Africa Media Review for May 26, 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in Africa has exposed how far the continent still has to go before achieving its aspirations of a united and prosperous region. Ramaphosa, speaking in his capacity as African Union chairperson, addressed Africa Day celebrations, held via virtual platforms across parts of the continent. He said the Covid-19 pandemic would have a lasting impact on the AU’s ability to pursue its Agenda 2063, which spoke to African leaders’ vision for the continent’s future. The continent marked its 54th Africa Day on Monday. It did so against the backdrop of 107,747 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 3,257 deaths. … Through the pandemic, a new Africa, rooted in solidarity, cross-border collaboration and sharing of knowledge needed to emerge, Ramaphosa said. News24

Burundi’s election commission declared the governing party’s candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, the winner of the country’s presidential election amid accusations of rigging by the leading opposition challenger. Ndayishimiye, a retired army general, won 68.72 percent of the votes in last week’s ballot, while Agathon Rwasa, the main opposition leader, received 24.19 percent, the commission said on Monday. … Since Ndayishimiye received more than 50 percent of the vote, he avoided a runoff. Ndayishimiye was picked by the governing CNDD-FDD party to succeed outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose controversial decision to seek a third term in the last election in 2015 sparked mass unrest, violence and an opposition boycott. … Rwasa already hinted he would not take to the streets in protest and would appeal to the Constitutional Court, though he considers the process imperfect. The final election results will be declared by the Constitutional Court on June 4. Al Jazeera

Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak, the World Health Organisation said on Monday. The world is still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, WHO emergencies head Dr Mike Ryan told an online briefing, noting that while cases are declining in many countries they are still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa. A special envoy for the UN health body also warned that while Africa has so far been spared the worst impact of the coronavirus, the WHO is worried the continent could face a “silent epidemic” if its leaders do not prioritise testing for it. … “My first point for Africa, my first concern, is that a lack of testing is leading to a silent epidemic in Africa. So we must continue to push leaders to prioritise testing,” special envoy Samba Sow said on Monday. Reuters

The government of Madagascar has announced the deployment of soldiers and doctors to the city of Toamasina (east), after a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country’s second largest city. The government on Sunday in the capital Antananarivo held a special council of ministers meeting devoted to the situation in Toamasina. Madagascar, located in the Indian Ocean, has so far registered 527 cases of coronavirus, including two deaths in Toamasina. Since Thursday, 122 new cases have been officially confirmed. According to several witnesses, corpses have been picked up in recent days in the streets of the city, without the causes of these deaths being known. … Some 150 soldiers sent as reinforcements to Toamasina will be in charge of maintaining order there and applying measures against the coronavirus (wearing masks, social distancing…), according to the regional governorate. AFP

At least four civilians were killed and more than 15 others were wounded in a bomb blast during Eid al Fitr celebrations outside the Somali town of Baidoa, witnesses said. Two of the dead are children, according to reports from the scene. The explosion occurred on Sunday afternoon as people performed traditional dances in a field near an internally displaced persons camp north of the town. Somalia observed Eid al Fitr on Saturday but festivities continue for three days according to Islamic traditions. A security official who could not be named says celebrations were held in the field Saturday without incident. He said he believes the bomb was planted before celebrations continued for a second day Sunday. VOA

At least two Burkinabe police officers were killed in an attack Sunday in western Burkina Faso, security sources said. Sources told AFP that heavily armed individuals attacked the police post in the town of Faramana at around 10 pm local time. Two police officer, including the brigade commander, were killed in the attack, while another is missing. According to AFP, “the police stations of Faramana and Madouba were the target of an attack by armed individuals on the same night.” On Saturday, Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré said at the end of a Defence Council meeting that he had given instruction to the military hierarchy so that “strategies are taken for the destruction” of jihadist bases. AFP

Soldiers from Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso conducted their first joint operation against jihadists active near their shared border, killing eight suspected militants and arresting 14 others, Ivory Coast’s army said on Sunday. Burkina Faso and its neighbours Mali and Niger in West Africa’s semi-arid Sahel zone are battling Islamist insurgencies with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State. Those groups have been strengthening and expanding their range of operations, leaving coastal countries like Ivory Cost fearful the violence will spill onto their territories. The joint operation was launched on May 11 with about 1,000 Ivorian soldiers participating from their side of the 580-kilometre (360-mile) border with Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast’s army said in a statement. The suspected militants were killed in Burkina Faso, the army said, adding that the operation is ongoing. Reuters

Egypt’s Interior Ministry says 21 suspected terrorists were killed within 24 hours when police stormed two hideouts in the northern Sinai. Police say terrorists were plotting attacks on the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Arab media showed photos of the bodies of terrorist suspects killed by Egyptian police during raids on two locations where they were allegedly preparing attacks. One of the police raids took place at an abandoned house in the northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abed, where terrorists have attacked security forces several times in recent months. The second police raid took place in an agricultural region near the northern Sinai coastal town of el-Arish. Several police commanders were wounded in the raids. VOA

Amid the Covid-19 crisis, states have used phone apps and other high-tech measures to monitor the spread of the disease, and in some cases deployed drones and troops to enforce strict curfews and lockdowns. “How this will pan out, not only in Egypt but elsewhere … in how governments will be able to monitor citizens’ mobility and physical activities is very alarming,” Fahmy told AFP in an online interview. “The fear is: once granted, these rights given to the government will be very difficult to revoke once the crisis is over,” said the Egyptian professor who has previously also taught at Princeton University. … “If you compare what is happening in Egypt now and the cholera epidemic of 1947, one big difference is how open the media was back then and how closed it is (now) in how they cover the epidemic,” Fahmy noted. AFP

Sudan’s transitional authorities are working to create a police force to protect health facilities, the prime minister’s office said Saturday, as attacks against health workers and hospitals increase amid the coronavirus pandemic. The move came after doctors across the country threatened Thursday to go on strike to pressure authorities to provide protection for health workers and facilities. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok met with representatives of doctors on Friday to find “decisive and strict solutions” to “the phenomenon of repeated attacks on health workers,” his office said in a statement. The government will introduce a draft bill to provide protection to health workers, the statement said. At least two dozen attacks on health care workers and facilities have taken place in the past two months across the country, according to a tally by the Sudan Doctors’ committee. AP

Hundreds of youth gathered in the main streets of Khartoum and in front of the army command on Saturday to commemorate the Khartoum sit-in massacre, and demand justice for the 127 demonstrators killed. PM Hamdok said that those responsible for the massacre will be held accountable. Last year, day 29 of the Ramadan month was on June 3, the day of the massacre at the sit-in in front of the army command in Khartoum. This year, Ramadan 29 (in the Hijri Calendar based on the moon cycle) was at May 23, last Saturday. Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok stressed that it is “vital and necessary” to achieve justice and hold the perpetrators of the “sit-in crime” accountable. … The Public Prosecution said in a statement that the independent committee that is investigating the violent dismantling of the sit-in in front of the army command on June 3, 2019, will make accusations against those responsible. Radio Dabanga

When Habibu Juma Ali lined up his truck full of Whitedent toothpaste behind hundreds of others waiting to cross the border from Tanzania into Kenya, he didn’t expect to wait two weeks to get tested for the novel coronavirus. Truckers are permitted to drive across the otherwise closed border between East Africa’s two biggest countries, but for the first two months of the pandemic, they had to get tested at the crossing. More than 150 tested positive and were turned back. The rest spent interminable days waiting for their results. … The porous border, inefficient testing and limited contact tracing made this town an ideal place for the coronavirus to spread. … Truck drivers distribute goods but also sometimes diseases, as became especially clear during HIV’s spread in Africa, where they carry the virus at double the rate of the general population. … Kenya’s tests at the border have been the only real indication of the extent of the outbreak in Tanzania. The Washington Post

Violet Manuel hastily abandoned her uncle’s funeral and grabbed two empty containers when she heard a boy running down the dirt road shouting, “Water, water, water!” The 72-year-old joined dozens of people seeking their daily ration in Zimbabwe’s densely populated town of Chitungwiza. “Social distancing here?” Manuel asked tartly. She sighed with relief after getting her allotment of 40 liters (10.5 gallons) but worried about the coronavirus. “I got the water, but chances are that I also got the disease,” she told The Associated Press. And yet her plans for the water did not include hand-washing but “more important” tasks such as cleaning dishes and flushing the toilet. … Across Africa, where virus cases are closing in on 100,000, more than half of the continent’s 1.3 billion people must leave their homes to get water, according to the Afrobarometer research group. AP

The requests keep on coming. From his wife, three children and his four sisters. Ibrahima Bah would send them money – if he had any. Before the coronavirus crisis, he worked in hotels and restaurants in Paris. They all closed after lockdown measures were implemented. But his relatives back in Guinea still need his support. “The family keeps calling us,” he told DW. “But with no work and with the curfew it is very complicated. But the family simply relies on us.” Many migrants are in the same tight spot at the moment. Their money transfers back home – also known as remittances – is usually enough to feed three to four people on average. … Africa will be particularly hard hit by the slump: The World Bank anticipates a decline in remittance flows of up to 23.1%. In 2019, a total of $48 billion (€42 billion) worth of money transfers were sent to sub-Saharan Africa. This year, the figure is likely to be closer to around $37 billion (€34 billion). DW

Some African countries are opting to negotiate debt relief individually with China and other rich nations because of concerns they will be blocked from financial markets by the G20 debt deal to help poorer countries get through the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. The deal, to suspend debt payments to the end of the year for the world’s poorest nations, was agreed in April, but private lenders – who hold US$154.9 billion of the total long-term debts of sub-Saharan countries, estimated at US$493.6 billion – have rejected its blanket approach to debt relief. The G20 finance ministers invited private creditors, working through the Institute of International Finance, to participate in the initiative on comparable terms but the lenders have insisted they will negotiate with African countries on a case-by-case basis, a stand also favoured by Beijing. The G20 has no power to force them to take part in the deal. South China Morning Post

Last week Facebook unveiled its 2Africa undersea cable project, which will circle the continent, connecting it to Europe and the Middle East. When it is operational in 2023 it will increase bandwidth to the continent by a massive 180 terabits per second. The 2Africa consortium sees Facebook partnering with established carriers such as MTN, Vodafone, China Mobile, Orange and others, who will bring the cable’s connectivity to 16 countries in Africa, some of which have not had direct access to international bandwidth before. With other projects such as Google’s Equiano cable in the pipeline, this capacity boost should also lead to higher speeds and lower prices, and expand coverage deeper into under-served areas beyond major cities. Ibrahim Ba, the emerging markets lead at Facebook’s Network Investments says the 2Africa cable will triple existing capacity. Mail & Guardian

Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour and Grammy-winner Angelique Kidjo were among a galaxy of African talent brought together for a virtual concert to raise awareness of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 100 artists and celebrities from across the continent and the diaspora took part in the WAN Show broadcast online by the Worldwide Afro Network and carried by 200 African channels on Monday to mark Africa Day. “After COVID-19, Africa will be great, Africa will be strong. Together we are unbeatable,” Malian kora star and hip-hop artist Sidiki Diabate said at the launch of the virtual concert. AFP



Photo: Adam Jones