Africa Media Review for March 17, 2020

New Africa Coronavirus Crisis Looms with Internal Spread
The coronavirus has now been confirmed in at least 30 of Africa’s 54 countries, officials said Monday, and regional power South Africa warned of a new crisis once the virus begins to spread at home and into crowded low-income communities. The most alarming confirmation of a first case came from Somalia, the Horn of Africa nation with one of the continent’s weakest health systems after nearly three decades of conflict. Tanzania, Liberia and Benin also announced their first cases. African nations have begun imposing travel restrictions as many confirmed cases come from abroad. Algeria cut off all air and sea contact with Europe, effective Thursday, and Botswana barred travelers from 18 high-risk countries. South Africa announced it will revoke nearly 10,000 visas issued to people from China and Iran, two of the hardest-hit countries, in January and February. … South Africa has one of the most developed health systems in Africa, and global health experts have openly worried for weeks that the virus could quickly overwhelm countries on the continent with weak health systems. Somalia is one of them. Health Minister Fawziya Abikar said the country’s first confirmed case was in a Somali national who had recently arrived from abroad. Somalia’s government quickly announced that international flights to the country would no longer be allowed as of Wednesday. AP

Coronavirus: Africa to Get 100% Testing Capacity ‘Soon’ – WHO
In the next couple of weeks all African countries will have the capacity to test for coronavirus as part of preparedness for the rampaging virus. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Africa region head, told the BBC that she expected that all nations in sub-Saharan Africa will be able to test for the coronavirus soon. “We expect in the next couple of weeks that all 47 of our member states will have the facilities to diagnose this virus,” she said. Records indicate that 33 countries in the region already have facilities in place a boost from the previous two where only Senegal and South Africa did months back. In January, a suspected case in Ivory Coast was tested in Senegal. Whiles Ethiopia and Kenya sent samples to South Africa for testing before the WHO deployed testing facilities in late January. The AU’s Center for Disease Control, CDC, has also been in the forefront of boosting the capacity of member states. Africa News

More African Countries Confirm First Coronavirus Cases as Jack Ma Pledges Aid
More African nations confirmed their first cases of the coronavirus and shut borders amid fears of the disease’s impact on fragile health systems, as Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma pledged to donate over 1 million testing kits to the continent. … “We cannot ignore the potential risk to Africa and assume this continent of 1.3 billion people will blissfully escape the crisis. The world cannot afford the unthinkable consequences of a COV-19 pandemic in Africa,” Ma’s foundation said in a statement. The foundation will send 1.1 million testing kits, 6 million masks and 60,000 protective suits and face shields to Ethiopia for distribution to Africa’s 54 nations, it said. Earlier on Monday, the World Bank said it had committed $60 million to Kenya to help the East African nation battle the outbreak. Some countries on the continent, such as conflict-hit Somalia, depend on donors to support basic public health facilities. Reuters

Sweden’s Government Proposes to Send 150 Troops and Helicopters to Mali for Task Force Takuba
The Swedish government plans to send up to 150 special forces personnel and helicopters to join a new multinational military mission in sub-Saharan Africa’s troubled Sahel region, the Foreign Ministry said in release. “Sweden’s participation promotes security in Mali and the Sahel region,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said, adding that it will also “contribute to the fight against international terrorism and ultimately make Sweden safer.” … More than 200 Swedish military personnel are already deployed to multinational missions in Mali, including MINUSMA and the European Union Training Mission in Mali. … France has for months been trying to build support for the new special operations Task Force Takuba that will train, advise, assist and accompany local forces in their fight against Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates in the region. Takuba is expected to declare initial military capability in the summer and will be fully operational by the autumn. France hopes that Takuba will comprise around 500 special forces personnel, and a new French deployment will include around 50 special forces personnel who will form the nucleus of Takuba, although Le Monde reported last week that France will deploy 100 operators. The Defense Post

Mali Violence Escalates as Peace Accords Crumble
The imam and the women, the elders and the youths, each spoke of violence and terror – all in a place where they had been promised there would be peace. In a dusty room on the edge of town, Gao’s civil society leaders vented. A women’s activist mourned the many sons, brothers and fathers who had died. A youth leader lamented the explosion of armed and jihadi groups in northern Mali five years after peace accords with separatist rebels were supposed to have brought stability. In recent weeks, several local leaders have been assassinated for co-operating with the UN and France, whose combined 20,000 troops are in the west African country to keep the peace and fight terrorists respectively. With the Malian government having little formal presence in Gao, “the form of the insecurity has changed: it used to be state symbols that were targeted, but now it’s the community leaders who are the victim,” a young man said, declining to give his name for fear of reprisal. FT

UN Condemns Peacekeeper Killing in Central African Republic
The U.N. Security Council and the secretary-general on Monday strongly condemned the killing of a U.N. peacekeeper in the Central African Republic during an attack by members of the mainly Christian anti-Balaka group. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country said the peacekeeper from Burundi was killed on Sunday when troops were trying to stop an attack in Grimari in the center of the country that began when anti-Balaka fighters under the command of Dimitri Ayoloma opened fire on the homes of the mayor and a regional official. The mission said U.N. peacekeepers in Grimari, in Ouaka province, immediately intervened trying to end the assault, and the rebels deliberately opened fire against them, fatally injuring the soldier from Burundi. Mankeur Ndiaye, who heads the peacekeeping mission, condemned the “heinous act” that cost his life. “This attack on the city of Grimari and the peacekeepers is unacceptable and constitutes a serious crime under the jurisdiction of national and international courts,” he said. The Security Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ndiaye all stressed that any attack on a U.N. peacekeeper may constitute a war crime. AP

Tanzanians Raise £100,000 to Support Opposition Politicians Convicted for Holding Rally
Tanzanian citizens have raised more than £100,000 to pay fines handed to nine senior opposition politicians and officials convicted for holding a rally. The East African nation’s president, John Magufuli, introduced a ban on political rallies upon taking office in 2015, one of a raft of measures seen as further restricting freedoms in a country once viewed in the region as a stronghold of democracy. Chadema, the main opposition party to Mr Magafuli’s reigning Chama Cha Mapinduzi (“Party of the Revolution”), flouted this ban in February 2018 to demand several of their candidates be officially recognised in an upcoming by-election. Police opened fire on the crowds marching in Dar es Salaam’s Kinondoni district, with a stray bullet taking the life of 21-year-old Akwilina Akwilini as she sat on a bus home from college. Her killing, which remains unsolved, sparked widespread condemnation against government repression and an increase in killings and abductions across the country, according to Human Rights Watch. Independent

2019 Nigerian Elections: Army, SSS Used to Intimidate Voters, INEC Officials – U.S. Report
The report released on Wednesday, titled “2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Nigeria,” said there is evidence that the security agencies intimidated voters, election observers, and INEC officials, particularly in the southern part of the country. “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the independent electoral body responsible for overseeing elections by regulating the process and preventing electoral misconduct. “During the year INEC conducted the presidential election, National Assembly elections, State House Assembly elections, and local elections in all 36 states plus the FCT, as well as gubernatorial elections in 30 states. “There was evidence military and security services intimidated voters, electoral officials, and election observers. In addition violence in several states contributed to lower voter participation and added to the sentiment the army is a tool of the ruling party in many parts of the country, particularly in the South. “For example, widespread violence and military involvement in electoral processes, including during the vote collation process, significantly scarred the governorship election in Rivers State.” Premium Times

Kenyan authorities have raided a shop allegedly selling fake coronavirus testing kits. The Standard newspaper reported that police detained 10 people and locked the facility in the capital, Nairobi in Monday’s raid. The suspects advertised the testing kits online claiming they sold 600, according to officials. “They say that they are left with 400. We want to know who the 600 were sold to,” Daniel Yumbwa, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council chief executive, told the newspaper. On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed there were at least 327 cases of coronavirus in Africa. Kenya confirmed its first case of COVID-19, the medical term for the disease, on Friday. The East African country has confirmed a total of three cases as of Tuesday morning. On Monday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government was suspending travel from any country with reported COVID-19 cases. “Only Kenyan citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits, will be allowed to come in, provided they proceed on self-quarantine,” he told the nation in a televised address. Al Jazeera

Uganda’s Ex-Rebels Return to Everyday Life
After more than 20 years of fighting, the war between the Ugandan government and ex-rebels from the West Nile region ended in 2002. Today, former fighters look back on their reintegration into civil life. … The main street of Yumbe is bustling with workshops, food stalls and small shops. The restaurants are full at lunchtime. In this city of 50,000 in north-western Uganda, only a few ruins still serve as a reminder of the war that raged through this community. In 1979, Tanzanian troops, alongside the Ugandan National Liberation Army made up of exiled Ugandans, finally ended dictator Idi Amin’s reign of terror. Amin, who was originally from the West Nile region, subsequently fled to Libya. But the self-proclaimed liberation forces also blamed the people in the region for his crimes. Many fled into exile to what is now South Sudan and formed the Ugandan National Rescue Front II (UNRFII). For more than 20 years, they fought against Uganda’s changing governments. The UNRFII signed a peace treaty with the Ugandan government 18 years ago. They were granted amnesty and were able to return to their villages and begin a new life in peace. DW

Quidditch in Uganda: On This Pitch, Women and Men Are Equal
In John Ssentamu’s village in Uganda, there is no Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, no Gryffindor House, and certainly no Harry Potter. But here in Busubi, a richly green village of just over 1,000 people, there is the wizard game of Quidditch. It started in 2013, on a bus snaking through the narrow roads from Masaka, a city west of Lake Victoria, to Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Mr. Ssentamu, a teacher, found his seat partner holding a copy of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” and asked to read it. What held his interest was not the tongue-twisting spells, or the mystique of “the boy who lived.” It was the fictional game of Quidditch, played on flying broomsticks – and the fact that it was a co-ed sport. … In Uganda, women and girls continue to face gender-based discrimination and violence. Only one-third of women own land, for example, and one in four report that their first sexual encounter was against their will. About four in five female secondary-school students say they have experienced sexual abuse, according to a government study supported by UNICEF. “It is our own making that the man is bigger than the woman,” Mr. Ssentamu says, sitting at the vocational center in Busubi he now leads. “When it comes to Quidditch, we do the same training. If we are going to run five rounds, they must be five rounds whether you are a she or a he.” The Christian Science Monitor

The M&G’s Latest Projection on COVID-19 Infections
With the disease currently growing at a rate of 61% a day in South Africa, by the end of this month we could run out of ICU beds. The best-case global growth-rate average is 13% a day. The M&G Data Desk crunched the numbers on the 61% growth rate and by the end of the month, 70 328 people could be infected. By April 1, this could jump to 112 525 and by April 2 it could be 180 000. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that, globally, about 15% of people who contract Covid-19 are hospitalised. That means that more than 10 500 people could need hospitalisation by the end of this month on the current trajectory.  The minister also said that there are just over 87 000 hospital beds in the country. Mkhize added that 5% of people who get Covid-19 could end up in intensive-care units (ICU). With 70 328 people infected this would mean that, by March 31, more than 3 500 people could need ICU. This is if you ignore any other people who need intensive care, as well as people already in the hospital system, and in an ideal scenario where ICU beds work as intended. The minister said there are 813 and 161 ICU beds in the state and private health systems, respectively. … The current growth rate, and its attendant scenarios, will continue if nothing changes. The announcement of a national disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa, cutting down on travel, and trying to slow and then turn around the infection rate, is aimed at changing the 61% infection rate. Mail & Guardian

Coronavirus: South African Choir Shares Prevention Tips [Video]
The Ndlovu Youth Choir in South Africa are making waves on social media with a song preaching effective prevention methods for the coronavirus. In a 1 minute 6 seconds video, the group in brightly coloured traditional dresses dance whiles advising people on the rampaging virus. The track titled “We’ve Got this – Fight against Coronavirus / COVID-19” advices as follows: Wash your hands; Don’t touch your face; Don’t go to the doctor, just call; Don’t panic, we will beat corona; Don’t spread rumours. The song is in a local dialect with English translations blended in seamlessly. The choir is famous for its animated performance at the 2019 finals of America’s Got Talent. It gained Twitter traction after it was shared by Director-General of the World Health Organization, WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Africa News



Photo: Adam Jones