Africa Media Review for April 7, 2020

Dozens of Malian Soldiers Killed in Attack on Military Base
At least 25 Malian soldiers have been killed in an attack on a military base in the northern town of Bamba, the government said in the latest bout of violence in the West African nation. A dozen assailants were also “neutralised” during the “terrorist” attack early on Monday morning, the government said in a statement, without specifying which group may have been involved in the assault. A resident of Bamba, who spoke to AFP news agency on condition of anonymity, said armed men had been riding motorbikes around nearby villages since Sunday, before gathering for the dawn attack. “We saw 23 bodies on the spot,” the Bamba resident said, describing the aftermath of the raid, adding that fighters had destroyed the camp and stolen equipment. “No civilian was hurt, this was an operation against the camp,” the resident added. No group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack. Mali’s army has repeatedly suffered heavy casualties from armed groups active in the area with links to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS). Al Jazeera

Kenya Bans Travel in and Out of Nairobi to Fight Coronavirus
Kenya increased its restrictions to combat the coronavirus on Monday, announcing travel bans into and out of the capital city, Nairobi, the port of Mombasa and two counties. Forty-three of Africa’s 54 countries have closed their borders, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of Africa’s 54 countries have imposed lockdowns, curfews, travel bans or other restrictions to try to contain the spread of COVID-19. Fifty-one of the continent’s countries report cases of the disease. In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta said all movement by rail, road and air in and out of the Nairobi metropolitan area will halt starting Monday at 7 p.m. Movement will also be halted in and out of Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, as well as Kilifi and Kwale counties on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast starting Wednesday. The restrictions will last for an initial 21 days. Movement of food supplies and cargo will continue as normal, Kenyatta said. Kenya already has a dusk-to-dawn curfew to contain the virus that has infected 158 people in the country, according to government statistics. Four people have died in Kenya from the disease. AP

Anxiety over Rights Violations as Zimbabwe Enforces Lockdown
According to police records, nearly 2,000 people were arrested during the first week for defying lockdown laws across Zimbabwe. Scores of people have been rounded up and crammed into police trucks to be held at Bulawayo’s central police station. Since President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday appealed to the security services to “ensure [the] pathway of food supply” and for agricultural trade to continue “undisturbed,” trading controls have slightly eased. However, the increased security measures to ensure the public comply with lockdown laws risks stoking tensions between the police and an urban populace already buckling under the weight of Zimbabwe’s complex and long-standing economic problems. And some struggling vendors like 38-year-old Precious Mutasa who survive on their day-to-day earnings, it is uncertain whether Zimbabweans can maintain the lockdown for another two weeks with limited financial means, prolonged water rationing and food shortages. Meanwhile, human rights groups say they fear police are abusing their mandate to make people stay at home as they scale up operations across the country. Al Jazeera

Global Leaders Urge G20 to Tackle Twin Health and Economic Crises
A group of 165 global leaders has called for immediate and coordinated international action to tackle the twin health and economic emergencies caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Past and present politicians – including three former UK prime ministers – joined academics and civil society representatives to warn the G20 that the virus will return unless urgent action is taken to bolster health systems in poor countries of Africa and Latin America. Amid concerns that the fight against Covid-19 is being hampered by a lack of united action by the body that represents leading developed and developing nations, the global leaders said $8bn (£6.4bn) of emergency health funding should be approved to prevent a second wave of infection. A letter from the group urged the G20 to set up a taskforce with executive powers to help coordinate the fight against Covid-19. … It said even the best funded health systems were struggling to cope with the pandemic. “Yet, if we do nothing as the disease spreads in poorer African, Asian and Latin American cities and in fragile communities which have little testing equipment, ventilators and medical supplies; and where social distancing and even washing hands are difficult to achieve, Covid-19 will persist there and re-emerge to hit the rest of the world with further rounds that will prolong the crisis.” The Guardian

African Union Predicts Continental Recession Due to COVID-19
With the African Union now predicting the continent’s economy will contract by 0.8 percent this year, African finance ministers are scheduled to meet via video conference on Thursday to discuss ways countries can mitigate a looming economic disaster. Researchers at the AU now believe the continent will slip into a recession this year due to the impact the coronavirus is currently having on trade, remittances, tourism and a huge fall in global oil prices. An AU report seen by VOA estimates governments will lose around $270 billion from lost trade. The report, first published by Reuters, also says governments will need at least $130 billion in additional public spending to fight the virus. François Conradie, senior political economist at NKC African Economics, a research firm in South Africa, said via a messaging app that African governments do not have much firepower to fight the impacts of COVID-19. “The only thing we can do really – and that’s what these negotiations [on Thursday] are about – is to try and boost state spending capacity by organizing low interest loans from multilateral and maybe private lenders and then inject that money into the economy in the form of some sort of help,” he said. VOA

Africa Faces 20 Million in Job Losses as It Seeks New Support from IMF, Other Global Lenders
African governments are hoping to raise an estimated US$100-billion to US$150-billion in financial help from a range of international lenders as they struggle to survive the novel coronavirus pandemic, which is now projected to cost 20 million jobs and trigger a wave of economic devastation across the continent. But while most African countries are now in talks with the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank to seek emergency loans, the continent’s most advanced economy – South Africa – is reluctant to go to those traditional sources. Instead it is looking to a China-based development bank as its preferred source. … The government of Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with about 200 million people, said on Monday that the country needs US$6.9-billion from the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank. The pandemic poses “significant threats to the Nigerian economy, the Nigerian health-care system and even to national security,” Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed told a news conference. “Extraordinary measures are required.” The Globe & Mail

52nd African Country Confirms Coronavirus Cases: Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe became the 52nd African country to record cases of the COVID-19. The island nation confirmed its first four cases on Monday. Prime Minister Jorge Bom Jesus disclosed that the confirmation came after test results returned from Gabon. The development leaves Lesotho and Comoros as Africa’s virus free countries as of April 6. The continent’s confirmed COVID-19 cases are heading towards 9,500, with over 400 deaths. Another 900+ patients have recovered. The World Health Organization, WHO, has meanwhile called for more united efforts in the fight against COVID-19. In a press briefing on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom called for an all-of-society approach. “We have said consistently that we’re all in this together, and we can only succeed together. We need an all-of-society approach, with everyone playing their part,” Tedros said. Africa News

Chad’s Former Dictator Temporarily Released from Prison Due to Virus
A Senegal judge has granted Chad’s former dictator Hissene Habre two months’ leave from prison, where he is serving life for crimes against humanity, as the jail is being used to hold new detainees in coronavirus quarantine. Habre, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at an African Union-backed trial in the Senegalese capital Dakar in 2016. A Chadian commission of inquiry estimated 40,000 people were killed by his regime. After he was overthrown, Habre fled to Senegal and for more than 20 years lived freely in an upmarket Dakar suburb with his wife and children. Dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet,” Habre was finally arrested in 2013 and tried by a special tribunal set up by the African Union under a deal with Senegal. His trial set a global precedent as the first time a country had prosecuted the former leader of another nation for rights abuses, and was seen as a landmark example of African rights abuses being tried on the continent. Since his conviction, the ex-leader in his late 70s has been serving his sentence in a penal establishment in Cap Manuel, at the tip of the peninsula where Dakar is located. AFP

Ivory Coast Police Clash with Protesters over Coronavirus Test Centre
Ivory Coast police on Monday clashed with protesters who had begun dismantling a half-built coronavirus testing centre, afraid that people using the facility would spread the epidemic through their district. More than 100 residents in Yopougon, a neighbourhood of the commercial capital Abidjan, started pulling apart the hanger-like structure on Sunday and built barricades out of burning tyres nearby. A crowd returned on Monday, throwing rocks at police who dispersed it with tear gas. “They want to kill us. We don’t want this centre here,” said protester Joel Blehi as he sheltered by a pharmacy after a gas canister was fired in his direction. Police said the hostility arose from a misunderstanding that patients with COVID-19 would be treated at the centre. “There’s been a lack of communication. It’s more like a testing centre for residents,” police spokesman Charlemagne Bleu said. Reuters

Ex-Somali President Cautions Govt after Spy Outfit Threatened Top Journalist
Somalia’s former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has cautioned against efforts that could derail Somalia’s march towards democracy. He was weighing in on a recent incident that saw the country’s intelligence outfit label one of Somalia’s top journalists, Harun Maruf, as a national security threat. In a tweet on Monday, the 8th president of Somalia wrote: “Security agencies that threaten the journalists and leaders who mislead the public through fake news and investing heavily unethical social media propaganda is a recipe to dictatorial tendency which is the demise of any nascent democracy like ours in Somalia.” National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) posted a tweet on April 2 declaring Maruf, an employee of the Voice of America (VOA) as a security threat. The tweet further stated that the journalist had committed “acts outside the media discipline.” … The U.S. Embassy in Somalia and a number of press rights groups have called the designation an attack on press freedom and independent media. Somalia year in and out ranked among the most dangerous places to practice journalism by the Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders. Africa News

What Happened to Africa’s Ambitious Green Belt Project?
The change in climate and weather patterns is precipitating a rapid spread of the Sahara Desert, encroaching into lands and engulfing huge lakes, according to climate scientists. Seven countries of the Sahel region, an area located just south of the Sahara, therefore initiated a project that will see billions of trees planted across 11 countries by 2030, which will serve as buffer zones to stop the desertification. The African Union (AU) launched the initiative in 2007 under the name the Great Green Wall. … The Great Green Wall is more than just an environmental project that is intended to restore 100 million hectares of fertile lands in the Sahel, and in the process cut 250 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It aims to create 10 million so-called green jobs. “It’s not just about planting trees in the Sahel region, but also about tackling issues such as climate change, drought, famine, conflict, migration and land degradation,” Vivekananda told DW. … But according to the United Nations, the initiative has only reached 15% of its targets after just over a decade. “Progress is slow, but we have learned a lot along the way,” said climate consultant Vivekananda. DW

Drones in Africa: How They Could Become Lifesavers
Ms Temie Giwa-Tubosun is visiting Kigali for the first ever African Drone Forum at the shiny convention centre, which looks like a giant beehive crossed with a helter-skelter. … Rwanda, the country of a thousand hills and slow, tediously winding roads, was the first in the world to embrace a commercial delivery service by drone when Silicon Valley firm Zipline began flying blood in 2016. It received a huge amount of global publicity and has delivered tens of thousands of units of blood. But Zipline is an exception. Its flights are classified as government flights, meaning it has high-level exemptions when it comes to air traffic management. It’s the thorny issue of regulation and management of the lower airspace which all agree is key to the establishment of sustainable long-term drone delivery networks. Temie explains how her drivers have to learn the location of 400 hospitals by heart as the maps aren’t accurate enough in a frantically urbanising city like Lagos, which is also clogged by traffic. BBC

Nigeria COVID-19 Survivor: ‘An Experience I Don’t Wish on Anyone’
For Oluwaseun Osowobi, the symptoms began shortly after she returned from a trip to London. The 29-year-old Nigerian activist was in the United Kingdom capital to attend on March 9 the Commonwealth Day Service, where she was the official flag bearer. But after arriving in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, she fell ill and decided to get tested for COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. The test came back positive and Osowobi was taken to a specialised facility to receive medical care. She remained at an isolation ward until last week, when she was discharged following her recovery from COVID-19. Osowobi, who runs the Stand to End Rape Initiative, a group advocating against sexual violence, spoke to Al Jazeera about contracting the new coronavirus, her experience at the isolation centre and what she plans to do now. Al Jazeera

How Mandela Stayed Fit: From His “Matchbox” Soweto Home to His Robben Island Prison Cell
The spread of the coronavirus has forced millions all over the world to retreat to base and abandon outdoor exercise and gym sessions. If they own a big house and garden, it’s manageable, but many live in shacks, cramped houses or tiny high-rise flats. How can they avoid going to seed during lockdown? Former boxer and South African liberation struggle icon Nelson Mandela adapted while incarcerated in a tiny cell on Robben Island. Feb. 15, 1990: Nelson Mandela wakes as always at 5am and begins his hour-long exercise routine. The difference this time is that instead of a prison cell, his gym is the front room of his “matchbox” house-so-called for its small size-at 8115 Vilakazi Street, Soweto. And soon he’ll be besieged by journalists, well-wishers, diplomats and family members. I get to interview him a few hours later to ask about his plans. His answers are clear and concise and I’m too nervous to probe deeper. But towards the end I toss in a question about boxing, and his stern demeanor changes. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones