Only Six African Nations Yet To Record Any Case Of COVID-19

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP.

 

 

Six of Africa’s 54 nations are among the last in the world yet to report cases of the new coronavirus.

The global pandemic has been confirmed in almost every country, but for a handful of far-flung tiny island states, war-torn Yemen and isolated North Korea.

In Africa, authorities claim they are spared by god, or simply saved by low air traffic to their countries, however, some fear it is lack of testing that is hiding the true impact.

– South Sudan –

The East African nation is barely emerging from six years of civil war and with high levels of hunger, illness and little infrastructure, observers fear the virus could wreak havoc.

Doctor Angok Gordon Kuol, one of those charged with overseeing the fight against the virus, said the country had only carried out 12 tests, none of which were positive.

He said the reason the virus has yet to reach South Sudan could be explained by the low volume of air traffic and travel to the country.

“Very few airlines come to South Sudan and most of the countries affected today they are affected by… people coming from abroad.”

He said the main concern was foreigners working for the large NGO and humanitarian community, or people crossing land borders from neighbouring countries.

READ ALSO: Global Lockdown Tightens As Coronavirus Deaths Mount

South Sudan has shut schools, banned gatherings such as weddings, funerals and sporting events and blocked flights from worst-affected countries. Non-essential businesses have been shuttered and movement restricted.

The country can currently test around 500 people and has one isolation centre with 24 beds.

– Burundi –

In Burundi, which is gearing up for general elections in May, authorities thank divine intervention for the lack of cases.

“The government thanks all-powerful God who has protected Burundi,” government spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye said on national television last week.

At the same time, he criticised those “spreading rumours” that Burundi is not capable of testing for the virus, or that it is spreading unnoticed.

Some measures have been taken, such as the suspension of international flights and placing handwashing stations at the entrances to banks and restaurants in Bujumbura.

However, several doctors have expressed their concerns.

“There are zero cases in Burundi because there have been zero tests,” a Burundian doctor said on condition of anonymity.

– Sao Tome and Principe –

Sao Tome and Principe — a tiny nation of small islands covered in the lush rainforest — has reported zero cases because it is unable to test, according to World Health Organisation representative Anne Ancia.

However “we are continuing preparations,” with around 100 people in quarantine after returning from highly-affected countries, and the WHO keeping an eye on cases of pneumonia.

With only four ICU beds for a population of 200,000 people, the country is desperate to not let the virus take hold and has already shut its borders despite the importance of tourism to the local economy.

– Malawi –

Malawi’s health ministry spokesman Joshua Malango brushed aside fears that Malawi might not have registered any COVID-19 cases due to a lack of testing kits:

“We have the testing kits in Malawi and we are testing.”

Dr Bridget Malewezi from the Society of Medical Doctors told AFP that while “we may not be 100 percent ready”, government was gearing up for the arrival of the virus.

She suggested it may only be a matter of time before the pandemic hits Malawi.

“It’s only been in the past few weeks that it has been rampantly spreading across Africa so most people feel it will get here at some point…,” she said.

Malawi has asked people coming from hard-hit countries to self-quarantine, which Malawezi said had helped “safeguard the country from any possible spread of the virus”.

– Lesotho –

Tiny Lesotho, a kingdom encircled by South Africa with only two million inhabitants, went into national lockdown on Monday despite registering zero cases.

Until last week the country had no tests or testing centres and received its first kits thanks to a donation by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Authorities had reported eight suspected cases that they had not been able to test and the first results are expected soon.

– Comoros –

The Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros, situated between Madagascar and Mozambique, has yet to detect a single case of the virus, according to the health ministry.

One doctor in the capital Moroni, Dr Abdou Ada, wonders if it may not be because of the wide use of the drug Artemisinin to treat malaria.

“I believe that the mass anti-malarial treatment explains the fact that Comoros is, at least for now, spared from COVID-19. it is a personal belief that needs to be confirmed scientifically.”

AFP

Three Killed In Comoros As Opposition And Government Face Off

 

Two “assailants” and a policeman were killed and two people injured in violence in Comoros Thursday, a minister said, after a defeated presidential candidate bidding to unseat the president was arrested.

The Indian Ocean nation is in the grip of a political crisis following President Azali Assoumani’s victory in Sunday polls that his opponents say was rigged and led rivals to unite against him.

One of those hurt Thursday was a policeman who suffered minor injuries while another “assailant” was badly hurt following an exchange of gunfire near a barracks in the capital Moroni, Interior Minister Mohamed “Kiki” Daoudou told journalists.

“The situation is under control, an investigation is underway,” he said, urging people not to assume the bloodshed was linked to the opposition leader’s arrest.

Soilihi Mohamed is a widely respected former colonel who was named head of an opposition transitional authority hoping to unseat Azali.

A group who attempted to help former major Faissoil Abdou Salam, jailed for plotting against Azali, to escape from Moroni prison were responsible for the exchanges of fire, a source said ahead of Daoudou’s briefing.

Civilians deserted the streets of Moroni, police fired teargas and taxis stopped working, an AFP correspondent saw, during two hours of gunfire around the Kandani base.

“The March 24 vote was a deceit, a shameful charade… We will organise resistance,” Mohamed, the leader of the opposition “transitional administration”, said Thursday, calling for “civil disobedience” if the poll result was not overturned by April 3.

He remains in police custody, according to a military source.

‘Peaceful transition’?

His transitional body is backed by all 12 of the defeated presidential candidates and has pledged to manage a “peaceful transition” and “resolve the post-election crisis”.

A Western source in Moroni said there was “major confusion” during the unrest.

“A dozen or so heavily armed men tried to seize a barracks following the arrest of the colonel (Soilihi Mohamed),” they said.

Comoros has had a volatile political history since independence in 1975 and has endured more than 20 attempted coups, four of which were successful.

Protesters took to the streets of Moroni’s northern TP district, and the presidential palace at Itsandra was locked down following the disturbances.

Earlier, police broke up a women’s protest march and arrested 12 demonstrators.

The opposition has flatly rejected Azali’s victory as the angry mood threatened to erupt into violence on the archipelago nation.

Iain Walker, a researcher at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, said a power shift to the opposition council “would probably require support from the army — which seems to be pro-Azali for the moment”.

Opposition council leader Mohamed had previously said that Azali’s rivals would “use all peaceful means to oust the government”.

Azali initially came to power in a coup, then ruled the country between 1999 and 2006, and was re-elected in 2016. He left his 12 poll rivals trailing on Sunday.

Both observers and community groups have questioned the credibility of the election, which saw Azali declared the winner with almost 61 percent of the vote. The result, from a turnout of just under 54 percent, meant he does not need to contest a second round.

‘It’s not the street which rules’

Polling stations were ransacked, ballot boxes stuffed by police and observers prevented from overseeing the integrity of the vote, according to several witnesses.

Interior Minister Daoudou has dismissed criticism of the polls’ conduct and declared: “It’s not the street which rules the country.”

For months the opposition has accused Azali of behaving like a dictator.

Azali staged the poll after Comorans voted in a referendum, boycotted by the opposition, to support the extension of presidential mandates from one five-year term to two.

He could theoretically rule until 2029, critics say. Several opposition figures were arrested around the time of the referendum.

The change upset a fragile balance of power established in 2001 that sought to end separatist crises.

AFP

Gunfire Rocks Comoros As Opposition And Government Face Off

Comoros Gendarmerie officers stand on the back of a car as they disperse opposition supporters, in Moroni, on March 25, 2019. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

 

Gunfire rocked the Comoran capital Thursday after police arrested a defeated presidential hopeful who was named head of an opposition transitional authority hoping to unseat President Azali Assoumani.

Interior Minister Mohamed “Kiki” Daoudou confirmed to AFP that gunfire had erupted near a military base in Moroni Thursday but insisted the situation in the coup-prone nation was “under control”.

An aide confirmed the arrest of former military colonel Soilihi Mohamed, who came fourth in Sunday’s poll which the opposition said was rigged by the government.

Civilians deserted the streets of Moroni and taxis stopped collecting passengers, an AFP correspondent saw, following the crackle of gunfire around the Kandani base.

Police earlier broke up a women’s protest march and arrested 12 demonstrators.

Comoros has had a volatile political history since independence in 1975 and has endured more than 20 attempted coups, four of which were successful.

The opposition has flatly rejected Azali’s victory as the angry mood threatened to spark a new political crisis on the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Mohamed had previously said that the opposition “will use all peaceful means to oust the government”.

Azali led a coup, then ruled the country between 1999 and 2006, and was re-elected in 2016, left his 12 poll rivals trailing.

– ‘We have had enough’ –
Both observers and community groups have questioned the credibility of the election, which saw Azali declared the winner with almost 61 percent of the vote.

Polling stations were ransacked, ballot boxes were stuffed by police and observers were prevented from overseeing the integrity of the vote, according to several witnesses.

Those arrested on Thursday were part of a march by roughly 100 women to the Supreme Court where they were planning to appeal for the results to be nullified.

Armed police dispersed the protesters, and 12 were arrested for unspecified crimes.

“We have had enough of what’s happening. We wanted to deliver a memorandum to the Supreme Court but we weren’t able to,” march organiser Samoa Abdoulmadjid told AFP.

“The police arrived and started rounding people up.”

Opposition parties have opted not to appeal the vote’s outcome but called instead for new polls to be held as soon as possible.

Interior Minister Daoudou has dismissed criticism of the polls’ conduct and declared: “It’s not the street which rules the country.”

For months the opposition has accused Azali of behaving like a dictator.

Azali staged the poll after Comorans voted in a referendum, boycotted by the opposition, to support the extension of presidential mandates from one five-year term to two.

He could theoretically rule until 2029, critics say, and several opposition figures were arrested around the time of the referendum.

The change upset a fragile balance of power established in 2001 that sought to end separatist crises on Anjouan and Moheli islands, and halt an endless cycle of coups.

AFP

Comoros Heads Into Violence-Tarred Referendum On Constitution

Community’s elders attend a rally in support of a planned national referendum by the administration of current President on July 26, 2018 in Moroni, the federal capital and seat of the government of the Union of the Comoros.
TONY KARUMBA / AFP

 

Voters in the Comoros go to the polls on Monday for a politically explosive referendum overshadowed by a clampdown and an attempted assassination just days before the vote.

Burdened by a long history of turbulence, the Indian Ocean archipelago is being asked to vote on changes to the constitution put forward by President Azali Assoumani.

Critics say that Assoumani’s scheme is to retain power beyond 2021 when his currently non-renewable single term would otherwise end.

Under the current constitution adopted in 2001, power rotates every five years between the country’s three main islands as a means of balancing power in the coup-prone country.

If the government wins the referendum, this arrangement would be scrapped and replaced by a president who would be elected for a five-year tenure, renewable for one term.

Assoumani would also gain the power to scrap the country’s three vice-presidencies, another checks-and-balances feature of the present constitution.

In addition, a constitutional clause on secularism would be scrapped and replaced by text saying “Islam is the religion of state” and “the state draws from this religion the principles and rules of Sunnite observance.”

Ninety-nine per cent of the Comoran population are Sunni Muslim.

Opposition parties have lashed the referendum as illegal and the process as murky.

“When the law is trampled on, you cannot organise a credible vote… we cannot take part in an election or any kind of referendum which has been branded by illegality,” Ahmed el-Barwane, head of the Juwa party, warned ahead of the ballot.

In June, one of the country’s trio of vice presidents, Ahmed Said Jaffar, urged Comorans to “reject the dangerous abuse” of power. He was later stripped of all but one of his ministerial portfolios.

Early elections?

If Assoumani wins the referendum, he is expected to stage early elections next year to try to extend his term in office. If he loses, he will step down, according to his spokesman, Mohamed Ismailla.

A group of three islands between Mozambique and Madagascar and one of the world’s poorest countries, the Comoros has endured coups and political turmoil, including intervention by mercenaries, ever since it gained independence from France in 1975.

Assoumani, a 59-year-old former colonel, was president between 1999 and 2002, coming to power after ousting acting president Tadjidine Ben Said Massonde in a military coup.

He won the country’s first multi-party elections in 2002, stepping down in 2006 to democratically hand over power to Ahmed Abdallah Sambi.

In May 2016, he returned again as president after an election marred by violence and allegations of voting irregularities.

Clampdown

In April this year, Assoumani suspended the Constitutional Court — his spokesman said the institution had become “useless, superfluous and incompetent” as the eight-seat panel only had three judges and thus could not constitute a quorum.

The following month, former president Sambi — reputed to be close to Shiite Muslim Iran — was placed under house arrest shortly after returning from a six-month absence abroad, and Assoumani outlawed demonstrations.

Last Sunday, one of the vice presidents, Moustoidrane Abdou, who holds the portfolios of production and energy, escaped an assassination attempt.

He was travelling to his home village of Sima in the west of Anjouan island when assailants on a motorcycle raked his car with automatic gunfire near the island’s biggest town of Mutsamudu.

The three main islands of the Comoros — Grande-Comore, the largest, and from which Azali hails, Anjouan and Moheli — have a population of around 800,000 people. A fourth island in the group, Mayotte, remains part of France.

Comoros Vice-President Survives Assassination Attempt

 

Comoros Vice-President, Moustoidrane Abdou escaped an assassination attempt early Sunday when his vehicle was fired on days before a controversial referendum on constitutional reform, a security source said.

“His car was seriously damaged but the vice-president is unhurt, there are no victims,” the source, who requested anonymity, told AFP.

Abdou was travelling to his home village of Sima in the west of Anjouan island when assailants on a motorcycle raked his car with automatic gunfire near the island’s biggest town of Mutsamudu, said the source.

The attackers escaped, the source added.

Authorities dispatched investigators from the capital Moroni on Grande Comore, the largest of the country’s three main islands, following the incident.

Abdou, one of the country’s three vice-presidents, holds the portfolios of production and energy in the government of President Azali Assoumani.

Assoumani, elected in 2016, has called a referendum for July 30 on a constitutional reform that could allow him to seek re-election and retain power beyond 2021 when his currently non-renewable term would otherwise end.

Under the current constitution, power rotates every five years between the archipelago’s three main islands.

The nation was plunged into crisis in April when Assoumani suspended the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, sparking opposition protests.

One of his leading critics, ex-president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, was placed under house arrest, while another prominent opposition leader was jailed following violent clashes between security forces and anti-government demonstrators.

Abdou’s fellow vice-president Ahmed Said Jaffar last month dubbing the referendum illegal, urging Comorans to “reject the dangerous abuse” of power.

The archipelago, which is situated in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar and is one of the world’s poorest countries, was repeatedly shaken by separatist movements and instability prior to the passing of a new constitution in 2001 providing for the rotation of power between the islands.

The president does not have the power to dismiss the three vice-presidents under that constitution, but Assoumani’s reform proposals would allow him to abolish their posts.

The former colonel first seized power in a coup in 1999, then won a democratic election in 2002 to rule until 2002.

Assoumani, who went on to win a 2016 election marred by violence and allegations of voting irregularities, said in May that “consulting the people is the most democratic process for modifying the constitution”.

AFP