Africa Media Review for April 29, 2020

Defusing the Political Crisis in Guinea
Ignoring massive protests, admonitions from ECOWAS leaders, and international criticism, President Alpha Condé pushed through a constitutional referendum in Guinea on March 22. The referendum along with legislative elections were boycotted by opponents on the grounds that it was illegitimate, having been authorized only by the President of the National Assembly, a Condé ally, and not the Parliament, as stipulated by the Constitution. At least 32 protesters were killed by police in the run-up to the polls. Deeming that the electoral process, including a disputed voter registry, fell below the standards for a credible vote, international electoral observers did not participate. At the heart of the controversy is 82-year-old Condé’s quest to undo term limits that would have him step down from the presidency in October, after 10 years in office, enabling Guinea’s first-ever democratic succession. … The moment is pivotal for Guinea given that the track record of African leaders who have stayed in power beyond 10 years is marred by growing repression, corruption, financial instability, underdevelopment, and conflict. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

‘We Cannot Be Complacent’ Says Africa CDC Boss
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa ended officially in June 2016. In January 2017, John Nkengasong began work as head of Africa’s new Centres for Disease Control (CDC). “These kinds of agencies, the CDCs of the world, have always been the product of emergencies,” he said. … Looking back, the new Ebola outbreak was a catalyst, forcing the Africa CDC to grow at speed. “We’ve come a long way, and quickly. We have responded to over 17 outbreaks in more than 15 African countries,” he said. The Africa CDC’s largest response has been in the DRC, where 60-odd people are stationed to assist the government. But there is no doubt that the novel coronavirus is the greatest test that this young institution has faced. Nkengasong is proud of its response. … Now, as the world confronts the Covid-19 pandemic, that decision is paying off. “It’s the one thing people talk about as the major benefit of the Ebola outbreak,” said Nkengasong… But there is still so much to be done. At the time of this interview, Nkengasong was preparing to brief the AU’s Peace and Security Council, hoping to persuade them to make more airlift capacity available to move supplies around the continent. “Quite honestly we cannot be complacent.” Mail & Guardian

Ivory Coast Former PM Soro Gets 20-Year Jail Term for ‘Embezzlement’
An Ivory Coast court on Tuesday sentenced exiled former prime minister Guillaume Soro to 20 years in jail on charges of embezzlement and money laundering. Soro, a former rebel leader and a candidate in presidential elections this October, currently lives in France. Soro was accused of buying a house in Abidjan in 2007 with public money. The Abidjan court on Tuesday fined him nearly seven million euros, ordered the confiscation of his Abidjan home and barred him from civic duties for five years. It also issued a fresh arrest warrant for Soro, who is also the former parliament speaker and who is now effectively barred from contesting the election. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights had recently ordered Ivory Coast to suspend an arrest warrant against Soro, who had taken his case to a Tanzania-based court last month. … Analysts viewed Soro as a serious challenger to his erstwhile ally President Alassane Ouattara, whom he helped to power in 2010 amid political violence which cost 3,000 lives. AFP

Somalia Struggles with Coronavirus as Infections Go Undetected
Six weeks after registering its first coronavirus case, Somalia on Monday had confirmed 480 infections out of 764 people tested for COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease that has disrupted life worldwide. The figures, given to Al Jazeera by Dr Abdirizak Yusuf Ahmed, the person leading Somalia’s COVID-19 response, raised major concerns that the actual tally could be much higher. “We believe we are missing thousands of cases,” said Ahmed, incident manager of Somalia’s task force. He explained that infections are going undetected because only highly symptomatic people are being tested, which also in part explains the number of positives given the sample size. Ahmed also said the country does not have the capacity to mass test. There are currently only three labs equipped to safely test for the disease, including one in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland and one in the breakaway region of Somaliland. … Martini Hospital in Mogadishu is the only medical facility dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients. Due to its limited capacity, the hospital only caters to the most severe cases. Al Jazeera

As Pandemic Encroaches on Abyei, Tensions Rise over Disputed Territory Straddling Sudan, South Sudan
Sudan’s efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, are delaying the deployment of fresh United Nations police units in Abyei and the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan, the UN’s peacekeeping chief told the Security Council on Tuesday. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, updating the Council on the work of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), said at the local level, the security situation remains volatile. The mission is mandated to protect civilians and humanitarians operating in the area. He pointed to rising tensions between the pastoral Ngok Dinka and nomadic Misseriya communities, as well growing criminality and the presence of armed elements, including some that have exchanged gunfire with UNISFA troops. Despite improving relations between Sudan and South Sudan, he added, it is very unlikely that progress will be made in determining the final status of the disputed territory that is administered in effect, as part of both States, given that the African Union Commission and the African Union’s High-Level Implementation Panel are stretched dealing with other priorities. UN News

Egypt Extends State of Emergency for Three Months
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday ordered the renewal for three months of a long-running state of emergency, citing health as well as security concerns. Egypt has been under a state of emergency since April 2017, when twin church bombings claimed by an Islamic State (ISIS) group affiliate killed dozens of people. The new extension comes as the government battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the Arab world’s most populous country. … The state of emergency gives police broad powers of arrest and detention and curtails constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and assembly. Last week, state media reported that parliament had approved amendments to the emergency law expanding the president’s powers to curb the virus’ spread. The amendments grant the president rights to close schools, suspend public sector work, restrict gatherings, quarantine inbound travellers and order private medical facilities to assist with general healthcare. AFP

Rwanda’s Internal Security Minister Loses Seat; Fifth Member of Cabinet to Be Fired in 2020
Gen Patrick Nyamvumba, appointed Minister of Internal Security in November last year, has been sacked, becoming one of the shortest-serving ministers in Rwanda. He becomes the fifth minister sacked this year, following President Paul Kagame’s pledge to fire more officials for “lying, carelessness and indiscipline.” President Kagame relieved the long-serving general of his duties “owing to matters of accountability under investigation,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said on Monday, without offering more details. … Gen Nyamvumba had previously served as the Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Force from 2013. Gen Nyamvumba’s dismissal comes at a time the army is investigating allegations that a group of soldiers assaulted, robbed and raped civilians in a Kigali slum during the coronavirus lockdown. The East African

Malawi Court Indefinitely Bars Virus Lockdown
A Malawi High Court on Tuesday extended indefinitely an order barring the government from imposing a 21-day coronavirus lockdown which was announced by President Peter Mutharika earlier this month. The court had initially placed a temporary block on the stay-at-home order, after a human rights groups filed a petition against the lockdown. The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) argued that the government had failed to announce any measures to cushion the poor and vulnerable from the effects of the lockdown which had been due to start on April 19. The initial order blocked the shutdown for seven days, pending a judicial review. Following that review, High Court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda extended the ban for a further five days. On Tuesday he decided to refer the case to the Constitutional Court because the issues raised by the petitioners required interpretation of the constitution. AFP

Conflict, Disasters Spark Record Number of Internally Displaced
A new report finds a record 50.8 million people globally are displaced within their own countries due to conflict, violence and natural disasters.  The report, published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, says an estimated 33.4 million people were newly displaced in 2019, the highest annual figure since 2012. The report says five countries – Syria, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and Afghanistan – account for the majority of the 45.7 million people internally displaced by conflict and violence. Director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, Alexandra Bilak, tells VOA much of the displacement last year was driven by new and ongoing conflicts and violence in West Africa and the Sahel, as well as ongoing local conflicts in Central Africa and the Horn of Africa. … One of the most dramatic examples of this is Burkina Faso. The report says conflict and violence linked largely to an increase in terrorist activities have triggered a huge increase in internal displacement from 42,000 people in 2018 to more than half-a-million last year. VOA

Displaced Malians Forced to Flee as Fire Destroys Camp in Bamako
Displaced Malians have been forced to flee after a fire tore through their makeshift camp in the capital, Bamako, destroying tents and reducing the land to ashes. Nobody was reported killed in Tuesday’s fire, Security Minister Salif Traore told AFP news agency. The Faladie camp – little more than a collection of huts resting on a landfill – was home to more than 1,000 people, most of whom had fled violence in central Mali. “I had been living there for two years,” said Aminata Diallo while looking at the ruins of her hut. She said that she had fled her home in central Mali because of war “and again I have lost everything.” Officials said they were not yet sure what started the fire, but one survivor said people had been burning rubbish in the landfill. “People set fire to waste to burn it and with the strong wind today everything caught fire at the end of the morning, it is a disaster,” said Ibrahim Maiga, a survivor of the fire. Al Jazeera

Launch of African Free Trade Deal Postponed Due to Coronavirus -Official
The implementation of a mammoth African free trade agreement will not begin on July 1 as planned due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, a senior official said on Tuesday. “It is obviously not possible to commence trade as we had intended on 1 July under the current circumstances,” Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, said during a conference call. Mene did not say whether there was a new targeted implementation date, and left the conference call before the question and answer session. The 55-nation continental free-trade zone would, if successful, create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc with 1.3 billion people across Africa and constitute the largest new trading bloc since the World Trade Organization formed in 1994. Mene said he was confident the deal would still go forward. “The political commitment remains, the political will remains to integrate Africa’s market and to implement the agreement as was intended,” he said. Reuters

Uganda Restricts Truckers on Busy Trade Route to Curb Coronavirus
Uganda has stepped up restrictions on trucks passing through its territory – limiting them to one driver and banning them from stopping over in hotels – in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The landlocked country sits on some of east Africa’s busiest road cargo routes that funnel goods from ports in Kenya and Tanzania further inland to Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Drivers have already been complaining about long queues building up on the Uganda-Kenya border as officials from both countries carry out health checks, according to reports on NTV and other local media “One driver is enough,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said as he announced the new restrictions late on Tuesday. Trucks were previously allowed three crew. Reuters

Alcohol Smuggling Jumps in Namibia amid Coronavirus Crackdown
Namibian police reported on Tuesday a jump in people smuggling beers and whisky from neighbouring Angola and Zambia, using illegal border crossings to beat a ban on alcohol sales that is part of the country’s plan to slow the spread of coronavirus. The south western African nation has, like a number of other countries, matched restrictions on movement with curbs on booze as a means of enforcing social distancing – a strategy challenged by some experts and unpopular with many citizens. Namibia has so far seen 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with no deaths. Under lockdown laws, only the sale of liquor with an alcohol content of 3% or less is permitted. … Sparsely populated Namibia is one of Africa’s biggest countries by land mass, sharing its largely porous borders with South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola. Namibia is also one of the top-ten beer consumers globally per capita. Reuters

Lesotho Amends Constitution, Piling Pressure on PM to Resign
The Senate of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho amended the constitution on Tuesday, capping the prime minister’s powers to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections, as pressure for his resignation mounts. The country’s opposition and even rivals within his ruling party are calling on Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to step down over suspicions he had a hand in the murder of his estranged wife in 2017. … In March he suspended the parliament for three months shortly after the lower house National Assembly passed a bill barring him from calling fresh elections if he loses a looming no-confidence vote. However last month the country’s constitutional court overturned his decision. On April 18 the premier sent troops onto the streets of the capital Maseru for a day to “restore order,” accusing unnamed law enforcement agencies of undermining democracy. Many pundits have predicted that Thabane’s next move will be to advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament, which the law allows. But the latest constitutional amendments prohibit current and future premiers from advising the king to dissolve parliament unless a majority of legislators support the move. AFP

Chad Abolishes Death Penalty for Terrorist Acts
Chad on Tuesday abolished the death penalty for terrorist acts, quashing an exception that was on the books for four years, Justice Minister Djimet Arabi told AFP. The Sahel country passed legislation in 2016 to abolish capital punishment, but made an exception for perpetrators of terrorism. Arabi, who proposed the amendment, said the vote was unanimous and the law would come into force once it is approved by President Idriss Deby Itno, whose party enjoys a huge majority in parliament. The change is “aimed at harmonising our laws in line with all the countries of the G5 Sahel Group,” the minister said. Chad’s military is a key part of the 5,000-strong G5 force alongside Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and Mauritania that cooperates with French troops to combat a growing Islamist insurgency. The last execution carried out in Chad was in August 2015 when 10 suspected members of the Islamist group Boko Haram based in neighbouring Nigeria were shot dead. Africa News

Sudan Peace Deal: International Community Recommends Transitional Legislative Council
An international delegation has proposed the formation of a transitional legislative council in cooperation with the armed movements to iron-out outstanding issues regarding the peace agreement. At a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum on Monday, representatives of the Troika (the UK, Norway, and the USA), European Union, and Germany, were received by Mohamed El Taayshi, member of the Sovereign Council and spokesman for the negotiating delegation, and Member of the Sovereign Council Lt Gen Shamseldin Kabashi to discussed the development of the ongoing peace talks in Juba, capital of South Sudan. The international delegation’s proposition suggests that the government should form the cooperative legislative council should both parties sign a peace agreement on May 9. … Over the last several months, the formation of the legislative council and appointing the civilian state governors have been the main outstanding issues in the current peace talks between the transitional government and armed movements in Juba. The government argues that for the government to function properly there must be a parliament and pro-revolution state governors. Whereas, the armed movements claim that the formation of MPs and state governors should be decided after a peace agreement is concluded. Radio Dabanga

Lifebank Is Providing Coronavirus Drive-Through Mobile Test Centers in Nigeria
Nigerian medical delivery company Lifebank has launched two drive-through mobile testing centers to boost coronavirus testing numbers in the country. The test centers, built like restaurant drive-throughs, are located in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center, and Oyo, in the southwest of the country. Lifebank says it launched the free testing centers in partnership with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR). Nigeria has 1,273 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of April 26, according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the country’s leading national public health institute responsible for collating data and responding to suspected cases of the virus. The NCDC has tested more than 10,000 samples to date in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and home to an estimated 195 million people according to the World Bank. Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder of Lifebank, said she was inspired to start the mobile test centers when she decided that the country was not testing enough people for the virus. CNN

IMF Approves $3.4 Billion in Emergency Funding for Nigeria
The International Monetary Fund approved $3.4 billion in emergency funding to Nigeria, the single biggest disbursement for any country yet with the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, IMF Deputy Managing Director Mitsuhiro Furusawa said that the pandemic and the plunge in oil prices are severely impacting Nigeria, and that the funds will provide much-needed liquidity to respond to urgent balance of payments needs. He also called for the country to expedite the unification of its exchange rate. Hit by crashing oil prices and lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, Nigeria requested the amount under the Rapid Financing Instrument, which offers funding without the strings of a full program. The continent’s biggest crude producer also requested $3.5 billion in total from the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Bloomberg

China Silent amid Global Calls to Give Africa Debt Relief
African leaders are asking what China can do for them as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to destroy economies and wipe out some 20 million jobs across a continent where Beijing is both the top trading partner and top lender. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have announced immediate relief measures, including freeing up billions in debt payments and expectations for help from China are high across resource-rich Africa, but Beijing has remained silent. China holds about a third of Africa’s sovereign debt. Demand for Chinese-backed capital to build everything from highways to hydroelectric dams has left countries heavily indebted, leading to concerns about a debt trap and even loss of sovereignty. Many of those countries, including oil exporters such as Angola, spend a substantial chunk of their budgets servicing debt while health and education suffer. … Some analysts predict that actual debt forgiveness looks unlikely and that China, despite its enormous influence in Africa, will avoid unilateral measures despite global pressure. Ghana’s finance minister has said he expects more from Beijing. AP

COVID-19 Unearths Africa’s Water Woes
At a dam located in Damakon Yili near Tamale, in Ghana’s northern region, several women and children carefully tread into the shallow water. This dam is where the entire community fetches water for their home needs. Nimatu Issahaku, one of the women, says they have no options. “For us, this is good water because we have no alternative, so we have to use it,” she said. This community has no tap water, although Nimatu knows about the importance of using clean water to fight the virus. “They said we should wash our hands in running water, but we don’t have that kind of water unless we use the dam water.” This dam serves about 2,000 households in three communities. Fatahiya Zakaria, another woman at the dam, told DW that her community is exposed. “It disturbs us. Everyone talks about using clean water but if the water is not clean, what becomes of your hygiene? This water is too dirty to protect us.” Clean water issues are nothing new across the African continent. In rural arid regions of Namibia or Mali, water may simply be unavailable. And in wet regions like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania or Mozambique, poor or non-existent sanitation has resulted in unsafe drinking water, which has been behind the cholera outbreaks in recent years. DW



Photo: Adam Jones