Africa Media Review for April 23, 2020

Understanding Fulani Perspectives on the Sahel Crisis
The disproportionate representation of Fulani in militant Islamist groups in the Sahel has led to the stigmatization of the entire Fulani community. Reversing this will require renewed outreach and trust-building between Fulani leaders, government authorities, and neighboring communities. … The spread of insecurity in the Sahel has led some observers to simplify the current situation as a “Fulani jihad” or a “Fulani rebellion.” … Fulani stigmatization, in turn, has precipitated the targeting of Fulani communities by neighboring community militias such as the Dozo in central Mali and the Koglweogo in Burkina Faso. These militias have mounted attacks killing hundreds of Fulani civilians that have spurred further recruitment for militant Islamist groups, propelling a deadly revenge-reprisal cycle. Fulani leaders, thus, are faced with the dual challenge of defusing the group-wide stigmatization while stemming further recruitment from militant groups. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Burkina Faso and Ghana have eased some coronavirus lockdown restrictions this week to test the possibility of a return to a semblance of normality after weeks of shutdowns that have hobbled both economies. The West African countries have rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and it is unclear yet how bad it will become: Africa’s infections have lagged those in Europe, Asia and the United States but testing levels are low and the virus could wreak havoc in some of the world’s weakest health systems if cases skyrocket. In Burkina’s capital, Ouagadougou, markets had been closed since March 25. On Monday the government reopened one as a test to see if it could safely do the same with the rest by the end of the month. Sellers and customers who entered the market this week had to wear a mask, wash their hands and have their temperature taken, said Armand Beouinde, Ouagadougou’s mayor. He said that only two people are allowed inside shops at one time, and that all shops had to carry hand sanitizer. Reuters

Six Killed by Kenyan Police Enforcing Coronavirus Curfew: HRW
At least six people have died in Kenya from police violence during the enforcement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew implemented to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The measure, which came to power on March 27, prohibits people from moving outside between 7pm (16:00 GMT) and 5am (02:00 GMT). The six deaths investigated by HRW happened during its first 10 days, the US-based group said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is shocking that people are losing their lives and livelihoods while supposedly being protected from infection,” said Otsieno Namwaya, HRW’s senior Africa researcher. The victims include a 13-year-old boy shot in the stomach while standing on a balcony, a tomato vendor hit by a tear gas canister thrown to disperse people at an open-air market and an accountant beaten to death in a pub, according to HRW. It said police officers have also extorted money from residents and looted food. The group called on Kenyan authorities to “urgently investigate” cases of police brutality and hold those responsible to account. Al Jazeera

‘Instead of Coronavirus, the Hunger Will Kill Us.’ A Global Food Crisis Looms.
In the largest slum in Kenya’s capital, people desperate to eat set off a stampede during a recent giveaway of flour and cooking oil, leaving scores injured and two people dead. … “We don’t have any money, and now we need to survive,” said Pauline Karushi, who lost her job at a jewelry business in Nairobi, and lives in two rooms with her child and four other relatives. “That means not eating much.” … The coronavirus has sometimes been called an equalizer because it has sickened both rich and poor, but when it comes to food, the commonality ends. It is poor people, including large segments of poorer nations, who are now going hungry and facing the prospect of starving. “The coronavirus has been anything but a great equalizer,” said Asha Jaffar, a volunteer who brought food to families in the Nairobi slum of Kibera after the fatal stampede. “It’s been the great revealer, pulling the curtain back on the class divide and exposing how deeply unequal this country is.” The New York Times

Violent Demonstration against Coronavirus Measures in Sudan’s Northern State
The decision of the authorities to close the market and restrict the movement of people in El Mahas district in Delgo in Northern State in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus led to violent demonstrations yesterday. Miners and policemen were injured. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the demonstrators set fire to the Delgo locality offices, the Zakat (Muslim alms) Chamber, the police station, and the office of the Sudanese Mining Company in Delgo. The police intervened and fired live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, which led to various injuries. The governor of Northern State, Maj Gen Mohamed El Hasan, said that the demonstrators wounded two members of the police. The Northern State Security Committee said in a statement that some of the 50,000 miners demonstrated against the closure of the mining markets in Okasha in Halfa locality, and the Delgo market. Radio Dabanga

South Africa: Military Deployment a Show of Mercy Not of Might – SANDF
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) says additional reinforcements to bolster the military’s presence to enforce the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic will mostly concentrate on infrastructure, logistics and medical support. This week President Cyril Ramaphosa informed Parliament of the deployment of more than 73 000 SANDF members. … Addressing a virtual meeting of the committee on Wednesday, Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs the extra deployment was necessary because the 2 820 soldiers already deployed across the country are fighting fatigue after four weeks of daily duty. Ten battalions have been deployed to each province, with two stationed in Gauteng. Military leaders told MPs the newly deployed personnel will be used to set up field hospitals, triage units and quarantine sites in Covid-19 hotspots around the country in case the public health service becomes overwhelmed. Mail & Guardian

How an Alcohol Ban Was Deployed to Fight the Coronavirus Pandemic in South Africa
When the South African government announced a national lockdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in late March, an unexpected clause was added: a complete ban on alcohol sales. Critics swiftly denounced it as puritanical. Bootleggers sprang into action. Mobs looted liquor stores. Economists fretted about the lost tax revenue, and some South Africans began brewing pineapple beer at home. But while the outrage grew, hospitals were counting the benefits. They recorded 23,000 fewer weekly admissions to their trauma units after the lockdown, a two-thirds decline – and researchers estimated that about 40 per cent of this decline was due to the alcohol ban, which has reduced everything from car accidents to stabbings and shootings. With cases of COVID-19 still climbing daily, the freed-up hospital beds that stemmed from the alcohol ban have been valuable in protecting South Africa’s fragile health system and preventing the severe strains that have overwhelmed the hospitals of many wealthier parts of the world. The Globe & Mail

Gazelle Crash in Mozambique Confirmed
The Islamic State has released video of a destroyed Gazelle helicopter in Mozambique, confirming reports that the aircraft went down earlier this month. The video, from the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency, was released on 20 April and says “A helicopter was shot down by Islamic State fighters on Wednesday [8 April].” The video shows masked, armed men with an Islamist flag surrounding the wreckage of the burnt-out Gazelle. Whilst the wreckage does not show registration, the colour of the tail boom, which survived the fire, is consistent with Gazelle ZU-ROJ that was reported destroyed on either 8 or 10 April. The aircraft apparently was hit by small arms fire through the gearbox while targeting Islamist insurgents. ZU-ROJ was registered to South African company Aviator at Work in December 2019 and is believed to be flown by Dyck Advisory Group (DAG). DefenceWeb

In Central African Republic, a Colossal Struggle against COVID-19
Before dawn in a suburb recovering from war, Fanny Balekossi awakes and heads into the centre of Bangui. A radio broadcaster specialising in health issues, Balekossi survived years of sectarian fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) during which her older sister and close friends perished. Now, she is facing a new struggle to pull her country back from the brink once more. In a studio at Radio Ndeke Luka, CAR’s most popular station, Balekossi puts on her headphones, turns on the mic and begins speaking to her listeners in a country that the United Nations calls one of the least prepared to cope with a coronavirus outbreak. “Welcome to your Health Magazine show,” she says in her gentle, reassuring tone. “Today we’re talking about the importance of handwashing during this health crisis that is rocking the world. ” Al Jazeera

Economic Impact of Coronavirus Threatens Hard-Won Progress across Africa’s Great Lakes Region
Sweeping preventative measures seem to be curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the Great Lakes region of Africa, but the economic impact of the global pandemic threatens hard-won gains made along the long road back to peace and stability, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the region said on Wednesday. Briefing the Security Council during open videoconference proceedings, Huang Xia urged the international community not to let up on its support for the continent-spanning region that includes Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda, among several other nations. Citing data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Special Envoy said that the novel coronavirus has so far claimed 131 lives in the Great Lakes region among more than 4766 confirmed cases – but is spreading at a “moderate rate” compared to other parts of the world. So far, strict travel restrictions and quarantine measures seem to be keeping the spread of the deadly virus at bay, he said. But the economic impact is already significant, with many key sectors – including agriculture, mining and transportation – at a near-standstill. UN News

IMF Approves $363 Million for Congo to Fight COVID-19 Pandemic
The International Monetary Fund will provide a $363.27 million loan to the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight an economic situation that is “deteriorating quickly” because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The money, which was approved Wednesday by the IMF board, will help Congo manage falling revenues and increased spending needs due to the virus, which has claimed 25 lives and infected at least 359 people in the country thus far. “DRC is experiencing a severe shock as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the IMF said in an emailed statement. “The short-term economic outlook has deteriorated quickly due to the fall of minerals’ prices and the impact of needed containment and mitigation measures.” … Congo’s government has committed to publishing monthly audits of Covid-19 related expenditures “to ensure transparency in the use of public funding,” the IMF said. Bloomberg

Togo Opposition Chief Arrested for Declaring Himself President
Togo’s main opposition leader, Agbéyomé Kodjo, has been arrested. Agbeyome, a former Prime Minister was arrested on Tuesday, April 21, at his home and taken to the gendarmerie’s Central Research and Criminal Investigation Service, according AFP. One of his lawyers, Claver N’dry, confirmed that his house was besieged before the operatives forcibly broke into the house. Authorities accused the opposition leader of having refused obey two previous summons. His lawyers, however, justify the absence of their client citing health problems. … In mid-March, Kodjo’s parliamentary immunity was lifted at the request of the Lomé public prosecutor’s office, which accused him of proclaiming himself president of the Republic, even though the electoral commission had declared Faure Gnassingbé the winner of the February presidential election. … Meanwhile, the Togolese bishops’ conference on its part advocates a political solution and calls for the release of the former prime minister, but not without condemning, “the brutality and violence” that occasioned his arrest. Africa News

Botswana’s President, Lawmakers Out of Quarantine after Testing Negative for Coronavirus
President Mokgweetsi Masisi and all of Botswana’s lawmakers have been released from two weeks in quarantine after testing negative for the coronavirus, a senior official said on Thursday. They had been asked to quarantine for 14 days and be tested after a health worker screening the lawmakers for the virus tested positive. “All members of parliament have tested negative for COVID-19 and they are being released from quarantine,” Kereng Masupu, coordinator of the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force, told a news briefing. Botswana, which has implemented a state of emergency and lockdown to stem the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory disease which the coronavirus can cause, has tested 5,023 people for the virus so far. The southern African country has reported 22 confirmed cases, including eight instances of local transmission. One person has died after contracting the coronavirus. Reuters

Algeria Criminalises ‘Fake News’ Deemed Harmful to ‘Public Order and State Security’
Algerian members of parliament have passed a law criminalising the broadcast of “fake news” that is deemed harmful to “public order and state security.” The law, opposed by protesters and rights activists, is part of reforms to the penal code. It was put before parliament, debated and then approved in a morning session on Wednesday, according to state TV. The chamber was nearly empty due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures. A second bill penalising discrimination and hate speech was passed in the same sitting after a short debate, state TV reported. The move comes after Algeria’s anti-establishment protest movement suspended its street rallies last month in a voluntary bid to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. It also comes amid increasing repression of opposition and media in the country during recent months. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Northern Governors to Close Islamic Schools Due to Coronavirus Risk
Nigeria’s northern governors have agreed to close disputed Islamic schools which house millions of men and boys across the region due to concerns over the new coronavirus, the group said in a statement. The governors said the risk to children from the virus prompted this week’s decision to close the schools, and children would be evacuated to their parents or states of origin. Orphans would be taken care of by the state government where they are located. Islamic schools, known within Nigeria as almajiris, fill a gap left by state educational institutions. State schools are so overcrowded they cannot accommodate a booming population in northern Nigeria, which is predominately Muslim. … The Islamic schools enrol an estimated 10 million students, according to Nigerian human rights organisation the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC). But the schools have for years been dogged by accusations that some force children to beg on the streets, and late last year, raids at several schools uncovered horrific abuse. Reuters

Nigeria: 36 Governors Adopt Two-Week Inter-State Lockdown to Contain COVID-19
The 36 states governors, on Wednesday, resorted to adopting a two-week inter-state lockdown as measures aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus pandemic across the country. This was concluded during the sixth teleconference led by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, during which the governors harped on the need to decentralise the COVID-19 response. … “In order to strengthen coordinated implementation of necessary public health recommendations across states, governors resolved to set up COVID-19 committees at the regional level, headed by their state Commissioners of Health. The forum also received briefing from the governors of Lagos, Bauchi, Oyo and Ogun states who shared their experiences and lessons from the fight against COVID-19. The Governors unanimously agreed to the implementation of an inter-state lockdown in the country over the next two weeks to mitigate the spread of the virus from state to state. Only essential services will be permitted. Vanguard

African Aviation Fighting for Survival as Air Mauritius Falls Victim to COVID-19
African airlines are struggling amidst the coronavirus lockdown as demand has evaporated since measures were put in place across the globe to halt the spread of Covid-19. Air Mauritius became the latest victim of Covid-19 as the company’s board of directors announced on Wednesday that the carrier would be put into voluntary administration. … Namibia’s flag carrier Air Namibia said on Wednesday that it was having cashflow problems, according to local media reports. … Kenya Airways has pivoted its service to cargo and converted four of its passenger aircraft to lessen the impact of Covid-19 and increase its freight capacity. It has already started to transport fresh produce, including vegetables, to Europe using the converted widebody aircraft. … Ethiopian Airlines, the African continent’s largest carrier, is struggling for survival, CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told AFP news agency in an interview. … South African Airways last week went cap in hand to the government, requesting 485 million euros in funding. SAA like other airlines has seen its operations dwindle over Covid-19 measures. RFI

‘No Pata Pata’: 60s South Africa Dance Hit Revived to Spread Word on Coronavirus
The world-famous song Pata Pata, a South African dance hit from the 1960s, has been re-released with new lyrics to spread information about coronavirus to vulnerable communities. Meaning “touch touch” in the Xhosa language, Pata Pata was written by Grammy-winning singer Miriam Makeba who named it after a dance move popular in Johannesburg at the time. The new version sung by Beninese artist Angelique Kidjo includes lyrics such as, “We need to keep our hands clean so ‘no-Pata Pata’… Don’t touch your face, keep distance please and ‘no-Pata Pata.'” It will be played on more than 15 radio stations across African countries on Thursday, said the UN children’s agency, Unicef,which organized the release. “It sounds so simple and yet it’s still really difficult to get information out to people in the most remote areas or to people who aren’t online,” said Unicef spokesman James Elder. “Radio does the trick every time,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones