News Briefs 10 April 2020


Zimbabwe coronavirus deaths rise to three

THE number of Covid-19 fatalities in Zimbabwe has risen to three after the ninth patient, a 50-year-old Harare man on Wednesday succumbed to the global pandemic at Wilkins Hospital’s ICU. To date, Zimbabwe has 11 confirmed cases.

The deceased had travelled to the UK and returned home on March 21.

In a statement, the Secretary of Health and Child Care Dr Agnes Mahomva said the deceased had been admitted to Wilkins Hospital after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 with an underlying comorbidity.

“The Ministry however, would like to report that the ninth patient deceased today under admission in the intensive care unit at Wilkins Hospital. He was a 50-year-old male resident of Harare who had travelled to the United Kingdom and returned home in the 21th of March 2020,” she said.

The Chronicle

Anxiety over rights violations as Zimbabwe enforces lockdown

Off the open-air market in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, armed soldiers and police controlled a modest queue of vegetable traders, scuttling people away as soon as they make their purchase.

On a normal day, the marketplace would be a bustling hive of activity. But on Monday, as Zimbabwe entered its second week of a 21-day lockdown aimed at mitigating the spread of the new coronavirus, activity was sharply reduced.

Standing near a neglected mass of open-air empty stalls covered in black sheeting is Mary Gumbo. The 69-year-old usually sells tomatoes here, but now she has to bundle her wares for resale in her neighbourhood. She complains the tight security and transport controls have reduced her earnings.


U.N. Seeks $130 Million to Prevent Hunger Catastrophe in Zimbabwe

The United Nations food agency said on Wednesday it needed $130 million to fund emergency operations in Zimbabwe until August and prevent a catastrophe in the southern African nation, as climate- and recession-induced food shortages deepened.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said 7.7 million Zimbabweans, half the population, need food aid after a devastating drought and cyclone last year. A lack of predictable rains this year has affected crops, compounding the situation.

The coronavirus pandemic has added to the pressure. Zimbabwe has recorded only three deaths and 11 cases, but economists predict it could face a second successive recession this year as the pandemic shuts down large parts of the global economy.

Zimbabwe’s mining industry, the largest single earner of foreign exchange, has already signalled that exports could fall by a quarter due to the effects of the new coronavirus.

New York Times


More Businesses in Swaziland to Close as Govt Tightens Coronavirus Lockdown

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government announced that all non-essential businesses in the kingdom should close down from Friday (3 April 2020) as measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic are stepped up.

The kingdom has been on a 20-day partial lockdown since 27 March.

Manqoba Khumalo, Minister for Commerce, Industry and Trade, announced, ‘All businesses and entities that are not involved in the manufacturing, supply or provision of essential goods or services shall, cease to operate for the duration of the partial lockdown.’

Regulations published after the lockdown was announced only covered the closure of bars, and restaurants but said nothing about other shops.


Swaziland Locksdown

The Kingdom of eSwatini, known to the United Nations as Swaziland is a country of 1.3 million people. The nation has been on partial lockdown, but that changes today.

The king, who is believed to be in isolation, declared a national state of emergency and ordered a partial lockdown last week. Towards the end of the weekend, however, emaSwati were informed that a full lockdown would take place from April 6.

The partial lockdown proved to be quite the ordeal for some as police officers and soldiers went about enforcing it. A curfew has been observed in the past few days and several businesses have taken a blow of up to 90% of business. Certain officers of the law have been implicated in bribery scandals for coercing business owners to pay up or lock up during this time.

Zim Eye

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo frees 1,200 inmates amid coronavirus outbreak

The Democratic Republic of Congo has released 1,200 inmates to decongest prisons as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the country’s justice minister said Tuesday.   

“In the past few days, we have been decongesting our prisons starting with the large Makala Prison, where at least 700 prisoners were released on parole,” Celestin Tunda told UN Radio Okapi. 

Noting that the release will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Congolese prisons, Tunda said the process is still ongoing for inmates with different categories of offenses.  

Magistrates across the country have been encouraged to make release a principle and only detain for exceptional cases, he added. 

According to Tunda, inmates not eligible for release are those facing serious crimes such as murder and battery resulting in death, rape, defilement and threatening state security. 

Anadolu Agency

Fighting COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of Congo

On 23 March 2020, the South African President, H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, announced a three-week lockdown in response to COVID-19. The President also confirmed that the military will be deployed in order to support the police in enforcing the nationwide lockdown. On the day of the speech, South Africa’s Department of Health had stated that more than 400 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the country, which is the highest number in Africa so far.

This week, we have seen many other African leaders discussing a potential lockdown and enforcing measures in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus. This includes countries such as Senegal and Ivory Coast declaring a state of emergency, and the closure of borders in countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ethiopia. The virus did take some time before it reached Africa. However, just like in other parts of the world, the spread has been rapid.

COVID-19 is spreading beyond control in countries where the healthcare systems are underfunded and understaffed. According to Ottar Mæstad’s article “Corona in Africa – What Now?”, there are only between four and eight nurses for every 10,000 inhabitants in countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. However, in one of the world’s richest countries, Norway, there are 180 nurses for every 10,000 inhabitants. This makes the healthcare system extremely vulnerable and unprepared for such a virus.

Africa Business Magazine

Central African Republic

Just three ventilators to cope with Covid-19 in Central African Republic

Just three ventilators are available to help save the lives of people who contract coronavirus in Central African Republic, a country of almost five million people. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is calling on the international community to support countries, which are gravely unprepared to cope with the spread of the virus.

“Covid-19 has the potential to tear through the Central African Republic at lightning spread if the country doesn’t get the support it needs to adequately protect itself against the virus. Three ventilators in a country of five million people is setting the country up for catastrophe,” warned David Manan, Norwegian Refugee Council Country Director in the Central African Republic (CAR).

“And this could be replicated across the world’s poorest countries, where health infrastructure is virtually non-existent,’ he added.

Western nations are scaling up to procure ventilators where they are in short supply. Countries like the United Kingdom and the United States are working around the clock to secure tens of thousands of ventilators to respond to the pandemic.

Norwegian Refugee Council

UN expert calls for restraint and responsibility to protect population

The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in CAR, Yao Agbetse, today called on the government, the opposition and armed groups in the Central African Republic, as well as national and international media, to exercise restraint and responsibility as the country progresses under the Khartoum Peace Agreement. He issued the following statement:

“Since 28 March 2020, the political climate has deteriorated and has led to tensions detrimental to the still fragile security situation in the capital Bangui.

Any political actor who has held or plans to hold high office in CAR, including the supreme magistracy, must prove himself capable of putting the interests of the people before his own interests; this requirement is non-negotiable.

Any attempt to impede the country’s progress towards the peace strongly expressed by the Central African people at the Bangui Forum in 2015 and at the national consultations in 2019 under the Khartoum Peace Agreement is a betrayal of the people who aspire only to enjoy their rights.

Relief Web


Somalia confirms 1st coronavirus death

Somalia on Wednesday confirmed its first death from coronavirus.

Ismail Mukhtar Orongo, Somali government spokesman, told Anadolu Agency over the phone that the patient succumbed to the deadly virus in the capital Mogadishu.

“The patient is a 58-year-old Somali national who had no travel history in the past three years and who died from coronavirus in Martini Hospital in Mogadishu,” he said.

The Horn of Africa country has so far confirmed eight cases of coronavirus.

On April 1, former Somali Prime Minister Nour Hassan Hussein Nour Adde died from coronavirus in London.

The global death toll from coronavirus has crossed 83,600, with more than 1.45 million cases confirmed, according to U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Anadolu Agency

Somali Officials Confirm US Airstrike Killed Senior Al-Shabab Leader

A Somali intelligence official has confirmed that a U.S. airstrike in southern Somalia killed a senior leader of militant group al-Shabab.

The official in Somalia’s southwest region told VOA that the airstrike on April 2 killed Yusuf Jiis, a long-standing, high-ranking leader in the al-Qaida-affiliated group.

The airstrike took place near Bush Madina, about 55 kilometers east of the town of Dinsor, in a Shabab-controlled area.

“This individual was a key leader in the al-Shabab organization,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command. “He was violent, ruthless and responsible for the loss of many innocent lives. His removal makes Somalia and neighboring countries safer.”

Voice of America


Sudan still in crisis a year after Omar al-Bashir ouster

A year after one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted from power in the face of mass street protests, Sudan is still reeling from daunting crises including deep economic woes.

Bashir was overthrown on April 11, 2019 by the military, which was responding to mounting public anger against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.

He was arrested and detained in a Khartoum jail and in December ordered to serve two years in a correctional center for corruption.

He still faces separate charges over the killing of protesters and the 1989 coup that brought him to power.

Authorities have also agreed that Bashir should stand trial before the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes committed from 2003 in the Darfur conflict between the Arab-dominated government and ethnic minority African rebels.

Japan Times

Sudan court upholds ex-President Bashir’s corruption conviction

Sudan’s ousted President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday lost an appeal against a sentence of two years in detention for corruption, his lawyer said.

“The appeals court upheld the conviction but we will file an appeal in the supreme court because we’re fully convinced there is no case” against Bashir, Hashem al-Jaali told AFP.

At the time of his conviction in December, it was ruled that Bashir, who is 76, would serve his time in a correctional centre for the elderly as laid down by Sudanese law.

But pending rulings in other cases—the killings of demonstrators in protests that led to Bashir’s fall last April and the 1989 coup that brought him to power—he remains in Khartoum’s Kober prison.

The East African

South Sudan

South Sudan uses radio to communicate COVID-19 information

Radio stations in South Sudan have become a major player in disseminating information on the coronavirus.

The country is in a partial lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

South Sudan has only one television station. And since electricity is inaccessible in many parts of the country, radio is what many are relying on to get updates on coronavirus.

Radio journalists in South Sudan say more than 90 percent of their programs are now on coronavirus.

“We are trying so much to incorporate coronavirus information and updates on our programming by encouraging every presenter to at least update the public on the incoming updates that we are getting through the incoming press releases and we are also putting out public service information or announcements on coronavirus,” said Stella Loki, a radio presenter at Advance Youth Radio in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.


South Sudan gets grant to combat COVID-19

An African trade grouping has donated $100,000 to South Sudan to combat coronavirus. The country just out of decades-long civil war has been left to combat the pandemic with a nascent health infrastructure.

The Djibouti-based Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) — an eight-country trade bloc in Africa — decided to grant aid to South Sudan and pledged to release resources to the country.

South Sudan has just four ventilators to cater to a population of 11 million. Nearly 1.5 million people in the country are confined in internally displaced settlements.

“We want to thank IGAD on behalf of the government of South Sudan for helping us to fight the disease. It is a job well done,” said First Vice President Riek Machar.

He said the money will be used for raising awareness to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Anadolu Agency

Western Sahara

Frente Polisario Alerts HRW to the Situation of the Saharawi Civilian Prisoners Held in Moroccan Jails

In a letter addressed to Human Rights Watch’s Brussels office, the Frente POLISARIO Representation to the EU expresses its deep concern about the appalling situation afflicting the Sahrawi political prisoners held illegally in Morocco jails amidst the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

¨ These are trying times for all of us, but none more so than those languishing in arbitrary detention. As you are aware, dozens of innocent Sahrawi civilians are currently being held illegally in Moroccan jails. Victims of ill treatment, torture and intentional medical neglect, these prisoners are not only at high risk for falling gravely ill due to COVID-19, they are also easy targets for the Moroccan regime. It is therefore imperative that Morocco allow immediate access to these prisoners by independent human rights monitors¨. The letter reads.

The statement outlined the urgent call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on 25 March 2020 on all governments to take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in detention and other closed facilities, as part of overall efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.


Western Sahara Campaign UK sends condolence message to President of Republic

The Western Sahara Campaign UK has mourned the passing of Emhamad Khadad, a member of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front, Coordinator with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), on last Tuesday after long illness.

Below is the full text of the condolence message addressed to President of the Republic, Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Mr. Brahim Ghali:

Sahara Press Service