SALO Weekly News Briefs – 22 April 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo:

Attacks in DR Congo hamper anti-pandemic efforts: UN.


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Friday warned that recent armed attacks in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) could cause “terrible consequences” as it pushes for more displacement amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Recent attacks in North Kivu and Ituri provinces are reported to have displaced more than 35,000 people in recent weeks including some 25,000 in villages south of Lubero territory,” the UNHCR said.

“In the meantime, security has deteriorated in the Djugu Territory in Ituri province, where a growing number of attacks by unknown assailants have displaced over 12,000 persons so far this month,” it added.

“These attacks hamper humanitarian access, hinder assistance to desperate displaced people, and disrupt vital coordination on COVID-19 prevention and sensitization.

“Many areas and sites hosting displaced people are also overcrowded, making it difficult to implement physical and social distancing,” the statement concluded.

Anadolu Agency

‘Life now is so difficult’: Food prices rocket amid DRC lockdown

Swarms of black flies cover a festering slab of meat on Patrick Bwira’s stall in Goma’s sprawling Virunga market. Business for the 21-year-old butcher has dried up dramatically as a lockdown imposed in the city due to the coronavirus pandemic has ramped up pressure on the economy and seen food prices rocket.

“It’s very difficult,” said Bwira. “For now, I only just scrape enough money to eat. But no more than that – I can’t afford to do anything else in my life.”

For Bwira, the wholesale price for a small cut of beef has risen by a third, up to 8,000 Congolese francs ($4.66), all but wiping out his meagre daily earnings.

“I can’t go on like this,” he said.

Several people interviewed by Al Jazeera at the two-hectare hub of wooden stalls selling fresh food and clothing painted a picture of stagnation. In one section, the lower footfall had left stacks of large tomatoes to rot and mounds of multicoloured beans to dry and crack; in another, traders were left with barely any produce to sell due to the cut-off supply.



Zimbabwe court orders police to stop harassing journalists

A Zimbabwean high court on Monday ordered police to desist from arresting, detaining or interfering with the work of journalists providing coverage during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and journalist Panashe Makufa had petitioned the court to issue the order following a string of incidents in which police and other law enforcement agencies harassed or arrested journalists while carrying out their duties.

“The High Court has directed that… arrests or detention or other forms of harassment must stop,” a lawyer for the applicants, Chris Mhike, told AFP after the ruling.

“The police and all others who are working with the police in enforcing the rules of the lockdown have been interdicted from carrying out those actions that amount to harassment of journalists,” Mhike said.


Zimbabwe lockdown extended for two weeks

Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 lockdown has been extended by two weeks, ending on May 3.

Making the announcement on television, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said: “It has been a hard decision.”

He said the main objectives of the extension are to flatten the curve and to increase testing and Covid-19 recoveries to lessen the burden on the health sector.

“The country is yet to meet the conditions for the lifting of the lockdown which is when the transmission of the virus is fairly under control. Guided by these realities, government has decided to extend, with immediate effect, a national lockdown by a further 14 days, up to May 3, 2020,” Mnangagwa said.

After the extension, depending on the outcome, “government will announce any appropriate way forward”.


Will Zimbabwe be prepared if it suffers a major outbreak of Covid-19?

As reports of new infections and deaths because of Covid-19 trickle in and the nation continues a broad lockdown, Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis in more than a decade. Regional economic analysts say there is nothing that points to relief in the short term. International medical researchers are racing to find a vaccine to the coronavirus, and poorly resourced African countries such as Zimbabwe can only pray that a breakthrough comes soon.

Zimbabwe had recorded 23 coronavirus cases and three deaths as of April 16, but many fear that the true numbers could be much higher because of the lack of Covid-19 testing capacity here.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights raised an alarm about the lack of government preparation and the absence of testing for coronavirus on April 7. In countries with more efficient health-delivery systems, a quick turnaround of Covid-19 tests has been credited with saving lives.

American Magazine


Eswatini: Prime Minister’s Statement on Partial Lockdown Extension

The Kingdom of Eswatini has embarked on a robust drive to transform the economy and set this country on a path towards sustainable growth and stability. This noble mission is shared and supported by EmaSwati from all corners of our Kingdom. We need a strong and resilient economy to improve and sustain the livelihoods of EmaSwati and future generations.

However, we cannot achieve that goal if the lives of EmaSwati are threatened by a silent killer whose sting and pulse knows no bounds and boundaries. Our efforts to reignite our economy will be a futile exercise if we do not confront this enemy which continues to wreak havoc across the world, causing panic and uncertainty.

Eswatini, like the rest of the world, has traversed through an unprecedented and indefinite path over the past 20 days, when all our non-essential services remained suspended to control the spread of the coronavirus also known as COVID 19. The partial lockdown that began on March 27 has changed the way of life as we are used to. It has strained our economy, adversely affected business, health and education, and delayed our economic renewal drive.

Africa News

Coronavirus – Eswatini: Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update

The Ministry of Health informs the public of two (2) more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases to twenty-four (24).

The details on the newly confirmed cases are:

The 23rd case is a 60-year-old female residing in Manzini Region. She presented moderate to severe illness and has been undergoing treatment in one of the private hospitals o the country. She has no history of travel or contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The 24th case is a 33-year-old male. residing on the Manzini Region. who presented with mild symptoms of the disease, which is fever and body pains. He has no history of travel or contact with a confirmed case.

CNBC Africa

Central African Republic

UN slaps sanctions on Central Africa rebel chief

The UN Security Council on Monday imposed sanctions on Central African Republic rebel leader Abdoulaye Miskine, who last year signed a peace agreement between the government and armed groups.

Miskine, founder and head of the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), was offered a government position under the terms of the February 2019 accord.

However, in the last report by UN experts monitoring sanctions and an arms embargo imposed in 2013, the self-proclaimed general was mentioned as looking for fighters.

Despite the signing of the agreement, Miskine “remains a threat to the peace, stability and security of the CAR,” a diplomat said.


Foreigners targeted in Central African Republic as coronavirus fears grow

A backlash against foreigners in Central African Republic threatens to disrupt peacekeeping and aid supplies in one of Africa’s most fragile countries.

Since an Italian missionary was identified as CAR’s first coronavirus case last month, xenophobia has been on the rise. Stories widely published in the country’s newspapers and on social media have portrayed foreigners as unwelcome importers of a disease that could further impoverish the country.

Thousands of non-nationals are employed in CAR by UN agencies and aid organisations, which provide about 70% of the country’s health services.

The UN has extended a curfew for employees due to “recent incidents of verbal aggression and intimidation as well as risks of stigmatisation of UN staff, international NGOs and humanitarian actors”, according to an internal memo.

The Guardian


Somalia announces 73 new Covid-19 cases, total infections stand at 237

Somalia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services has announced 73 new confirmed Covid-19 cases today. This brings the total number of cases in the country to 237.

In a statement, the ministry said 51 men and 22 women tested positive for Coronavirus today while one death has been recorded, bringing the total deaths to eight.

The sharp rise in the number of cases in the Horn of Africa nation worries authorities as the country has very limited ability to combat the disease due to the weak healthcare system after years of civil war.

Somali Affairs

United States bolsters Somalia Covid-19 response with donation of 350 hospital beds

The United States Embassy Mogadishu, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will donate 350 hospital beds and 500 bedsheets to support the Somali Government in preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. The Ministry of Health was present at a handover ceremony in De Martino Hospital where medical staff graciously received the beds.

These beds and accessories will be used in the ICU units of De Martino hospital and in isolation centers in Mogadishu and be distributed to newly established isolation centers in the regions helping medical personnel to provide life-saving care to their patients.

“The United States is proud to assist the Somali Government during this critical time,” said the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Y. Yamamoto. “Well-equipped isolation centers where patients are well cared for and are safely and comfortably separated, will help limit the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country.”

“This generous investment makes it possible to save lives, and better prepares us to control the infectious nature of COVID-19,” said Minister of Health Fawziya Abikar Nur. “To beat this outbreak, everyone needs to continue to peacefully follow health guidelines, observe social distancing, and maintain good hygiene practices.”

Horn Observer


No new coronavirus cases in Sudan, PM sacks governor of Khartoum

For two days in a row, no new coronavirus cases were recorded in the country. Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok dismissed the governor of Khartoum on Thursday.

No new cases were reported on Tuesday and Wednesday. Three of the 32 confirmed patients have recovered. Only one suspected case remains in quarantine, the Ministry of Health reported. The Covid-19 death toll in Sudan reached six on on Thursday evening, when a 65-year-old man from East Nile locality in Khartoum North died of the virus.

Yesterday, PM Hamdok relieved the military governor of Khartoum from his position. Sources say Lt Gen Ahmed Abdoun was dismissed hours after he refused to ban group prayers in Khartoum mosques during the three-week lockdown that starts tomorrow. Minister of Governance Yousef El Dei will take over his position until the appointment of a new governor.

In its meeting yesterday, chaired by Hamdok, the Council of Ministers emphasised the necessity to adhere to the decision of the Ministry of Religious Affairs to temporarily suspend gatherings in places of worship in Khartoum.

Dabanga Sudan

Dozens rally in Sudan to support ex-president Bashir

Dozens demonstrated in eastern Sudan on Friday in support of toppled president Omar al-Bashir, eyewitnesses said, a year after the longtime dictator was ousted amid mass protests.

Friday’s demonstrations in the eastern city of Kassala demanded the overthrow of a transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok since September.

“Dozens of Bashir’s supporters gathered in the city centre after Friday prayers, holding banners… and chanting ‘down with Hamdok’,” said eyewitness Abdelrahman Ahmed.

The protests, fuelled by growing economic hardships, were held defiance of a government ban on large gatherings amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Despatch Live

South Sudan

Top South Sudan Opposition Members Ditch Machar, Jump to Ruling Party

More members of South Sudan’s main opposition party have defected to the ruling party led by President Salva Kiir, with one former member accusing First Vice President Riek Machar of running the opposition like a family dynasty.

Dak Duop Bichiok, a former SPLM-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition) political bureau member, announced his resignation and that of hundreds of his followers in the diaspora at a Juba news conference late last week.

“We are declaring that we are not any longer part of Dr. Riek Machar, and we are not alone. We have a group in Nairobi, Egypt, Khartoum and also in Addis Ababa and in the diaspora elsewhere in the world,” he said.

The defections began after Machar’s wife, Angelina Teny, was appointed minister of defense in South Sudan’s transitional unity government. 

Voice of America

UN staffer escapes virus quarantine, flees South Sudan

A UN staffer based in South Sudan, who was in quarantine after believed to have come in contact with a COVID-19 patient, has fled the country, the government and UN mission said on Sunday.

South Sudan has confirmed four coronavirus cases so far, all from the UN, and has put several measures in place, one of which called for quarantining and testing of all contacts of those who have tested positive.

The UN traced 99 such contacts, and expected them to be quarantined and tested over the next two weeks.

But one of the staffers in isolation escaped without authorization, office of UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Juba confirmed.

“He received one test that confirmed him as negative and then left the capital Juba on a flight without the knowledge of the United Nations. The flight was commercial, not a United Nations flight,” it said.

Anadolu Agency

Western Sahara

South Africa in diplomatic spat with Morocco over Western Sahara

South Africa has found itself in a diplomatic storm in which it is accused of acting out of step with the rest of the UN Security Council in efforts to resolve the long-standing Western Sahara territorial dispute with Morocco.

The diplomatic spat spilt over into the public after the Moroccan Press Agency reported that on Thursday last week South Africa was isolated by 14 other UN Security Council members because of its position on the former Spanish colony.

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975.

Since the disputed sparsely populated territory has been the subject of a long-running dispute between Morocco and its indigenous Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front.

An UN-brokered truce in 1991 ended the 16-year insurgency, but the diplomatic dispute continues.