Africa Media Review for March 23, 2020

Africa Lockdowns Begin as Coronavirus Cases above 1,000
Lockdowns have begun in Africa as coronavirus cases rise above 1,000, while Nigeria on Saturday announced it is closing airports to all incoming international flights for one month in the continent’s most populous country. Rwanda said all unnecessary movements outside the home are banned for two weeks as of midnight except for essential services such as health care and shopping. The East African nation, which has 17 cases, told all public and private employees to work from home. Tunisia earlier imposed a lockdown as well. Meanwhile, two African heads of state appeared to defy their own travel restrictions to attend another president’s inauguration. Uganda, Eritrea and Angola announced their first cases, meaning 42 of Africa’s 54 countries are now affected. Congo and Ghana reported their first death; Burkina Faso reported two new ones. Uganda is closing its borders to all but cargo. Ethiopia said all arriving passengers will face mandatory quarantine as of Monday. Republic of Congo and Ghana are closing their borders. But Somalia is lifting its ban on international flights for two days so stranded citizens can come home. AP

Several Killed in Guinea as Voters Cast Ballots in Contentious Referendum
At least 10 people were killed in clashes Sunday between police and protesters, opposition activists said, as Guinea held a bitterly disputed referendum that critics say is a ploy by the president to stay in power. Anti-government forces came under fire by security forces who “carried out massive arrests, fired blindly, cruelly molested (and) killed at least 10 people,” the FNDC, an umbrella opposition group, said in a statement. The FNDC, grouping opposition parties and civil society organisations, called for fresh protests Monday and Tuesday. … President Alpha Condé is proposing a change to the constitution to codify gender equality and introduce other social reforms. But his opponents fear the real motive is to reset presidential term limits, allowing Condé, 82, to run for a third spell in office later this year – a scenario that his government has not discounted. … Since October, Guineans have protested en masse against the possibility of Condé extending his grip on power. At least 31 people and one gendarme had been killed prior to Sunday’s violence, according to an AFP tally. There are also questions about the fairness of Sunday’s vote, which additionally is taking place amid mounting concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus in Africa, including two cases that officials reported in Guinea. France24 with AFP

Militants Attack Mozambique Town Near Planned LNG Projects
Unidentified militants attacked a Mozambican town close to an area in which companies including Total SA and Exxon Mobil Corp. are developing liquefied-natural-gas projects worth almost $60 billion. The assault began early Monday morning in Mocimboa da Praia, about 60 kilometers (38 miles) south of where the LNG developments are located, police spokesman Orlando Mudumane said in comments broadcast on state television. “They occupied the city, which is currently under fire,” Mudumane said. “The defense and security forces are currently fighting to restore order.” Bloomberg

‘Woefully Unprepared’ – Mali Panics over Coronavirus
At a seven-bed isolation centre in Mali’s capital Bamako, medical staff are scrambling to prepare for an outbreak of the new coronavirus. There, they have the West African country’s only respirator. Although no cases have yet been declared in the war-torn country, health authorities are bracing for an onslaught of patients with few resources to accommodate them. … “We are preparing for the worst,” conceded Prime Minister Boubou Cisse on Thursday. “The means we have do not allow us to be behind every Malian.” … In Bamako, Dr Ilo Bella Diall said he did what he could to prepare as soon as the epidemic began to spread outside China. The director of Point G University Hospital had unused hospital buildings converted for isolating COVID-19 patients. “We are preparing for all possible scenarios,” he said. But according to the Ministry of Health, Mali has only 600 litres of hydro-alcoholic gel despite a need for 500 000 litres, and 59 medical infrared thermometers, well short of the 20 000 needed. The country has only 2 000 test kits and no suitable thermal cameras to detect fevers. This vast country in the Sahel has already been grappling with a war for eight years… On Thursday, the army said around 30 Malian soldiers were killed and five more injured in a suspected jihadist attack. AFP

Four Burkina Faso Gov’t Ministers Test Positive for Coronavirus
Four government ministers in Burkina Faso have been infected by the new coronavirus, according to officials, as the number of reported cases rose to 64 from 40, the highest in West Africa. The ministers of foreign affairs, mines, education, and the interior have all tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, a government spokesman said on Saturday. “The rumour has become reality … I have just been notified that I have COVID-19,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Alpha Barry said in a tweet late on Friday, referring to media reports that had speculated about his health. … A poor country of some 20 million people, Burkina Faso has been struggling to deal with a swiftly deteriorating security situation that has seen campaigns by multiple armed groups rendered parts of its arid territory ungovernable and forced nearly a million people to flee their homes. International health officials worry that the virus could spread out of control and overwhelm its threadbare healthcare system. The government has put measures in place to stop the spread, including closing land and air borders and banning gatherings of more than 50 people. Al Jazeera

South Darfur Records 8 Suspected Cases of COVID-19 including UNAMID Troops
The South Darfur State Committee to Combat the COVID-19, announced on Sunday that it had registered eight suspected cases of the respiratory disease, including two Egyptian soldiers of the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). In a report to the Committee, State Director-General of the Ministry of Health Mohamed Idris said that they isolated two Egyptian soldiers who arrived last month with a medical staff member and five other people who were in contact with them. The eight suspected cases are at an isolation centre near the UNAMID premises in Kas located at 84 km west of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state. Idris stated that the state ministry sent samples to the National Medical Research Laboratories (Stack) in Khartoum for further examination. He further stressed that the state did not record any case but he expressed his concern that there are large numbers of people who returned recently from abroad and did not undergo any screening. On Sunday, the Sudanese minister of health said his government developed a countrywide plan with a cost of $76 million for COVID-19. The plan includes isolation centres, management of arrivals at points of entry, patient care, infection prevention and control, supplies, risks communication, surveillance and capacity-building. Sudan Tribune

UN Welcomes Positive Responses to Fighting Pause in Libya
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday welcomed positive responses from Libya’s warring parties to calls for a humanitarian pause in fighting to allow authorities to respond to the public health challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The U.N. chief “hopes that this will be translated into an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. … A weak U.N.-recognized administration that holds the capital of Tripoli and parts of the country’s west is backed by Turkey and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy as well as local militias. On the other side is a rival government in the east that supports self-styled Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose forces launched an offensive to capture the capital last April and are backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as well as France and Russia. According to media reports, fear of the new coronavirus is widespread in Libya, with the government announcing a curfew starting Sunday night over concerns of a possible outbreak and Hifter’s forces worried that foreign mercenaries fighting alongside them may have the virus. AP

Coronavirus: Rwanda Imposes Africa’s First Lockdown
All unnecessary movements outside the home have been banned for an initial two weeks except for essential services such as health care and shopping for groceries. Both public and private workers have also been ordered to work from home to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Rwanda also closed its borders completely, except for goods and cargo and returning citizens. However, they have to be quarantined for two weeks. A section of Rwandans has welcomed the measures, but in a country where many survive from hand to mouth, uncertainty looms. And there are no possible bailouts from the central government to support small and medium enterprises, despite the unforeseeable future. Meanwhile, authorities have warned business owners not to increase prices of basic commodities. Before the shutdown, public gatherings like places of worship had been banned, and those who defied the orders were arrested, according to media reports. … As the virus infects more people around the world, conservationists are warning of the risk of Africa’s endangered mountain gorilla. For that reason, Rwanda is also temporarily shutting down tourism and research activities in three national parks that are home to primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees. DW

Coronavirus Control: Nigeria’s Lagos Orders 70% of Workforce to Stay Home
Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial hub has asked a category of civil servants to stay at home for the next 14 days effective Monday March 23, 2020. The move is connected to the coronavirus pandemic which has forced most states in the country to close schools. The announcement was made by governor Jide Sanwo-Olu on Sunday. According to him, about 70% of the Lagos workforce will be directly affected. He also tasked members of the public to stay away from government offices and use phone and internet channels as best as possible. … Already schools across the state – be they private or public – had been closed late last week as a prevention and containment measure. Lagos, one of Africa’s most populous and busiest commercial centers has been at the heart of Nigeria’s COVID-19 statistics. The index patient, an Italian who has since been discharged came through the Lagos airport. … In other coronavirus related news from the West African country, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu has issued directives warning against unnecessary arrests and detention of suspects amid the coronavirus outbreak. Africa News

How Nigeria’s Kings Lost Their Power
Nigeria’s traditional leaders retain huge influence in many parts of the country but recent events have made some young people question the role of the monarchy in the 21st Century. Mr Sanusi is the most high-profile of several cases in the last five months in which politicians have publicly brought monarchs to heel or the actions of some traditional rulers have led people to question their relevance. Mr Sanusi was removed for “total disrespect” of institutions and the governor’s office, the government said. But in truth, his removal was the culmination of a long tussle with Kano state governor Umar Ganduje, a powerful figure within Nigeria’s governing All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Those close to him say the emir expected his removal but not his banishment to neighbouring Nasarawa state which his lawyers described as an “archaic practice” of the colonial era. After gaining a court order, he has regained his freedom but the manner of his removal and subsequent detention showed the real balance of power between politicians and traditional rulers. … Olutayo Adeshina, a professor of history at the University of Lagos, said that by pledging to respect the culture “by protecting, preserving and promoting traditional values,” the Nigerian constitution recognises the important role of traditional leaders. “Traditional leaders possess some latent power which politicians are afraid of, hence the tension between the two.” BBC

GERD: Battle for Nile Waters Spills Over to East African Capitals
Kenya has been thrust into the competing interests of Ethiopia and Egypt, who are jostling for regional support for a decisive agreement on a dam being built on the Nile. The tussle, which kicked off two weeks ago, represents the latest haggling over the use of the Nile waters, a perennial discussion that has lasted 60 years. At the centre of the debate is the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia, which Egypt sees as a threat to its water source. But it has roped in riparian countries like Kenya, who form a group aggrieved by a colonial-era treaty that gave Egypt massive rights and control over the waters of the Nile. Sources said Ethiopia was tapping this grievance to seek support from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and other countries in the Nile basin affected by the old treaty. The Basin includes 11 countries. Egypt, in turn, is seeking to divide countries in the eastern Africa region and roil any joint statements. That fight manifested this week when President Uhuru Kenyatta reportedly promised his Egyptian counterpart Abdelfattah al-Sisi Nairobi’s support. … The revelations by Egypt were, however, clarified by Nairobi a day later, with officials insisting Kenya supports an appropriate agreement reached by negotiations between African countries themselves. The East African

African Youth Living with HIV to Bear the Brunt of New Attack
Young HIV-positive Africans are more vulnerable to contracting the new Covid-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, experts have warned. As more cases of the Covid-19 disease continue to be reported in a number of African countries, a team of experts led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director has expressed worry that the virus is likely to take a toll on the continent because in Africa many young people, the largest population shown to survive in Europe, Asia and the United States, tend to also be the group with the highest cases of HIV infection rate. “Young people are dealing with a number of communicable diseases. There is also a lack of access to care for many compared with Asia,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO-Afro regional director. According to the latest data on HIV estimates, there were 20.6 million people living with HIV in East and Southern Africa in 2018, with the UNAIDS saying East and Southern Africa regions are home to the largest number of people living with HIV. Young women (aged 15-24 years) account for 26 per cent of new HIV infections. … In addition, about 58.8 million are malnourished, something that makes their immune systems weak to fight off diseases. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones