Africa Media Review for May 13, 2020

Guinea: Six Protesters Killed in Clashes with Police
Six protesters have died in Guinea during clashes with security forces over roadblocks erected to curb the spread of the coronavirus. “There were five deaths in Coyah and one in Dubreka,” police spokesman Mory Kaba told AFP news agency on Tuesday. According to the police, crowds were protesting against road barriers set up to control traffic between the capital and the rest of the country. Protesters said they were tired of being mistreated and extorted by police at entry and exit points to the capital, AFP said, citing witness accounts. With 2,998 infections and 11 deaths, the country is among the West African countries worst-hit by the coronavirus. … Protests took place after a wave of unrest that gripped the country in March as violence erupted after President Alpha Conde went ahead with a bitterly contested referendum to revise the constitution which spurred mass demonstrations and left dozens of people dead. Al Jazeera

COVID-19 Confirmed in Crowded UN-Run Camp in South Sudan
For the first time, COVID-19 has been confirmed in a crowded civilian protection camp in South Sudan’s capital, the United Nations said Tuesday, a worrying development in a country that’s one of the world’s least prepared for the virus’ spread. The U.N. is aware that the health ministry and World Health Organization have confirmed the two cases in the camp in Juba, said Francesca Mold, a spokeswoman with the U.N. mission in South Sudan. The health ministry’s emergency preparedness manager, Dr. Mathew Tut, said the two infected people were South Sudanese and in their 20s. South Sudan was one of the last countries in Africa to confirm a case of the disease and now has 174. As of mid-April more than 190,000 people were still sheltering in several U.N.-run civilian protection camps across South Sudan, more than a year after a peace deal ended a five-year civil war. Nearly 30,000 are sheltering in Juba. … Aid workers in South Sudan have warned there is little more than isolation centers in place to treat people if the virus begins to spread in the crowded camps. AP

Violence in Northern Nigeria Drives 23,000 to Niger
Violence in northwest Nigeria has forced about 23,000 refugees to flee to Niger since April and raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday. The numbers fleeing to neighbouring Niger have almost tripled from last year when the agency reported the first influx of 20,000 people following an insurgency and banditry in northern Nigeria which killed hundreds and displaced thousands. The latest influx of mostly women and children came after attacks by gunmen in Nigeria’s Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states during April. The deadliest attack claimed 47 lives in Katsina State, the agency said, prompting air strikes by Nigerian security forces already stretched tackling a decade-long insurgency by Islamist group Boko Haram in the northeast. Reuters

Buhari Taps Veteran Nigerian Diplomat as Top Presidential Aide
Since the death of Abba Kyari, the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, politically conscious Nigerians had been curious about his likely successor. Mr Kyari’s death from complications to coronavirus infection dominated the media space from the incident on April 17, with tributes from friends, colleagues and the media. He died weeks after contracting the novel coronavirus. Mr Kyari was a powerful presidential aide, technocrat, journalist, administrator, banker and politician. Following his death, many newspapers speculated on who President Buhari would likely pick to replace him. Those mentioned include Babagana Kingibe, Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs, Hammed Alli; and education minister, Adamu Adamu. However, a retired diplomat, Ibrahim Gambari, was on Tuesday named the new Chief of Staff to the President, according to presidential sources and the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari. Mr Gambari, 75, was said to be “awaiting an official letter of confirmation.” sources. Premium Times

Nigeria Arrests Chinese over $250K Cash Bribe for Corruption Cover-Up
Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, reported the arrest of two Chinese businessmen who attempted to bribe an official to cover up corrupt deals. The EFCC via its social media handles said the arrest had been effected on Monday at its Zonal Office in northwestern Sokoto State although the said corruption took place in neighbouring Zamfara State and involved the former state government. Mr. Meng Wei Kun and Mr. Xu Koi were arrested for offering a sum of fifty million Naira (equivalent to $250,000) as bribe to its EFCC Zonal Head, Mr. Abdullahi Lawal. “The bribe was allegedly offered in a desperate bid to compromise ongoing investigations of a construction company, China Zhonghao Nig. Ltd, handling contracts awarded by the Zamfara State Government in the sum of N50,000,000,000 (Fifty billion Naira) between 2012 to 2019.” The EFCC said it was investigation the company with respect to roads and water contracts in Zamfara. Africa News

DRC: Tshisekedi Replaces Chief of Staff amid Graft Trial
DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has temporarily replaced his chief of staff Vital Kamerhe who is charged with stealing public funds, the president’s spokesman said on Tuesday. Kamerhe, the most senior politician to ever face trial for graft in Congo, has been held at Kinshasa’s Makala prison since his arrest on April 8. The appointment to replace Kamerhe with a deputy comes a day after his high-profile trial began. He has denied all wrongdoing in relation to charges of embezzling more than $50 million in public funds. Kamerhe’s supporters say the charges are politically motivated, aimed at stymieing his chances of challenging Tshisekedi at the next elections in 2023. Deputy director of cabinet Desiré-Cashmir Kolongele Eberande will assume the interim role of chief of staff, Tshisekedi’s spokesman Kasongo Mwema announced on the state broadcaster. Reuters

Sudan Rejects Ethiopia Proposal to Sign Nile Mega-Dam Agreement
Sudan has rejected an Ethiopian proposal to sign an initial agreement greenlighting the filling of a controversial mega-dam, calling its neighbour to resume the stalled United States-brokered negotiations on the issue. On Tuesday, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said he refused to sign a “partial agreement” for the dam’s filling due to the absence of coordinated planning and outstanding “technical and legal issues” dealing with the dam’s “environmental and social impacts.” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had urged Hamdok to sign the agreement. Sudan and Egypt fear the disputed $4.6bn dam on the Nile will trap their essential water supplies once it starts being filled in July as planned by Ethiopia. In a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart, Hamdok also stressed the need to reach an agreement among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia before the project’s completion, according to Sudan’s state-run news agency. He urged the parties to resume talks immediately. Al Jazeera

“Madness” to Hold Uganda Vote If Virus Persists: Museveni
Uganda’s long-serving President Yoweri Museveni has said it would be wrong to hold a presidential election expected for early next year if the coronavirus persists, signalling for the first time a possible delay. “To have elections when the virus is still there… It will be madness,” the 75-year-old Museveni, whom opponents cast as an authoritarian clinging to power, said in an interview with the local NBS Television aired late on Monday. Uganda has recorded a relatively low case load of the Covid-19 disease – 121 infections and no deaths – and began easing a strict national lockdown a few days ago. Though no date had been fixed for the 2021 election, it is typically held in February. Reuters

Lifting Africa’s COVID-19 Lockdown Poses Problems
Djibouti started easing lockdown measures on Monday, despite the country having the highest number of COVID-19 cases in East Africa: Some 1,189 people out of a population of 1 million tested positive for the coronavirus. “The stakes are high but there is no other option: people need to make their living and go to work,” Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf said, while admitting that the move could lead to a new surge of cases. Djiboutians had not taken kindly to the restrictions imposed by the government of President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who is likely to run for reelection next year. Besides political considerations, many African governments are worried about the impact of lockdown measures on the economy. Economic growth had been sluggish across Africa, even before the COVID-19 crisis, which statistically has not hit Africa as hard as other continents. DW

After the Storm, Mozambicans Brace for COVID-19
A year on from two of the worst cyclones in Mozambique’s history, tens of thousands of people are still struggling to rebuild. The coronavirus pandemic is not helping. Celso Manuel wonders when the shocks will stop. The 26-year-old saw his city Beira, in central Mozambique, devastated by two cyclones last year, which killed more than 600 people. He was still rebuilding the roof of his house when a new disaster struck. “Because of the coronavirus, I lost my job,” he tells RFI. “My security firm said there was less need for staff because there were no contracts.” His contract was terminated in February, a few weeks before the southern nation reported its first Covid-19 case on 22 March. Now the father of two worries about how he will pay for the repairs on his unfinished house and support his family. RFI

Angola Billionaire Isobel dos Santos Wants Assets Unfrozen
The billionaire daughter of Angola’s former president is calling for her assets in the country and Portugal to be unfrozen. Isabel dos Santos says there is evidence the state, the Luanda Civil Court and Supreme Court colluded against her using fabricated evidence. She says this included a forged passport in her name bearing the signature of late martial arts expert Bruce Lee. The courts have not commented. Ms Dos Santos is reported to be Africa’s richest woman, with a fortune of some $2bn (£1.6bn). She was controversially appointed head of the state oil firm Sonangol in June 2016 by her father, former President José Eduardo dos Santos. She was sacked from the post in 2017 by her father’s successor, President João Lourenço. In January, prosecutors in Angola accused her, and her associates, of mismanaging and embezzling $1bn from Sonangol. Her assets in Angola and in Portugal were subsequently frozen. BBC

Ghana’s Rice Farmers Might Benefit from COVID Pandemic
Rice plays a huge role in diets in Ghana, from the famous West African jollof rice to rice and stew – but most of these grains are imported. In 2019, Ghana launched Eat Ghana Rice, a campaign aimed at supporting the local rice industry, but imports still dominate. Demand for local rice has been on the increase in Ghana as a result of the campaign. But in markets across the West African nation, imported brands still dominate. Rice industry insiders say locally grown grain may soon see a boost from an unexpected supporter: the coronavirus pandemic.  With COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, some nations have temporarily banned exports of the grain to ensure food security. The Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana says the bans have sent imported rice prices soaring. VOA

Ethiopia Calls on Expertise of Diaspora Doctors to Stay Ahead of Coronavirus Curve
Every weekday at noon, radio host Mehret Debebe heads to his studio for a live call-in show devoted to a single topic: What the coronavirus means for Ethiopia. The questions come from across the country, as farmers in remote regions ask how they should prepare – and in some cases whether the virus is even real. The answers come from even farther afield. That’s because Mehret has taken to stacking his guest list with Ethiopian doctors based abroad, often in countries like the United States that have been hit much harder by the pandemic. “We are still in the pre-crisis phase, so I think learning from them would help a lot,” Mehret, a US-trained psychiatrist, said of his diaspora guests. “We don’t know what the crisis will be like.” The World Bank says Ethiopia has just one doctor for every 10 000 people – a ratio that’s half of neighbouring Kenya’s, four times lower than Nigeria’s and nine times lower than South Africa’s. AFP

Senegalese Engineering Students Fight Coronavirus with Inventions
Engineering students in Senegal have joined their country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic with inventions such as automatic sanitiser dispensers and medical robots. The students attending a top engineering school in the capital, Dakar, have turned their technical skills towards easing pressure on the wards – and they are already in talks with hospitals over some of their innovations. One example is a small robot, dubbed “Dr Car”, which will be able to measure patients’ blood pressure and temperature, according to students from Dakar’s Ecole Superieure Polytechnique (ESP). The university is considered one of West Africa’s best for engineering and technology, and is highly selective, with 28 nationalities represented among its 4,000 students. Lamine Mouhamed Kebe, one of the students who conceived the robot, said the machine would reduce the exposure of doctors and nurses to infected patients and use of expensive protective gear. AFP

Chad’s Storytellers Take COVID Prevention Messages off the Grid
Some 80 troubadours – a medieval French term for wandering singers and poets who focused on courtly love – are now on the move to remote areas in eight provinces in Chad to raise awareness of the dangers of COVID-19 and what measures need to be taken to stop the spread of the deadly disease. These traditional custodians of information typically travel from community to community on donkeys, horses or camels, sharing news in local languages. In a vast, yet scarcely populated country, where close to three-quarters of the population live in rural areas, with limited or non-existent access to radio, mobile or internet technologies, the role of these troubadours is crucial according to Violet Kakyomya, the UN Resident Coordinator in Chad, the UN’s most senior representative in the country. “They are the most reliable people to deliver information by word-of-mouth”, adding that “it is essential to work with them in order to avoid miscomprehension that can quickly translate into rumors, misinformation and suspicion of health interventions.” UN News



Photo: Adam Jones