Africa news roundup 5-11 March
President presents state of the nation address
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said that Ghana has seen much development since it attained independence from colonial rule. According to him, Ghana today cannot be compared to Ghana after independence, “Sixty-six years since our independence, Ghana has taken steady strides to becoming a more developed country, the Ghana of 1957 is not Ghana of 2023. We have come a long way since the days of our six million population, with very few modern amenities for its people, to today’s population of 32 million, with a growing stock of modern infrastructure, spanning drones to supply our medicines, to the Ghana Card which identifies each of us as proudly Ghanaian”.
The President also acknowledged the current economic hardship in the country but encouraged Ghanaians to be optimistic and thankful. “Our petrol stations have fuel and we have been spared long winding queues to fuel our vehicles, our markets and shops are, by the Grace of God, well stocked and we have not been faced with the prospect of the rationing of basic necessities such as fruits and vegetables”, he stated. The State of the Nation Address (SONA) is in accordance with Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana which states that the President shall deliver a message on the State of the Nation to Parliament at the start of each session and before the dissolution of Parliament. This year’s edition of the SONA was initially scheduled to be delivered in February but was postponed to 8 March 2023.
Thugs burn down markets in Lagos
Some suspected political thugs burnt down the Akere spare parts market in the Apapa Ajegunle area of Lagos State. According to Sahara reporters, the hoodlums stormed the market around 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday and shot a security guard and two other persons before razing the market’s facilities. In a video, captured at the scene of the incident, a man privy to the incident said, “A security man and two other guys were shot dead, and they have gone to bury them immediately.” According to a Red Cross representative at the scene, the market was burned down but he could not provide any information on who was responsible.
According to eyewitnesses, the thugs have targeted Igbo dominated markets in Lagos. Pierocash, an eyewitness, observed, “So it is just one security man that secures such a market? The Igbos in Lagos need to be more vigilant and security aware. The enemies of good governance are not going to be taking things easy with them. This is a fight they must win. If they don’t successfully dislodge Lagos from the grip of these evil cartels, come the next gubernatorial poll, they will all be doomed”. Many political actors have condemned the arson attack. The gubernatorial candidate for the labour party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, visited the site and donated 15million Naira (US$33,000) to the victims of the attack.
Ramaphosa appoints special minister of electricity
President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a special minister of electricity to deal with the country’s current energy crisis. South Africa has been battling a severe energy crisis that has worsened the already random intermittent power cuts. In the bid to tackle the energy crisis, President Ramaphosa announced a Cabinet reshuffle late on Monday. In addition, two new ministries were established: The Ministry for Electricity and the Ministry with Specific Responsibility for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.
According to Ramaphosa, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the new electricity minister, will focus solely on dealing with the crippling power cuts. “The minister will be expected to facilitate the coordination of the numerous departments and entities involved in the crisis response, work with the Eskom leadership to turn around the performance of existing power stations, and accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity”, Ramaphosa said. Ramokgopa plans to visit every power plant in the country, discover the challenges and start solving them one by one. For several months, scheduled blackouts, known as load shedding, have been imposed to help the country’s creaking coal-generated power system survive in the face of overwhelming demand. Professor Anthoni van Nieuwkerk, from the University of South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki African School of Public and International Affairs, said that the solution to the current crisis requires teamwork and the team needs a team leader.
Kenya to expand use of world’s first malaria vaccine
Kenya, Ghana and Malawi are the first three countries in which the world’s first malaria vaccine or RTS,S malaria vaccine is already in use. Kenya has rolled out a full campaign using the vaccine to inoculate more than 400,000 children against the mosquito-borne disease. According to the data, more than 12,000 Kenyans and over half a million sub-saharan Africans lose their lives due to malaria. The vaccination campaign began shortly after a new invasive species of mosquito had been found in Kenya.
According to Kenya’s government, it aims to vaccinate at least 300,000 children, annually, against malaria in the new initiative. Lead pharmacist of the campaign, Lucy Mecca, said that the vaccine, which was piloted in Kenya, Malawi and Ghana in 2019, has proven effective and so there will be no cause for alarm. “The prevalence of malaria is going down nationally to about six per cent; even in these lake-endemic zones, we can see that it has gone down from 27 per cent to 19 per cent and that the interventions that have been put in place for malaria are actually working” said Mecca. Despite the progress, however, authorities say a new mosquito vector, Anopheles Stephensi, that Kenyan scientists recently detected in the country, is threatening gains made in the fight against malaria.
First Lady canvases support for grassroot innovation
The First Lady of the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Clar Marie Weah, has urged countries to focus on and support grassroots innovations, especially those which are geared towards the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among women and girls. She made this statement during her keynote address at an event in New York themed “Gender Equity and Rights in the Prevention and Control of NCDs: the role of Digital Health”. Weah went on to emphasize that grassroots innovations can help identify clear needs and gaps in local communities and promote equitable, inclusive, and sustainable solutions for the prevention and control of NCDs, especially among women and girls.
She added that it was heartbreaking that NCDs are a leading cause of death, globally, resulting in 150 million premature deaths among people aged between 30 and 70 years, mostly in developing countries. “From my heart, I advance this passionate plea that there is an urgent need, with the effort of all of us, to accelerate progress through different programmes fully utilizing the use of research, innovation, data, and digital solutions to facilitate and foster collaboration”. Weah also used the opportunity to highlight strides made by her office through the “She’s You Movement” to ensure that girls and women in Liberia have greater access to healthcare, and addresses issues of gender disparities and inequalities.
Newly constructed terminal to attract airlines to Freetown
Turkish construction company, Summa, has completed a new 14,000-m² (150,000-ft.2) terminal at the Freetown International Airport in Sierra Leone at a cost of US$270 million under a contract with the Sierra Leone Government. The new terminal has five times the passenger capacity of the old facility and will be able to accommodate eight widebody jets simultaneously. Speaking at the opening of the new terminal, President Julius Maada Bio said the new facility can accommodate a million people annually, “We have an ultramodern air terminal that is three times larger than the existing terminal and has brand new facilities that will accommodate up to a million passengers a year, to make it a major transit hub in the sub-region”.
Under the terms of the contract, Summa covered construction costs in exchange for a 25-year management contract. Once this is completed, Summa will hand over ownership to the Sierra Leonean Government. “Already, we have at least three more international airlines that have shown interest in landing at this airport,” Sierra Leone Transport and Aviation Minister Kabineh Kallon said. The next stage of development includes a new five-star hotel, aimed at attracting airlines to overnight their aircraft at the airport, because local facilities do not meet international air crew requirements. The newly-constructed terminal also aims at making Sierra Leone a winter-sun destination for Europeans, just as it was in the 1970s and the 1980s.
ANASAP and Lacs 1 Municipality get new equipment worth about CFA300 million
The National Agency for Public Health (ANASAP) and the Lacs 1 Municipality have just received new equipment worth CFA315 million (US$508,000). The equipment was provided by the West Africa Coastal Zone Resilience Investment Project (WACA Resip). The handover ceremony was held at the headquarters of the Project Management Unit. Key figures present included Koffi Aoufoh Dimizou, secretary general of the Ministry of Environment, Assimiou Adou Rahim Alimi, coordinator of the WACA Programme in Togo, and Alexis Aquereburu, Mayor of the Lacs 1 Municipality. There were also representatives of the ANASAP including Secretary-General Adjowa Ekpetsou.
The equipment comprises a beach cleaner, trucks (tipper and emptying machine) worth about CFA120 million (US$194,00), for the municipality; and two beach cleaners, worth CFA175 million (US$281,803.53), for the ANASAP; and computer equipment worth CFA21 million (US$34,000), for the National Environmental Management Agency (ANGE). “The WACA project intervenes in five areas, including the fight against pollution. Through this component, we work with ANASAP to clean the beach, and with the City Council of Lakes 1, for the management of solid and liquid waste. That’s the reason for getting this equipment, to keep Lomé’s beaches clean and do the same for the roads of the Lacs 1 municipality”, said Assimiou Adou Rahim Alimi, coordinator of WACA in Togo. According to the mayor of Lacs 1, the equipment “will help create optimal sanitary conditions for citizens”. He added that since municipalities do not have the means to purchase these machines, “this support rejoices us”.
Sixty people killed in renewed Jihadis attacks
Sixty people were killed on 26 February in a suspected Jihadist attack in Partiaga, a town in eastern Burkina Faso. So far, no reaction to confirm this assessment has been obtained from the national and regional authorities. However, the Burkinabè Movement for Human and People’s Rights (MBDHP) said on the morning of 26 February, “armed terrorist groups invaded the commune (Partiaga), killing, destroying property”. In the absence of any intervention by the security forces, the horror lasted all day, leaving the civilian auxiliaries of the army overwhelmed. According to the MBDHP, the attack led to “massive displacement” of populations. He called on the authorities to “truly ensure their sovereign mission of securing the populations and their property”.
After the attack, residents of Partiaga evoked a “horror movie”, explaining that the army had “abandoned the population”. Three days after the attack, several thousand people demonstrated in the neighbouring town of Diapaga to demand “more security”. Burkina Faso has experienced an intensification of Jihadist violence since the beginning of the year, with dozens of deaths of civilians or soldiers almost every week. On Tuesday, in a statement to the press, the National Council of Civil Society Organizations (CNOSC), described “a serious situation” in several regions of Burkina Faso, particularly in the east where “the situation is most worrying”.
Bodies of post-election violence victims handed over to families
The bodies of 47 victims of Ivory Coast’s 2010-2011 post-election violence were handed over to their families on Wednesday 8 March 2023 as part of the national reconciliation process initiated by President Alassane Ouattara. Ouattara’s victory in the presidential election was contested by the outgoing Laurent Gbagbo, leading to several months of violence that left 3,000 dead on both sides. The bodies were returned to their relatives, who also received 2,200 euros (US$2,300) in compensation from the government. “Today, we have come to heal our wounds and turn the page on war”, said Kouadio Konan Bertin, the country’s minister of national reconciliation, at a ceremony in the western town of Blolequin.
An NGO in Ivory coast applauded the initiative and discribed it as “an important step forward and called for greater efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. Gbagbo’s return to the country in 2021 and his acquittal by the International Criminal Court have eased political tensions in the country.
Democracy at stake, a year ahead of elections
Senegal is facing rising tensions a year ahead of it’s presidential elections despite being touted as a democratic model in Africa. Several activists and members of the opposition are denouncing “a retreat from democracy” due to, among other things, “arbitrary arrests” and bans on demonstrations. In recent years, several other prominent opponents of the president have had their political careers cut short by legal cases. “We are no longer the showcase of democracy that we boast about in front of other African countries, we are no longer better than the others. We have a president who, through his actions since he came to power, has succeeded in bringing our democracy to the ground, and the worst thing is that today he has this project of a third candidacy for which he will do whatever it takes, whatever ignoble acts it takes,” said Aliou Sané, coordinator of the movement ‘Y en a marre’. Senegalese journalists have also been victims of government harassment and arbitrary arrests. A local journalist was arrested this week for contempt of court. “Freedom of expression does not only belong to journalists, freedom of expression belongs to all Senegalese. Today, how many Senegalese are in prison for simply expressing their views through social networks in particular?” asked Moustapha Diop, a general manager of Walf TV.
As human rights organizations continue to speak up against these activities, the state says there is “no crisis” because judicial “channels and remedies” are available to Senegalese who feel aggrieved. According to Ousmane Diallo, a researcher at Amnesty’s regional office in Dakar, more than a hundred people have been arrested for their affiliation with the opposition party. “We have more than a hundred people who have been arrested because they are close to the opposition and critical of the government, and this is a trend that is strongly deplored, especially the abusive arrests of people for their comments on social networks or their political opinion,” said Diallo. The main opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, 48, has enjoyed a rapid political rise thanks in part to his popularity with young people. But he has, repeatedly, been summoned to court over the past two years.
The next presidential elections are scheduled for 25 February 2024, authorities also announced on Thursday.
Meteo explains rare heatwave in Kigali
The Rwanda Meteorology Agency has reported a rare upsurge of heat in different parts of the country, especially in the City of Kigali where a temperature of above 32 degrees Celcius was recorded. This is the highest temperature recorded in the past six years. The heatwave started 5 to 8 March in many parts of the country. According to the agency, the heatwave is a period of severe drought. Rwanda Meteo explained that the rains expected from 9 March and onwards will reduce the high temperatures and the situation will return to normal. The Rwanda Meteorology Agency also published data showing the highest maximum temperature records in the past. The daily breaking records of maximum temperature recorded at different weather stations across the country are based on the entire available data for each station since the start of its operation.
The highest temperature recorded in Kigali previously was 32.5 degrees on 17 August 2017 in Mageragere. This came after the second highest temperature ever recorded in Kigali, 33 degrees, recorded in Gitega Sector on 2 June 2016. However, in May 2005, a temperature of 35 degrees was recorded in the city. The expected rainfall from March to May may lead to extreme weather events such as flooding, landslides, strong winds and other extreme weather-related events in some parts of the country, according to Rwanda Meteorology Agency. Heavy rains of between 500-600 millimetres are expected in southern parts of Nyaruguru District, in Musanze and most parts of Burera districts as well as over northern parts of Nyabihu and Gakenke districts.
Women protest high cost of living
Thousands of women in Cameroon took to the streets on Wednesday 8 March 2023, International Women’s Day, to protest the high cost of living. The government blames the soaring food and energy prices on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hundreds of Cameroonian women blew trumpets and whistles on the streets of the central African state’s capital Yaounde, shouting and decrying the high cost of living amid surging inflation. The women say they want the government to help them cope with price increases. Suzanne Menanga is coordinator of the Cameroon Female Consumers Union that organized the protest. She said her group protested on International Women’s Day because more than 80 per cent of Cameroon’s roughly 14 million women are either unemployed or earn very low wages that make it difficult to cope with the high costs.
The women say the minimum wage for private sector workers should be increased to at least US$100. The government should increase the salaries of state workers by 20 per cent, according to the women. The government says protests took place in several towns including Bamenda, Bafoussm, Ngaoudere and Ebolowa on Wednesday. Cameroon’s trade minister Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana says Russia’s war in Ukraine has led to an increase in the prices of basic commodities all over the world. Atangana says Cameroon, like the World Bank and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), blames the current high inflation and slow economic growth in low- and middle-income countries that rely heavily on Ukraine and Russia for grains and plant oils on disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.