almost 92% voted in favour of the changes. At least 42 people died in violent protests that preceded the vote. … The vote finally went ahead on 22 March, but has been mired in controversy. The opposition, who reject the result, have boycotted the electoral register and removed 37 deputies from legislative elections that took place on the same day. After months of violent and peaceful demonstrations, international concern is also high. Questions have been raised by the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) about the legitimacy of 2.5 million names on the electoral register, and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and the African Union (AU) withdrew election observers. The Guardian

Burkina Faso’s Spiralling Crisis
Alarm bells are ringing over the speed and scale of the humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso. Aid agencies are struggling to cope. Insecurity is cutting off access to large numbers of those in need; an aid system, not initially geared for an emergency response, is straining under the new demands; while a lack of donor funding is undermining the humanitarian effort. And now there is a new emergency: COVID-19. Burkina Faso is the country most affected by coronavirus in West Africa, while its fragile health service is among the weakest. Watch this conversation with TNH Africa Editor Philip Kleinfeld, TNH Burkina Faso correspondent Sam Mednick, and guests as they explore the crisis – from the needs on the ground to the dynamics of the conflict, the new threat of coronavirus, and the challenges of reporting. [Video] The New Humanitarian

Coronavirus Outbreak Hinders Run-Up to Ethiopia Elections
Ethiopia’s electoral body NEBE announced on Tuesday it had postponed the August presidential and parliamentary elections following “consultation with political parties and stakeholders.” “Due to the situation, the board understood that it could not carry out the election as planned and has suspended activities that were supposed to take place according to the schedule,” NEBE said in a statement. According to data from the Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resources center, Ethiopia has recorded 29 cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, as part of a wider outbreak that has brought the world to a standstill. “The postponement was expected,” said Abebe Aynete, a peace and security analyst at Ethiopia’s Foreign Relation Strategic Studies Institute. “We are expecting the national election commission will come up with a new schedule.” Ethiopian officials introduced a range of measures intended to curb the spread of the virus, including banning large gatherings and restricting travel. “It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for the electoral board to take all the necessary steps to organize this election in time for the 29th of August,” William Davison, a senior analyst with International Crisis Group, told DW. DW

Botswana President Tests Negative, Ends Coronavirus Quarantine
Botswana president Eric Masisi has tested negative for COVID-19 and has subsequently been released from home quarantine, “with immediate effect,” to resume duties at his office. “This follows the release of his Covid-19 test results yesterday which came out negative,” a statement from the office of the president said. The April 1 statement was signed by his pres secretary Batlhaleft Leagajang. The president entered self-isolation on March 22 after returning from Namibia where he attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Hage Geingob. At the time Namibia had three confirmed cases whiles Botswana had none. The country has now registered four coronavirus cases, the index cases on March 30 whiles the first death was also recorded a day later. President Masisi in an address imposed 28-day strict lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. Africa News

Former Somali PM Dies of Coronavirus in London
Former Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein has died of coronavirus at a London hospital, the family told VOA’s Somali service. Relatives of the former prime minister, popularly known as Nur Adde, confirmed his passing. A family member said Nur Adde died at around 5:00 a.m. Wednesday. He was 82. Nur Adde was prime minister between November 2007 and February 2009. During his term, he was credited with leading peace talks between the Ethiopia-backed government and Eritrea-based rebels. The talks, held in Djibouti, led to the formation of a unity government in which the leader of the rebels, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was elected as Somalia’s president on January 30, 2009. Nur Adde competed against Ahmed in the election but lost. Prior to entering politics, he served as secretary general of the Somali Red Crescent for 17 years. Nur Adde also served in the Somali police department, where he rose to the rank of colonel during the government of Mohamed Siyad Barre. VOA

Trapped by Coronavirus, Nigeria’s Elite Faces Squalid Hospitals
In Nigeria, the coronavirus has so far infected 174 people, including Abba Kyari, Buhari’s chief of staff, a man regarded as the second-most powerful in the country. Four out of 36 state governors and a son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar have also tested positive. A former senior executive of the state oil company, Suleiman Achimugu, was the first Covid-19 fatality. Dozens of senior public officials, including state governors and lawmakers, have gone into isolation. If they get sick, they will have to rely on a weak health system that is at risk of crumbling under the weight of a larger outbreak, according to Francis Faduyile, head of the Nigerian Medical Association, an umbrella group for doctors. “The health system is not strong enough,” Faduyile said by phone from Lagos. “Over the years, it’s been denied normal funding and things are not where they’re supposed to be. If the burden of the coronavirus is added, it may be too heavy; it may actually cause a total collapse.” … Health spending at around 5% of the budget in the past decade falls short of the African Union’s recommended minimum of 15%… Bloomberg

As Coronavirus Spreads into Shantytowns, Africa Faces Tough New Test
The coronavirus pandemic has begun spreading into some of Africa’s most impoverished communities, leaving the continent facing a huge test: whether it can contain the virus in overcrowded settlements where water and sanitation are scarce. Slowing the expansion of the virus is crucial because many African countries have severe shortages of ventilators and intensive-care beds. But government responses have been erratic, ranging from ambitious new mobile testing programs to more extreme measures, including curfews and crackdowns by security forces that have led to deadly abuses. South Africa, which has more confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other African country, announced this week that the virus had spread into several of its poorest communities: the townships of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, on the edge of Cape Town, along with Soweto and Alexandra townships in Johannesburg. At least eight cases have been confirmed in those informal settlements, where distancing is difficult because many people live in crowded shacks, often lacking a piped water supply, often with eight or 10 people in a house, unable to isolate themselves because their income depends on daily work. The Globe and Mail

Economic Pain Looms for African Oil-Producing Nations as Global Coronavirus Shutdown Batters Prices
Africa’s major oil-producing nations are bracing for a huge economic hit as global shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic pummel prices and demand. Prices have fallen by more than half during the past month as global travel grinds to a halt. With the global economy slowing – including in China, the world’s largest oil importer, where the virus first was reported, and in many countries operating under lockdown – purchases of African oil have been slashed. The situation has been exacerbated by a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the second- and third-largest oil-producing countries, respectively. … The swoon has handed massive losses to oil-producing African countries such as Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, Algeria and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Most of the continent’s oil-rich nations are expected to slip into recession. Yvonne Mhango, an economist at Renaissance Capital, called the situation “devastating for Sub-Saharan Africa’s oil-exporting countries, the biggest of which are Nigeria and Angola, which are also two of the five biggest economies in the region.” For both countries, Mhango said, oil is the biggest source of foreign exchange, accounting for more than 90 per cent of exports and more than 60 per cent of government revenue. South China Morning Post

Digital Rights in Africa: Advocates Must Team Up to Consolidate Gains – Report
Paradigm Initiative’s 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report said even though the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance gave rights groups a seat at the table, their impact remained suppressed by the two other partners – government and private sector organizations. “Clearly, nation states and private sector organizations wield more power and influence on decisions and actions in the Internet Governance space,” the report stressed. … The report titled “Violations Reloaded: Government Overreach Persists Despite Increased Civil Society Advocacy” noted that a number of African governments continued to take a leaf from Russia and China in exerting digital rights violations for different reasons. The report said in part: “that control of the information space is synonymous with control of the political space. The information space is therefore perceived as a legitimate theatre of conflict – much the same way as land, air and the sea are established theatres of conflict. … “The influence of China and Russia on Africa, in this regard, is immense, as demonstrated by the strong-armed information control tactics deployed on the continent to stifle dissent and hunt opposition voices.” Africa News

In East Africa, the Locusts Are Coming Back for More
In late February, farmers in central and northern Kenya began to breathe sighs of relief. The billions of desert locusts that had been decimating their crops – eating as much food a day as Kenya’s entire population – were beginning to die off, just in time for a new planting season. Many of the swarms were killed by pesticides sprayed from the air; others died of old age. But far from being over, East Africa’s locust nightmare may just be beginning. Before they died, the swarms of locusts bred and laid eggs across wide swathes of Kenya and southern Ethiopia (and probably in parts of Somalia too, although information from here is patchy). Most of these eggs have now hatched, and the adolescent locusts are gathering strength. These adolescents are known as hoppers: they are bright pink, to deter predators, and cannot fly yet. Instead, they move across arid areas on the ground, eating voraciously to fuel their growth. Only now are the hoppers beginning to reach maturation, and will form into airborne swarms. “There is an awful lot of breeding that was not detected, that was not controlled, and now another generation of swarms is forming,” said Keith Cressman, the chief locust forecaster for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), We’re seeing reports every day, more and more from Kenya, of these swarms.”  Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones