Africa Media Review for May 1, 2020

Dozens Killed in Northeast Central African Republic Clashes

At least 25 people have been killed and 51 others wounded in clashes in the northeast of the Central African Republic, according to the country’s communications minister. Fighting between armed groups in Ndele led to the deaths of 21 civilians, Ange-Maxime Kazigui said on Thursday, adding that “the situation remains confused.” Humanitarian workers, however, said that members of the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) had clashed in Ndele the previous day. “The Gula wing of the FPRC attacked the Runga faction” in Ndele on Wednesday, an official from the country’s United Nations mission, known by its French acronym MINUSCA, told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity. The FPRC last year split into two factions: the Runga ethnic group on one side, including FPRC’s military chief Abdoulaye Hissene, and rival fighters from the Gula and Kara ethnic communities on the other side. They are fighting for control of the region’s resources, including its vast diamond deposits. AFP

Ten Egyptian Soldiers Killed or Injured in North Sinai Blast, Says Army

Egypt’s army said on Thursday that 10 soldiers were either killed or wounded in a blast targeting an armoured vehicle in the restive northern Sinai. The attack occurred south the city of Bir al-Abed in the troubled North Sinai region, the epicentre of a long-running Islamist insurgency spearheaded by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group. Army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said the 10 casualties included an officer but did not provide details on the number of those killed or wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred during the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi extended his condolences to the victims on Twitter. Security forces have for years been battling to contain the insurgency in the turbulent North Sinai which intensified following the military’s 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. AFP

African Countries Ease Coronavirus Lockdowns to Avoid Hurting Poor

Countries across Africa are easing lockdowns and restrictive rules imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 as experts warn the tough measures may not work for poor nations. The move comes amid cautions that the trade and movement restrictions have been harming Africa’s poor who have to go out each day to eke out a living. In Africa, experts say, workers are less able than their peers elsewhere in the world to avoid infection by working from home or even forgoing jobs and wages. Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Algeria are implementing a phased easing of restrictions to allow citizens to do business to boost economies that are reeling from the coronavirus’ impact. In Nairobi, the government has opened a small window in the economy to allow cafes and restaurants to reopen on condition they test their food handlers for coronavirus and enforce social distancing and hygiene measures. South China Morning Post

WHO Says Very Concerned at Community Spread of Coronavirus in West Africa

The World Health Organization is worried by the community spread of the new coronavirus in a significant number of West African countries, the regional head of the organization said on Thursday. Sub-Saharan Africa has confirmed around 23,800 cases with over 900 deaths. A number of countries have issued targeted lockdowns in some major cities, as well as dusk-to-dawn curfews and restrictions on interurban travel, but have stopped short of nationwide lockdowns as in most European countries and South Africa. On Tuesday, the government of Senegal said in its daily outbreak briefing that one case of community infection in the Casamance region of the country contaminated 25 other people. “We are very concerned about West Africa where we are seeing some community spread, in a significant number of countries compared with others,” Matshidiso Moeti told a news conference, without identifying the countries. Reuters

Ghana’s Virus Cases Spike 10 Days after Lockdown Is Lifted

The Ghana Health Service reported 403 new cases, bringing the total to 2,074. The spike was announced 10 days after President Nana Akufo-Addo eased a three-week lockdown in the capital of Accra and in the city of Kumasi. The president had warned over the weekend that there was a backlog of some 18,000 tests. “The overwhelming majority of these contacts have been established in the last three weeks of the partial lockdown in Accra and Kumasi,” he had said. Ghana’s updates are being closely watched by leaders of other African countries that have pledged to lift their own restrictions on economic activity and social gathering as soon as possible. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has said that on Monday it will lift its lockdowns in the capital of Abuja and Lagos, the country’s largest city with 21 million people. Some questioned whether it was too soon to begin reopening in Ghana, but the president insisted that early and aggressive contact tracing gave health officials the upper hand. AP

As COVID-19 Cases Increase, Nigeria Laments Inadequate Bed Spaces, Considers Home Treatment

The federal government is considering the option of home-care treatment for COVID-19 patients as some states are running out of bed spaces. The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known at the daily Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing on Thursday. Mr Ihekweazu said the country has about 3,500-bed spaces identified as available for COVID-19 patients. He, however, said more bed spaces will be needed as the number of COVID-19 cases increases in the country “Concerning the availability of bed spaces for the management of patients, there is no doubt that we are struggling in certain places especially in Lagos State, and to an extent Kano and Abuja. But the biggest challenge right now is in Lagos where bed spaces are really tight.” … “We will always be honest with Nigerians. We are struggling at the moment and we might have to adapt our strategies because of the realities we face.” … Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, appealed to individuals and group of persons who own properties, especially hotels, to make them available for use in cases of an emergency. Premium Times

Huge Rallies Spark Fear of Virus Spike in Burundi

Images of thousands of people mingling at political rallies in Burundi on Monday have sparked concerns that coronavirus infections could soar. Olivier Manzi, a specialist in infectious diseases, says large gatherings of this nature risk accelerating the spread of the virus. Official World Health Organization advice during the pandemic is for people observe social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading. Another is to regularly wash your hands. Burundi’s electoral commission did provide buckets and soap at the ruling party rally in Gitega and the main opposition’s event in Ngozi province. But “the numbers of people are too big to get enough water to wash or sanitise every hand,” one participant in told the BBC on Tuesday during the second day of campaigns in Kirundo province. … Burundi’s government has insisted elections should go ahead on 20 May regardless of the pandemic. BBC

Overcrowded DRC Prisons ‘Ticking Time-Bomb’ for COVID-19 Pandemic

Delcasse Lukumbu lies awake at night on the dirty concrete floor of Goma’s Munzenze prison fearing for his life. Surrounded on all sides by hundreds of inmates, the political activist, who was sent to Munzenze a few weeks ago, has no way of keeping a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of coronavirus. “It will spread like a fire,” Lukumbu said on the phone last week. “As soon as one person catches the virus, we will all catch it within hours.” More than 2,400 mostly male prisoners are currently housed inside Munzenze, which was built for a capacity of just 150. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) main prisons are filled at 432 percent on average, according to MONUSCO, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the country, making them among the most overcrowded in the world. Leading health experts say these overcapacity prisons seriously risk outbreaks of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, threatening the lives of detainees, guards and the outside population. Al Jazeera

Rwanda to Partially Lift Virus Lockdown

Rwanda will partially lift its virus lockdown from next week and allow people to move freely during the day more than six weeks after being confined, the prime minister’s office said on Friday. Rwanda was one of the first to impose strict lockdown measures in Africa, on 22 March, when it had only 19 cases, and to date has officially recorded 225 cases and zero deaths. From Monday 4 May, citizens will be allowed to move freely from 05:00 to 20:00, and will need permission to do so later in the evening, the prime minister’s office said in a statement. Businesses, manufacturing and construction operations will be allowed to resume with essential workers, while markets will be allowed to open with no more than 50 percent of traders operating. According to the statement hotels and restaurants will be allowed to operate but must close by 19:00. … Transport between different provinces is still banned, borders remain closed and mass gatherings prohibited. AFP

UN Launches COVID-19 Aid Flights to Vulnerable Developing Nations

The U.N. World Food Program on Thursday sent a first plane loaded with medical supplies for developing nations especially vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic, aiming to ramp up the service to 350 flights per month. WFP chose nine airports across the world to take part in the special humanitarian air bridge, which will also feature up to 350 passenger flights per month to transport medical and humanitarian teams from early May. A Boeing 757 cargo flight left Belgium’s Liege Airport on Thursday evening loaded with 16 tonnes of medical supplies, including masks, gloves, medicines and syringes for the West African country of Burkina Faso. The grounding of commercial passenger flights during the pandemic has not only prevented tens of thousands of humanitarian workers from travelling but removed cargo space. … The other hub airports are Accra, Addis Ababa, Guangzhou, Johannesburg, Panama City, Shanghai, Subang and two in Dubai. Reuters

Agencies Give Senegalese Food Aid

Humanitarian agencies in Senegal are this week distributing aid as part of an early response to food shortage, which has been caused by the late onset of rainfall last year AU insurance agency, the African Risk Capacity (ARC), has announced. According to an ARC press statement, the $10.6m are being funded through an insurance policy issued by the agency, based on pre-agreed scientific triggers. They are part of the $23.1 payouts made to the Government of Senegal and StartNetwork last November to provide early support to those affected by drought during the 2019 agricultural season. This early action, the statement explained, will help alleviate suffering and reduce the need for the affected populations to resort to negative coping actions such as withdrawing children from schools, eating their seeds, and migrating or selling their farming implements. … ARC is a specialised agency of the AU governed by and working with the continental union’s member states to improve their capacities to better plan and respond to natural disasters and protect the food security of their vulnerable populations. The East African

World Bank Approves $40M to Support Vulnerable Households in South Sudan

The World Bank has approved 40 million USD to provide income support to 65,000 households in South Sudan. The $40 million grant from the World Bank’s International Development Association will reportedly fund a two and half years project to provide income support to nearly 430 000 low income South Sudanese. It will provide income security to the most vulnerable households – including households with people with extreme vulnerabilities, such as persons with disabilities, the elderly, expectant women and those living with HIV/AIDS amongst others. The project will be implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in South Sudan, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Finance and Planning. Radio Tamazuj

Tripoli Government Rejects Rebel General’s Ceasefire Offer in Libya

The Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, said it did not trust the Libyan National Army (LNA) of renegade general Khalifa Haftar. Late on Wednesday a spokesman for Haftar said the LNA was adopting a ceasefire for Islam’s holy month of Ramadan in response to requests by the international community and “friendly countries.” In recent weeks Haftar’s forces have suffered a series of battlefield reverses during a surge in violence that has included indiscriminate shelling of clearly marked hospitals. On Monday he abruptly declared a popular mandate to take control of the whole country. The ceasefire offer suggests that he was told by his backers that he had overstepped the mark and needed to bow to international pressure for a lull in fighting if he was to recover lost diplomatic ground. He may also have reasoned that a ceasefire would give him time to reorganise his battered supply lines. … The declaration also implied that Haftar no longer recognised the authority of the elected house of representatives (HoR) in the eastern city of Tobruk, which he had been broadly allied with for many years. The head of the HoR, Ageela Saleh, had just put forward an eight-point political plan to try to reconcile the east of the country with the GNA. The Guardian

Comoros: Second Last African Country Verifies Confirmed Coronavirus Case

Comoros has announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, making it the second-last African country to report a Covid-19 case. The Indian Ocean archipelago and the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho were the only two countries without any registered coronavirus cases left on the continent. “On this day of April 30, 2020, the government declares the first case of Covid-19 on the Comoros,” President Azali Assoumani said during an address to the nation on Thursday. The case involves a man in his 50s who came into contact with a French-Comorian national with recent travel history to France. “The patient’s medical condition is gradually improving,” Azali assured, adding that his contacts were being traced. The president said the priority would now be to shield the healthcare system from overload, which would force the government to adopt “even more draconian measures” to protect the population of some 832 000. … Assoumani said he had not imposed a full lockdown because most of the population lives off informal work. AFP

South African Government’s Assessment of Virus Damage in Charts

South Africa’s National Treasury expects job losses, tax losses and a contracting economy due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown to halt its spread. The finance minister will only present an adjustment budget, which accounts for the impact of the pandemic and economic relief measures, in June or July, according to Treasury and tax officials who briefed lawmakers on the potential impact of the virus on Thursday. South Africa’s economy could contract by as much as 16.1% this year, depending on how long it takes to contain the coronavirus pandemic and for the economy to recover to the end of 2020, Treasury estimates showed. “We have to move quickly to get the economy back to normal, but also take into account that we have to contain the impact of the virus,” Dondo Mogajane, the National Treasury’s director-general, said. Bloomberg

Anti-Apartheid Veteran Denis Goldberg: His Last Interview with DW

Anti-apartheid veteran Denis Goldberg died on Wednesday at his home in Hout Bay, South Africa, aged 87, after a battle with lung cancer. Goldberg, a prominent member of the now-ruling African National Congress, spent 22 years in prison for resisting white rule in South Africa. He was sentenced in the infamous 1964 Rivonia trial alongside Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters, including Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, and Walter Sisulu. In January this year, Goldberg talked to DW about his political influences, how he became involved in the anti-apartheid fight, and his thoughts on the ANC now. DW



Photo: Adam Jones