Africa Media Review for March 25, 2020

Boko Haram Attack Kills Nearly 100 Chadian Troops
Boko Haram jihadists have killed nearly 100 Chadian soldiers in a seven-hour attack on an island army base, in their deadliest assault yet on the country’s armed forces. President Idriss Deby told Chad television he travelled to the scene of the attack on Tuesday to pay tribute to the 92 dead soldiers, saying it was the first time so many troops had been lost. The attack early on Monday morning in Boma, Lac province, is part of an expanding jihadist campaign in the vast, marshy Lake Chad area, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge. Boko Haram launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009 before beginning incursions in its neighbouring countries to the east. … The attack on soldiers on the Boma peninsula lasted at least seven hours, and reinforcements sent to help became bogged down and were also targeted, several military sources told AFP. “The camp is on an island where the ways in were controlled by Boko Haram fighters, they were able to leave as they wanted and without being forced out by the army,” one security official said. “The enemy has hit at our defences hard in this zone,” the senior officer said. One military official said army vehicles were destroyed, including armoured vehicles, and captured military arms were carried off in speedboats by Boko Haram. AFP

50 Nigerian Soldiers Killed in Deadly Boko Haram Ambush
Boko Haram extremists killed at least 50 soldiers during an ambush in northern Yobe state, one of the deadliest recent attacks on troops in Nigeria, according to military sources. The ambush happened as the military tried to launch an offensive against the Boko Haram militants, according to a military official with knowledge of the operation that started over the weekend. … The soldiers initially were able to fight back and escape, the official said. They launched another offensive a day or so later and were then attacked from the rear at a place near the village of Goneri called the Gorge, he said. The Boko Haram fighters inflicted heavy casualties by firing on troop vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, he said. Survivors were being treated at hospitals in Damaturu and Maiduguri. A senior army officer confirmed the attack, calling it a huge setback for Nigeria’s army and saying he lost a friend. The government also confirmed the attack, but did not give a death toll. “The Nigerian military suffered some casualties in the unfortunate attack,” a Nigerian army spokesman, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, said Tuesday. AP

In World’s Most Vulnerable Countries, the Pandemic Rivals the 2008 Crisis
As the coronavirus pandemic brings the global economy to an astonishing halt, the world’s most vulnerable countries are suffering intensifying harm. Businesses faced with the disappearance of sales are laying off workers. Households short of income are skimping on food. International investment is fleeing so-called emerging markets at a pace not seen since the global financial crisis of 2008, diminishing the value of currencies and forcing people to pay more for imported goods like food and fuel. “This will be as bad, or potentially even worse, than the global financial crisis for emerging markets,” said Per Hammarlund, chief emerging markets strategist at SEB Group, a global investment bank based in Stockholm. “It is grim.” … A slowdown in developing countries is a slowdown for the planet. From South Asia to Africa to Latin America, the pandemic is confronting developing countries with a public health emergency combined with an economic crisis, each exacerbating the other. The same forces are playing out in wealthy nations, too. But in poor countries – where billions of people live in proximity to calamity even in the best of times – the dangers are amplified. The New York Times

Authorities in Mozambique Find 64 Migrants Dead in Truck
More than 60 undocumented migrants believed to be Ethiopians have been found dead in a cargo truck in Mozambique’s northwestern Tete province. The truck entered Mozambique from Malawi and was stopped early Tuesday at a checkpoint in Moatize, near the Zambezi River, according to Zitamar News. When authorities heard bashing noises coming from inside the container, they ordered the driver to open it and they found 14 survivors inside as well as the bodies. The deceased died from a lack of oxygen, according to officials. The Mozambican driver later admitted he had been hired to smuggle the migrants from Malawi to Mozambique. The survivors will be screened for the coronavirus and quarantined, health officials told Zitamar. Mozambique is a transit route for African migrants trying to reach South Africa, one of the continent’s largest economies, according to the International Office on Migration. AP

‘We Are Dying’: Residents Lament Attacks in Northern Mozambique
Djapo Mario, a 43-year-old salesman, woke up to the sound of gunfire as armed fighters attacked Mocimboa da Praia, a town in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province and its military headquarters. “We started to hear gunshots. They [attackers] were in confrontations with the police. They raided a police barracks and put their flag on it. We had to stay home and hide,” Mario told Al Jazeera. The assailants destroyed houses, vandalised public spaces, and erected barricades along important roads. It was unclear how many people were killed or wounded as most residents were still in hiding, and the government had yet to assess the situation. The attackers were in control of the city until late on Monday when Mozambican authorities said the fighters were dislodged. But residents are still in shock and trying to come to terms with the attack. … Monday’s attack was one of several in Cabo Delgado claimed by a shadowy armed group, Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, or “followers of the prophetic tradition.” The group has killed hundreds and displaced thousands since it launched attacks in October 2017, according to medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF). More recently, the armed group ISIL (ISIS) has claimed responsibility via its media outlets, though there has been no independent confirmation of a link. Al Jazeera

Worried Ethiopians Want Partial Internet Shutdown Ended
Rights groups and citizens are calling on Ethiopia’s government to lift the internet shutdown in parts of the country that is leaving millions of people without important updates on the coronavirus. The months-long shutdown of internet and phone lines in Western Oromia and parts of the Benishangul Gumuz region is occurring during military operations against rebel forces. “Residents of these areas are getting very limited information about the coronavirus,” Jawar Mohammed, an activist-turned-politician, told The Associated Press. Ethiopia reported its first coronavirus case on March 13 and now has a dozen. Officials have been releasing updates mostly online. Land borders have closed and national carrier Ethiopian Airlines has stopped flying to some 30 destinations around the world. … Human Rights Watch has said millions of Ethiopians are not getting access to timely and accurate information. AP

Sudan Defence Minister Dies of Heart Attack in South Sudan
Sudan’s defence minister, General Gamal al-Din Omar, has died of a heart attack while on an official visit to neighbouring South Sudan, according to the Sudanese officials. Omar was in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, taking part in peace negotiations between his country’s transitional government and rebel groups. He was a member of Sudan’s sovereign council, which took power last year under a 39-month power-sharing deal between the country’s military and the pro-democracy movement that led the uprising against longtime President Omar al-Bashir. In a statement on Wednesday, the Sudanese army said Omar’s death was caused by a heart attack. For his part, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the sovereign council, said he mourned the death of Omar “who died while struggling for the stability of Sudan” – a reference to talks with rebels to end Sudan’s years-long civil wars. Sudan’s transitional government has been engaging in peace talks with rebel groups since October. Al Jazeera

Nigerian President’s Top Aide Tests Positive for Coronavirus – Source
The Nigerian president’s chief of staff has tested positive for coronavirus, a source with direct knowledge said. The illness of Abba Kyari, who is in his 70s, brings the disease into the immediate circle of 77-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari. Kyari has a history of medical complications, including diabetes, and is the gatekeeper to the president. Many who wish to deal with Buhari must go through Kyari, including Nigeria’s top politicians and businessmen. He traveled to Germany in early March with a delegation of other Nigerian officials for meetings with Siemens AG. It is unclear if he self-isolated upon his return to Nigeria. A presidency spokesman did not comment on whether Buhari has been tested. The president himself has undisclosed medical ailments, and spent five months in London for treatments in 2017. Reuters

Climate Crisis – the ‘Scramble for Resources’ and How It Fuels Conflict
She may not be from central Africa, but 17-year-old Makenna Muigai would like African leaders to rally their political muscle to save the endangered Congo Basin – for a good reason. As the world’s second largest rain forest supports over 80 million people in the region, the young Kenyan climate activist is concerned that the scramble for its resources is one of the leading causes of conflicts in central and eastern Africa. Fellow climate activist Vanessa Nakate from Uganda highlighted the devastating fires in the Congo Basin with her one-person protests on the streets of Kampala started in early 2019. Nakate’s demonstrations have led to her attending UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) and the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, and her Rise Up Movement spread to several countries on the continent. She no longer protests alone. Muigai says the pressures facing the Congo Basin are worsened by climate change and corruption, even as the World Resources Institute reported in 2019 that its continued disappearance could exacerbate insecurity over fresh water and food supplies among the most vulnerable populations. AllAfrica

UN Sees Africa Sliding Into Recession Without Debt Help
Africa could fall into recession this year if multilateral lenders and investors don’t help the continent waive debt-servicing costs that could be used to halt the spread of the coronavirus, according to the United Nations. African finance ministers agreed last week that the continent needs a stimulus package of $100 billion — including $44 billion in debt-servicing waivers — to face the new virus. The package is about 5% of a proposed U.S. stimulus for that country alone. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, which facilitated the ministerial meeting, is considering reviewing the region’s growth estimate for this year, which was already reduced to 1.8% from 3.2% earlier this month. “There is a big likelihood of a recession,” Uneca’s head of macroeconomics and governance division, Bartholomew Armah, said by phone on Tuesday. “Our previous forecast should be seen as conservative because it was done at a time when the actual number of cases in Africa was low.” Bloomberg

As Lockdowns Kill Jobs, Africa’s Informal Workers Suffer
Earlier this month, Soukaina Rgragui, her 1-year-old daughter and diabetic mother lived modestly on the money brought back home by Soukaina’s husband, a vendor of used furniture in the streets of Morocco’s capital Rabat. Now that virus containment measures have shut down his informal business, Rgragui finds herself among many vulnerable Moroccans begging strangers on the internet for help. Morocco was among the first African countries to start shutting down borders and economic activity in recent weeks to stem the spread of the virus, and other African governments are watching the fallout in Morocco as they adopt similar measures. Rgragui’s husband is among some 2 billion people the International Labor Organization estimates work in the “informal economy,” without official contracts or worker protections. Such work is especially widespread in Africa, where informal workers make up as much as 85% of the labor force, according to the ILO. These are already among society’s poorest and most vulnerable, and their troubles resonate widely. In Tunisia, a unregistered fruit vendor set himself on fire in 2010 out of desperation, unleashing the Arab Spring uprisings that overthrew governments and changed the face of the region. AP

What You Need to Know about COVID-19 to Protect Yourself
The Mail & Guardian asked different experts – including disease specialist Dr Richard Lessells, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) –  for information about this coronavirus. Here is a compilation of their answers. … Why wash your hands? … The genetic material at the core of the virus is ribonucleic acid (RNA). The surrounding is a fatty outer layer called an envelope, and there are spikes on the surface (the spikes look like crowns, which is where the name coronaviruses comes from – “corona” meaning “crown” in Latin). The spikes help the virus to attach to the cells inside our body. The weakest link of the virus is the envelope (the fatty outer layer). Soap and water kill the virus very effectively, because the soap dissolves the fatty membrane and the virus falls apart. Alcohol-based gels and sanitiser also do this, but not as effectively as soap. Soap is the best! Mail & Guardian

Manu Dibango, Soulful Ambassador of African Music, Dies at 86
Manu Dibango, a saxophonist from Cameroon whose 1972 single “Soul Makossa” made modern African music a clear presence on Western pop charts, died on Tuesday in a hospital in France. He was 86. His Facebook page said the cause was Covid-19 but did not say where in France he died. Mr. Dibango had lived in France for some time. Although “Soul Makossa” was named after makossa, a Cameroonian style of music, and its lyrics were in the Douala language of Cameroon, Mr. Dibango’s worldwide hit was an internationalist piece of funk. With his terse, dryly insistent saxophone lines answering his own chanted vocals, a tricky stop-start beat and a scrubbing rhythm guitar, “Soul Makossa” arrived at the dawn of the disco era and made its way to dance floors and R&B radio stations across the United States, Europe and Africa. Although Mr. Dibango was best known for “Soul Makossa” and a 1984 hit, “Abele Dance,” there was much more to his career. He recorded and toured prolifically, appearing worldwide and collaborating with musicians including Herbie Hancock, Fela Kuti, Peter Gabriel, Angélique Kidjo, Youssou N’Dour, the Fania All-Stars and Sinead O’Connor. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones