Africa Media Review for April 22, 2020

Islamist Group Kills 52 in ‘Cruel and Diabolical’ Mozambique Massacre
An Islamist extremist group in northern Mozambique has killed dozens of villagers in its most bloody attack. More than 50 people were massacred in an attack in Xitaxi in Muidumbe district after locals refused to be recruited to their ranks, according to police cited by local media. Most were either shot dead or beheaded. “The criminals tried to recruit young people to join their ranks, but there was resistance. This provoked the anger of the criminals, who indiscriminately killed – cruelly and diabolically – 52 young people,” police spokesman Orlando Mudumane told the state-owned broadcasting service. The attack occurred more than two weeks ago but details have only emerged. Militants have in recent weeks stepped up attacks as part of a campaign to establish an Islamist caliphate in the gas-rich region, seizing government buildings, blocking roads and briefly hoisting a black-and-white flag carrying religious symbols over towns and villages across Cabo Delgado province. The flag is also used by Isis and other extremists. The Guardian

South Africa Announces $26 Billion to Help Struggling Nation
South Africa’s president on Tuesday announced an “extraordinary budget” of $500 billion rand ($26 billion) to address the huge socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that “our country and the world we live in will never be the same again.” President Cyril Ramaphosa in a national address said the “historic” amount is roughly 10% of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa’s most developed country. The top priorities are combating the virus and relieving “hunger and social distress” as millions of South Africans struggle to survive under lockdown, he said. One-tenth of the new special budget will go toward the country’s most vulnerable people over the next six months in one of the world’s most unequal nations. The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities, Ramaphosa said. “We are resolved not merely to return our economy to where it was before the coronavirus, but to forge a new economy in a new global reality,” he said, adding that “our new economy must be founded on fairness, empowerment, justice and equality.” Poverty and food insecurity have deepened dramatically since the lockdown began on March 27, Ramaphosa said… AP

South Africa Is Hunting Down Coronavirus with Thousands of Health Workers
As South Africa’s health experts watched the coronavirus race through Europe and begin to seed itself in their country, they made a pivotal decision. Instead of waiting for sick people to start swamping their health system, potentially overwhelming it, they mobilized tens of thousands of medical workers – and brought care to the people instead. More than 28,000 health-care workers have spread out across South Africa’s nine provinces. Some go door to door, taking down people’s travel histories, temperatures and other risk factors. Others, especially in dense, poor communities known as townships, set up pop-up clinics where turnout has been high. “Only South Africa has done that,” said Salim Abdool Karim, a member of the country’s pandemic task force, referring to the scale of the effort. Two million South Africans – out of a population of 57 million – have been screened this way, according to the health ministry. Tens of thousands have been tested who may not otherwise have been. South Africa has more than 3,400 confirmed cases – the highest number in Africa – but its government considers that a result of aggressive testing. As of Tuesday, more than 125,000 people had been tested. The Washington Post

South Africa to Deploy 73,000 More Troops to Enforce COVID-19 Lockdown
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa plans to deploy more than 73,000 extra troops to help implement a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the defense minister said. The country is four weeks into a strict police and military-enforced shutdown during which jogging, dog-walking and the sale of alcohol have been banned until the end of April. Security forces have struggled to keep people indoors – particularly in overcrowded townships – and the police have been grappling with illegal alcohol sales, sometimes involving its own men. In a letter to parliament tweeted by an opposition party leader, Ramaphosa announced his decision to deploy an additional 73,180 members of the South African National Defence Force until June 26. The operation is expected to cost around 4.5 billion rand ($2.4 million), said the letter, which was dated Tuesday, April 21. The Defense Post

Niger Jails 10 after Violent Protests against Virus Lockdown
Ten people were jailed after taking part in violent protests in the Niger capital Niamey against measures aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic, police said on Tuesday. The measures include a nighttime curfew and a ban on collective prayers, with the holy Muslim month of Ramadan approaching at the weekend. Those jailed were among 108 protesters who were arrested between Friday and Sunday, a police statement said. They are being held in the high-security Koutoukale prison some 60km outside Niamey, the statement said. Residents of several districts of the capital clashed on Sunday with security forces against the confinement measures. “Organised individuals set about burning tyres and attacking private property,” the Niamey regional governor, Issaka Assane Karanta, said on state television Tuesday. “Many neighbourhoods were torched.” He said assailants on motorcycles were seen placing tyres and petrol-filled jerrycans around the city, adding: “Everything was well planned, well organised.” AFP

We Must Act Now to Prevent African ‘Health Crisis from Becoming a Food Crisis’ – UN’s IFAD
Africa must move swiftly to prevent a looming food crunch caused by coronavirus disruption for small-scale producers, the head of a UN agency says. “People in lockdown no longer have access to public transport systems, to seeds, to informal markets, to sell their goods or buy inputs such as seed and fertiliser,” said Gilbert Houngbo, head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). “The closure of major highways and bans on exports could also harm food systems,” he told AFP in an interview. “The breaking of logistical chains is one of the biggest problems to resolve,” he said. “We have to act right now to prevent a health crisis from becoming a food crisis.” IFAD specialises in help for poor rural populations, seeking to strengthen food security and employment through low-interest loans and grants. The agency on Monday said it had committed $40 million to a fund called the Covid-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility, aimed at easing the impact of the pandemic on food production and market access. It appealed for at least $200 million more from UN members, foundations and the private sector. AFP

Cameroon Admits Soldiers Took Part in February Killing of Civilians
The government had previously denied any role in the massacre in the region, where English-speaking separatists have been fighting government forces for the past two years. According to the United Nations, the death toll in the massacre on the night of February 13 left 23 civilians dead including 15 children in the village of Ntumbo. It said nine of the children were under age five and that two of the victims were pregnant women. In a statement read over state radio on Tuesday, the president’s office said three soldiers and a vigilante group stormed a separatist base, killing five, before “discovering that three women and 10 children were killed” in the firefight. … The army initially claimed that the deaths were an accident after fuel supplies exploded into flames during a gun battle with separatists. AFP

Coronavirus: Buhari Asks Nigeria’s Chief Judge to Free Prisoners
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the chief judge to free prison inmates who have been awaiting trial for six years or more to ease overcrowding as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, a spokesman said on Tuesday. A statement quoted Buhari as saying 42 percent of Nigeria’s 74,000 or so prisoners were awaiting trial. He urged Chief Judge Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad to reduce that number “since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible.” Buhari said inmates with no confirmed criminal cases against them, elderly prisoners and those who are terminally ill could be discharged. “Most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control,” he said. Two weeks ago, Buhari pardoned 2,600 prisoners who were either 60 or older, terminally ill, or had less than six months left to serve of sentences of three years or more. Reuters

Oil Crash Comes at the ‘Worst Time’ for African Exporters Such as Nigeria, Angola
Until Monday evening, many might have found the idea of living in a world where someone selling oil would have to pay the “buyer” to take it off of their hands completely fanciful, more so of all emerging economies with commodities to sell. For the first time in history, crude oil prices into negative territory this week because of the Covid-19 pandemic that has sent demand for the fuel crashing as the world’s leading economies have ground to an almost complete halt over the past few weeks. Oil producing nations, such as Nigeria and Angola, with their disproportionately high reliance on the fuel, are set for a difficult period. In Nigeria “…oil is almost 90% of revenue. Even though the economy is diversified, the export of oil makes the country very dependent on oil for foreign exchange and revenues,” economist Diana Games said. … “The oil slump could not have come at a worse time for African countries. They are too dependent on oil for revenue. Because of Covid-19, their resources are stretched as they need to fight the pandemic…but this is an opportunity to re-engineer their economies.” Fin24

Sudan’s Cooking Gas and Bread Shortage Puts Anti-COVID-19 Social Distancing under Pressure
Social distancing as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the Sudanese capital Khartoum and the three main cities has been under pressure as long queues formed in front of bakeries, fuel stations, and neighbourhood squares due to lack of fuel and cooking gas. The Anti-Coronavirus Operations Room issued decisions to provide basic necessities and limit the spread of the pandemic as the death toll to date reaches 12. On Monday, the High Committee for Economic Emergencies announced that it would provide all the country’s needs of wheat, diesel, petrol, and cooking gas as well as electricity during this lockdown period. In a statement on Monday, Omar Manis, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, said that a directive has been issued to authorise the police and other security forces to monitor the flow and movement of goods and other necessities. The new decision aims at preventing any manipulation or hindering activities, especially goods transportation from inside the port to the country and distribution channels. Radio Dabanga

US Commits $13.1 Million to Combat COVID-19 in South Sudan
The United States government says it has committed $13.1 million to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 outbreak in South Sudan. On April 16, the United States announced $5.1 million, in addition to $8 million announced on March 27. … These funds, it added, include $11.5 million in USAID International Disaster Assistance and $1.6 million in humanitarian assistance to support COVID-19 response efforts for refugees in South Sudan through the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Through this assistance, USAID will reportedly support case management to strengthen clinical care while minimizing the risk of onwards transmission to others, infection prevention and control to prevent and control infections in health-care facilities and expansion of water, sanitation and hygiene programs, among other programs. Radio Tamazuj

2020 Commonwealth Summit in Kigali Postponed
The 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) scheduled for later this year in Rwanda has been postponed due to coronavirus. The Commonwealth Secretariat on Tuesday said the summit set to take place from June 22 – 27 had been pushed to a later date. “The 26th CHOGM and associated events will be held in Kigali at a time to be announced in due course,” the Secretariat said in a statement. … The summit was to host up to 52 heads of state, including the Prime Minister of UK Boris Johnson and the Queen’s representative, Prince Charles. Rwanda was banking on fetching over $700 million from trade deals during the summit. Hotels too were expected to benefit and had set aside at least 8,000 rooms for delegates. In preparation, road upgrades and $10 million was spent on beautification of the city -while the government also scrapped visa requirements for citizens from Commonwealth countries, as it expected close to 7,000 delegates from across the world to fly in. The East African

Ugandan Security Forces Arrest Writer, TV Anchor after Coronavirus Posts
Ugandan security forces have arrested a writer and a television news anchor over posts they allegedly wrote on social media related to the coronavirus pandemic. Author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija appeared in court Monday, charged with committing an act that could spread the virus. … Kakwenza is the author of a satirical book titled The Greedy Barbarian, which most readers see as a comment on the president, Yoweri Museveni. … He is accused of posting a Facebook message on April 6 that allegedly urged the public not to comply with public health guidelines issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the message, Kakwenza posted a picture taken inside a market, showing how people in Iganga were ignoring government guidelines on social distancing. The message suggested the president needs to “be serious” about enforcing directives… Arnaud Froger, head of the Africa desk for media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, said the group has recorded 65 press freedom violations in sub-Saharan Africa since the start of the coronavirus crisis. VOA

Namibia Remains Africa’s Freest Country for Journalists
Namibia remains Africa’s freest country for journalists, ranking at number one in the 2020 world press freedom index on the continent. The country ranked at number 23 globally in the just released world press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders. The index looks at happenings in various countries around the world in relation to how free journalists and media houses are to operate. According to Reporters Without Borders, “Press freedom has a firm hold in Namibia, Africa’s best ranked country in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, and enjoys solid guarantees.” “It is protected by the constitution and is often defended by the courts when under attack from other quarters within the state or by vested interests,” the report said. The report also referred to a 2019 ruling by the supreme court “that the government could not use national security as a pretext for preventing the courts from deciding whether the media could reveal certain information.” … Eritrea remains the dangerous place for journalists in Africa ranking 178 out of 180 in the world. Africa Feeds

Sierra Leone: COVID-19 – President Goes Under Self-Quarantine
Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio announced on Monday that he is going into self-isolation for 14 days as a precautionary measure after one of his bodyguards tested positive for Covid-19. President Bio made the revelation to the nation in a televised address. He assured Sierra Leoneans that neither he nor any member of his family had developed any coronavirus symptoms. According to the presidency, the unnamed bodyguard had been in quarantine when he eventually tested positive for the virus. The development comes amid rising cases of the disease in the country. Monday’s announcement came as shock to many as they were expecting that Mr Bio would be announcing another nationwide lockdown. A press conference scheduled Sunday was repeatedly postponed at least three times before the president eventually made the televised address. On Monday eight cases were confirmed, bringing the total tally to 43. On a positive note, six people were discharged on Sunday after they completed treatment for the virus and tested negative. Daily Nation

Lack of Virus Testing Stokes Fears in World’s Refugee Camps
There’s a similar sense of foreboding in conflict zones across Africa. Burkina Faso is grappling with one of the world’s fastest growing displacement crises, with 800,000 people having fled attacks by jihadis in recent months. “We ran away from the terrorists and came here, but now there’s the coronavirus, and we don’t know what will happen,” said Boureima Gassambe. He and around 600 others have settled in an abandoned school on the outskirts of the capital, Ouagadougou. Twenty to 30 people stay in each room. Aguirata Maiga says soap is so expensive for her – 40 cents a bar – that she has to choose between washing her children’s hands and their clothes. … In Kenya’s crowded Kakuma refugee camp, more than 190,000 Somali refugees live in tents and rely on 19 wells. “That’s more than 10,000 people getting water from the same borehole,” said Kurt Tjossem of the International Rescue Committee. … There is no coronavirus testing at Kakuma or at the Dadaab camp, said the IRC’s Kenya health coordinator, John Kiogora. There are no intensive care units or ventilators, either. AP

COVID Stops Many Migrants Sending Money Home
When a virus spreads, so does hardship. A partial lockdown in Uganda has forced Barbara Nakyewa to close her hair salon in Kampala, the capital. Half a world away, in Philadelphia, her husband’s work as a lorry driver has dried up. He used to send home about $80 a month. Now he has not a cent to spare. Each morning Ms Nakyewa cooks porridge for her five children from a dwindling bag of maize, hoping for a government food handout. Remittances are falling sharply across Africa. At one payments company, transfers from Britain to east Africa may have fallen by 80%. Another has seen flows from Italy to Africa drop by 90%. The effects are painful. The Economist

Corona Crisis in Kenya: ‘Fact Checking Can Save Lives!’
Although the people in Mariwa’s village are reacting correctly, false news is quickly spreading nationwide and can be so contradictory that people don’t know what to believe. False claims abound, such as “The coronavirus is extremely contagious and if someone coughs on you, you’ll die.” Or: “Only Europeans can contract the virus. Blacks are immune.” Claims like these have gone viral, especially on social media. This is why it is so important that people can recognize sources and reports they can trust. As a result, media and information literacy (MIL) is now more important than ever. This is where the work of Catherine Gicheru and the data journalism project “Code for Africa” comes in. In 2019, DW Akademie’s partner set up fact-checking desks in various media houses across the country. Code for Africa supports journalists, government offices and human rights NGOs involved in various and very different projects. … “The main focus right now,” says Gircheru, “is on promoting accurate and easy-to-understand reports about the virus and its effect.” DW



Photo: Adam Jones