Africa Media Review for April 27, 2020

12 Rangers among 17 Killed in Congo Park Ambush
Twelve rangers were among 17 people killed in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said, in one of the worst massacres in the park’s recent history. The park blamed members of a Rwandan rebel group for the attack. The rangers were on their way back to the park, the oldest in Africa, when they spotted a civilian vehicle that had been attacked and came to its defense, park officials said in a statement. But they came under “a ferociously violent and sustained ambush” about 11 a.m. on Friday near Rumangabo village, according to the statement. Aside from the rangers killed, a driver and four civilians were shot dead. Two other civilians and four rangers were injured, with one in critical condition. “This is a devastating day for Virunga National Park and the surrounding communities,” the park officials said. The park said the gunmen belonged to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, one of the largest foreign armed groups in the country, whose ranks include members accused of having links to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The New York Times

DR Congo Police Arrest Sect Leader after Deadly Raid
The self-styled prophet of a separatist sect blamed for deadly attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been arrested in a raid on his home in Kinshasa involving hundreds of security forces. “Mission accomplished,” a police tweet said, after troops stormed the home of former MP Ne Muanda Nsemi, who heads the Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) sect, following an hours-long siege on Friday. A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said several BDK members were found in the house and added that an undisclosed number of people had died in the raid. An interior ministry statement said at least eight people were killed and another 35 injured, without giving details. A total of 168 were arrested, according to the statement. Police said that eight officers were seriously injured in the raid, suggesting that the fatalities were all sect members. An eyewitness told AFP he had seen 15 bodies after the police action, and many more injured. … The BDK aims to revive the pre-colonial Kongo kingdom that included what are today parts of neighbouring Angola, the Republic of Congo and Gabon, and has repeatedly fought with security forces. AFP

Coronavirus: The Different Approaches to Lockdowns in Africa
African countries have fewer coronavirus cases than much of the world, but weaker healthcare systems do put the continent at risk. Lockdown measures can help prevent the virus spreading, yet governments have taken very different approaches to imposing restrictions on their populations. Some, like Ghana, are now easing these measures, concerned about their impact on the poor and because they’ve taken other steps against the virus. Ghana did place lockdown restrictions on its major cities – which it has now largely lifted. But social events and public gatherings are still banned, and school closures will remain in place for the time being. “The lockdown was beginning to have a negative impact on the poor who mostly depend on their daily sales to make a living,” says BBC Ghana correspondent Thomas Naadi. Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo has said increased testing and improved treatment centres meant they could ease measures. The Democratic Republic of Congo has also relaxed some restrictions in those parts of its capital city, Kinshasa, that had been badly hit by coronavirus. BBC

COVID-19 Spate of Expulsions Drive Wedge between EA Neighbours
Uganda and South Sudan governments’ decisions to deport a Tanzanian and Kenyan nationals who tested positive for Covid-19 has strained relations among EAC member countries, putting at risk cross-border movement of goods in the region. The repatriations, which are against World Health Organisation guidelines on how to handle pandemics such as the Covid-19 outbreak, have also put to test the East African Community common market and free movement protocols. Uganda is on record for having decided to repatriate a Tanzanian and Kenyan truck drivers who tested positive for coronavirus, while a South Sudanese taskforce on the Covid-19 pandemic also resolved to have two sick Kenyans evacuated by air. “A male Kenyan truck driver, aged 27, was found positive among the 372 truck drivers tested yesterday. His sample was also collected at Malaba entry point. Arrangements are being made to return him to Kenya for treatment close to his family,” read a statement released on April 20 by Uganda’s Director General of Health Services, Dr Henry Mwebesa. The East African

Somalia: Policeman Arrested for Shooting Two during COVID-19 Curfew
Somalia’s security agencies were on Saturday holding a police officer accused of shooting and killing two civilians as he enforced a Covid-19 curfew. The incident, which risks negating the public cooperation against the virus, came as the country’s infection numbers soared again to 390 cases. Police officers have, since last week, been implementing a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the capital Mogadishu indefinitely, as authorities battled to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus beyond the city. But on Friday night, an officer the force identified as Hassan Adan Hassan reportedly shot dead two people as they walked home during curfew hours. The officer has since been detained in Mogadishu, but the incident led to running battles in the streets of Mogadishu as residents protested the brutality. The officer argued that the two men refused to obey orders as he directed forcing him to draw the weapon. Daily Nation

Madobe Signs Unity Pact with Jubbaland Rivals
Brokered by the Kenyan government and facilitated by Puntland state President Said Abdullahi Deni, Madobe on Thursday announced having reached a “historic” agreement with rivals who had last year formed a parallel administration. In a declaration issued in Nairobi, Mr Madobe and his protagonists, the Jubbaland Council for Change, said they recognise Madobe’s election last August, in the “interest” of the people. They also said they would form a “quality “coalition government to administer the Somali federal state, including working together to fight Al-Shabaab. “The two parties, while taking into consideration the tough and challenging times facing Jubbaland, fully acknowledged the urgent need to settle the political dispute and reach a political agreement through dialogue and concession,” the declaration said on Thursday. “Leaders representing both sides have unanimously agreed to work towards strengthening unity, and social cohesion of the people of Jubbaland and resolve all matters of concern or conflict through consultation and dialogue.”

Burundi Using ‘Violence’ against Opposition Ahead of Polls: HRW
Burundi’s government is using fear and repression against the opposition as the central African country heads to the polls next month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday. The rights group accused local authorities, security forces and members of the governing party’s youth league, the Imbonerakure, of using violence as campaigning for the May 20 election started on Monday. “Violence and repression have been the hallmark of politics in Burundi since 2015, and as elections approach and the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, tensions are rising,” Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at HRW, said. “There is little doubt that these elections will be accompanied by more abuses, as Burundian officials and members of the Imbonerakure are using violence with near-total impunity to allow the ruling party to entrench its hold on power,” he added. HRW said they spoke to more than 20 people, including victims, witnesses, civil society groups, police, and governing party sources, who described abuses in six of the country’s 18 provinces. The rights group said they documented killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and threats and harassment against real or perceived political opponents over the last six months. Al Jazeera

DiCarlo to UN Security Council: ‘We Must Do Everything We Can to Support Sudan’
In a briefing to the United Nations Security Council on Sudan on Friday, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo called on the UN to “do everything we can to support the transition and the Sudanese people in addressing the existing challenges.” Six months after the establishment of the transitional government, Sudan continues to face significant challenges, DiCarlo stated. “Sudan’s political fragility has been brought into focus with recent protests by elements affiliated with the former regime, as well as by security incidents like the mid-January protest of former intelligence operatives that led to violent confrontations in Khartoum. USG Lacroix has already mentioned the assassination attempt against Prime Minister Hamdok. “The humanitarian situation in the country remains worrisome. The number of people who need humanitarian assistance across Sudan increased from about 8 million to 9.3 million by the end of 2019. Needs are largely driven by a deepening economic crisis. Radio Dabanga

Libya Becoming Experimental Arms Field
Libya is turning into “an experimental field for all types of new weapons systems,” the UN acting special envoy said, with foreign supporters of the warring parties shipping in arms and fighters in violation of an embargo. Libya’s conflict escalated sharply this month, with fierce fighting on several fronts in the west despite urgent calls from the UN and aid agencies for a truce to tackle the coronavirus crisis. The new wave of fighting is fuelled by arms imported from abroad, UN acting envoy Stephanie Williams said in an online news conference. “We have the RPO-A flame thrower, some kind of thermobaric system used in the southern suburbs of Tripoli. We have new UAVs brought in, including a UAV essentially a suicide UAV that explodes on impact,” Williams said. “These are two examples of frightening systems deployed in an urban setting which is completely unacceptable,” she added. Reuters

Burkina Faso Struggles against COVID-19 and Extremist Threat
The last time Amado Compaore saw his wife, she asked him for a phone charger so she could text friends and let them know she was OK. She died just hours later. Rose Marie Compaore, 62, Burkina Faso’s second Vice President of the parliament, became the first person in the West African country to die from COVID-19. “It’s very very difficult … My love and my life has left,” said Compaore, looking downwards outside his house in the capital, Ouagadougou. Days after her death last month, Compaore’s four children arrived from Montreal, Canada, where they live, to be with their father. Since then no health workers have informed the family what protective measures to take, he said. Burkina Faso is one of Africa’s nations hardest hit by the coronavirus with 41 deaths, one of the highest number of fatalities in sub-Saharan Africa. Among the country’s 629 cases are the U.S. and Italian ambassadors as well as at least six government ministers. By contrast, neighboring Mali has about half as many cases and half as many deaths. AP

Nigeria Kano State’s Rise in Deaths Not Due to Coronavirus -State Government
A sharp rise in deaths in the Nigerian city of Kano was caused by complications from other health conditions and not the new coronavirus, the state government said on Sunday, citing a preliminary assessment, after a local newspaper reported what it called “mysterious” recent deaths. The Daily Trust newspaper reported on Tuesday the recent deaths of around 150 people in the northern commercial city of Kano, prompting investigations to determine if they were related to the coronavirus pandemic. The state government acknowledged the deaths but said they were caused by complications from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria and not the COVID-19 pandemic. “The state government is concerned over what is happening. The ministry of health is already handling the situation. When they are through with the medical investigation, further necessary actions will be taken,” a Kano spokesman said in a statement. Kano state has become the epicenter of the pandemic in northern Nigeria, with 77 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death. Nigeria has 1,182 cases and a national death toll of 35. Reuters

First Cases of Coronavirus Lock Down Nigeria’s Northeast
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Nigeria’s conflict-hit northeast rose to 12 this week, as aid workers scrambled to improve water and sanitation services in the region’s overcrowded displacement camps. The death of a Médecins Sans Frontières health worker on 18 April was the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Borno State – the centre of the conflict with the jihadist group Boko Haram. The nurse had worked in a displacement camp in Pulka, on the border with Cameroon, and had no history of travel outside Borno. More than 100 of his contacts in Pulka and the state capital, Maiduguri, have been traced and are under self-quarantine – some having tested positive. The state government ordered a 14-day lockdown beginning on Wednesday evening. “It’s our very, very worst fears,” Nigeria’s former chief humanitarian coordinator, Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, told The New Humanitarian. “The only saving grace in this tragedy is that [the nurse] was a local man from the state, as there is already a huge trust deficit regarding the humanitarian community.” The New Humanitarian

How Boko Haram Sustain Operations through International Trade in Smoked Fish
Among the major economic activities disrupted by the insurgency in Lake Chad are commercial fishing and farming of red pepper. These were major trading products upon which the local economy of a vast array of communities in the Lake Chad Basin, particularly Borno state in Nigeria, was dependent. But in 2015 the insurgents took strategic steps to control and re-order trade in both products. They encouraged local fishing among the communities by the banks of the lake and created a new regime of levies and secure routes for fish traders to reach designated markets. According to the World Food Programme, before the Boko Haram crisis, the combined fish and red pepper trades contributed 28 billion CFA Francs ($48 million) to the Nigerien economy, with most of this coming from exports to Nigeria. The red pepper or red gold farming and trade is estimated to employ over 300,000 people. … Because the structures of both the production and trade had collapsed, the ISWAP leadership sent emissaries to various camps of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno State requesting them to return to their farms, fishing and trading under their watch, HumAngle was told. Premium Times

Malawi Police Clash with Prison Guards Demanding COVID-19 Protection Equipment
Police in Malawi clashed with prison guards who are demanding personal protective equipment against the coronavirus as well as hazard pay. The guards went on strike Thursday, saying working without PPE in the crowded prisons puts them at risk. Police used tear gas Friday to disperse protesting guards in various jails across the country. The guards resisted by throwing stones and pointing guns at police armory vehicles, forcing them to withdraw. The clashes began Thursday after the guards at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre allegedly assaulted three police officers who wanted to stop the strike. National Prison spokesperson Chimwemwe Shawa told VOA he couldn’t comment on police actions in Friday’s events. “Currently I am trying to touch base because I have seen them in the social media, but for now I don’t have any comment on the involvement of police. But all in all, management is trying to make sure that the tension is eased,” Shawa said. VOA

Battle-Hardened after Ebola, Liberian Doctors Have Head Start on Coronavirus Outbreak
Many Liberians remember Jerry Brown, the doctor leading the country’s coronavirus response team, for his fearlessness during the Ebola crisis in the West African state. When the virus was poorly understood, and an infection tantamount to a death sentence, Brown risked his own life providing primary care for suffering patients. “I must admit, the Ebola crisis was difficult,” said the doctor, who was named one of Time magazine’s people of the year in 2014 for his Ebola work. The disease killed over 4 800 people between 2014 and 2016 in Liberia, the hardest-hit country in the West African outbreak. Just four years later, the country of some 4.8 million people is now staring down the barrel of a coronavirus outbreak. From his base in a military hospital 20km from the capital Monrovia, Brown said Liberia had to draw on its Ebola experience. “No individual effort can contain this virus,” he said, explaining that several sections of society had to pull in the same direction to defeat Ebola. AFP

UN Food Chief: Funding and Access Can Avert Starvation
The head of the World Food Program says he has been on the phone with leaders of some of the world’s richest nations with a critical message: the coronavirus pandemic is not only affecting your economy but is impacting the economies of vulnerable and conflict-torn countries where millions of people will face starvation if you cut the U.N. agency’s funding for food. David Beasley said in an interview with The Associated Press he has also been telling leaders that maintaining supply chains is critical and there are many potential obstacles – export restrictions, closed borders and ports, farms not producing and roads closed. … He cited the examples of South Sudan, which has faced years of conflict and is 98 percent dependent on revenue from oil whose price has plummeted as a result of COVID-19 and where WFP feeds about 6 million people, Nigeria where 90 percent of the economy is oil, and Ethiopia which has been struggling to feed its poor and where 50 percent of the economy is from tourism that has vanished since the pandemic. Beasley stressed that “We can’t say it’s hunger vs. COVID.” AP

How Do You Fight a Locust Invasion amid Coronavirus?
A second invasion by desert locusts has hit East Africa in just a few months, as younger and more aggressive swarms hatch and spread across a region already battling hunger and coronavirus, which has made it more difficult to get supplies to kill the crop-devouring pests. Currently, Africa’s second most-populous state, Ethiopia – along with regional economic powerhouse Kenya and politically unstable Somalia – have been worst hit. The UN estimates the swarms could be up to 20 times bigger than during the first invasion – and they could become 400 times bigger by June. “We found locusts on bushes, on pasture, irrigation plantations, even in forests,” said Meseret Hailu, an Ethiopian government official who assessed the devastation caused by the latest invasion in the country’s northern Amhara region. The staple grain teff – along with vegetables such as onions – have been devoured by the pests, she added. … To bring the invasion under control, pesticides and the more environmentally friendly bio-pesticides are needed. They are sourced from countries such as Japan, the Netherlands and Morocco. But with the coronavirus pandemic grounding most flights, cargo supply chains have become less reliable and more expensive. BBC

Africa Adapts to New Taste of Ramadan under COVID-19 Lockdown
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the flavour of this year’s Ramadan in Africa, home to a third of the world’s Muslim population. Between strict confinement, curfews and a ban on any public gatherings, the fasting month will be unlike most other years. There is less hum and buzz this year in African markets that usually sell ingredients such as meat, vegetable, and sweets for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar – a centrepiece of the holy month of Ramadan. Around the souks and streets of Egypt’s capital Cairo, a sprawling city of 23 million, the coronavirus has scared the usual throng of customers away. A night curfew has also made it difficult to shop. The restrictions on Ramadan have already begun to take their toll on Egyptians, dozens of whom marched in the coastal city of Alexandria on Thursday night for the start of the holy month in defiance of a ban on public gatherings. The government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has since loosened some of its restrictions, pushing the start of the night-time curfew back an hour to 9pm. RFI

Kenyan Students Innovate to Fill COVID-19 Ventilator Shortage
Fifteen medical and engineering students at Kenya’s Kenyatta University have made history by making the country’s first homegrown ventilator to help treat patients severely affected by the coronavirus. As of Saturday 25 April, confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kenya stood at 343 with 14 deaths. But officials are taking no chances with the highly contagious Covid-19 disease and have placed the country under lockdown with a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew. Should there be a spike in new cases, the country’s health network only has 259 functional ventilators, according to Dr Idris Nzao Chikophe, Secretary-General of the Kenya Critical Care Society. That’s where the Kenyatta University students step in. Leader of the group, Fidel Makatia, says his team is set to produce fifty ventilators within two weeks – an output they are capable of maintaining. RFI

The Sudden Rise of the Coronavirus Grim Reaper: Ghana’s Dancing Pallbearers
You may have seen them on the Internet: six men in black suits, sunglasses and patent leather shoes grooving to a techno beat while carrying a coffin. They are Ghana’s dancing pallbearers, a crew of funeral performers who have long sought to make mourners grin through grief. But as the coronavirus pandemic rages, they’ve become the accidental faces of a stay-at-home movement – comedic grim reapers edited into footage of risky behavior as a warning. Reopening a mall when cases are mounting? Cue the dancing pallbearers. Protesting a lockdown in a covid-19 hot spot? Cue the dancing pallbearers. Forget to wash your hands before eating? Cue the dancing pallbearers. People in China, Brazil and the United States have shared video after video since the outbreak began, garnering millions of clicks and an international fan base for the pallbearers. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones