Africa news roundup

Abstract Africa
Semi-abstract African art by Garfield Morgan the Artist (photo: courtesy of Christopher Charles)

April 7-13, 2024


UK returns looted artefact

The United Kingdom (UK) has returned some royal artefacts looted some 150 years ago from Ghana’s Asante Kingdom.  The 32 royal objects were taken from the Palace in Kumasi during the Anglo-Asante Wars, which includes the infamous Sagrenti War of 1874. According to an agreement between the traditional ruler of the Ashanti Kingdom and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the artefacts will be on loan for an initial three years and renewable for another three years. This agreement is based on legal restrictions in the UK, which have made it impossible to return the artefacts permanently.

In a statement released by the Manhyia palace, the artefacts will be displayed at the Palace Museum starting from the month of May. “Gold and silver regalia, associated with the Asante royal court, will be displayed at the Palace Museum as part of a long-term loan commitment by the Victoria & Albert and the British Museum”, the statement said. The return of the Asante items comes a month ahead of celebrations marking the silver jubilee of the Asantehene. The gold artefacts are the symbol of the Asante traditional authority. The items include 15 pieces from the British Museum and 17 from the Victoria & Albert Museum.


NAFDAC calls cough syrup off the market

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has recalled a Johnson and Johnson cough syrup. The Benylin Pediatrics Syrup was called off the market on Wednesday April 11 following recent toxicity findings in the laboratory on the product.  According to a statement from NAFDAC, laboratory analysis conducted on the product showed that, it contained an unacceptably high level of Diethylene glycol and was found to cause acute oral toxicity in laboratory animals.

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control said it had directed the marketing authorization holder of Benylin Pediatric syrup (Johnson and Johnson company, West Africa) to initiate the recall of the batch and a notice will also be uploaded to the World Health Organisation Global Surveillance and Monitoring System. A product recall is a method adopted to help manage risks in response to product safety and emergencies. Benylin Pediatric syrup is a relief for cough and its congestive symptoms and for the treatment of hay fever and other allergic conditions in children aged two to 12 years. “Diethylene glycol is toxic to humans when consumed and can prove fatal. Toxic effects can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, inability to pass urine, headache, altered mental state, and acute kidney injury which may lead to death,” NAFDAC said.

South Africa

E-tolls officially scrapped

Guateng province has officially scrapped tolls on freeways at 23:59 local time on April 11. In December 2013, the province introduced the e-toll which allowed Johannesburg and Pretoria highway users to pay tolls to help generate funds for maintaining and developing road infrastructure. However, the initiative was met with much resistance with many drivers refusing to pay the e-tolls. As such, a three-member Cabinet committee was tasked by President Cyril Ramaphosa to diligently explore alternative funding solutions for the Guateng freeway improvement project (GFIP) debt repayment and the backlog of maintenance and rehabilitation costs. According to the Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, “The result is a Memorandum of Agreement that formalizes these solutions and outlines the financial contributions from the Gauteng Province and the national government”.  She also said government is committed to continually engaging with all stakeholders to explore adequate and sustainable funding solutions for road construction, maintenance, and upgrades, supporting economic development across the nation.

During an official switch-off ceremony, Chikunga, said road users will no longer be charged for using the Guateng freeway improvement project.  “From this moment forth, road users will no longer be charged for using the GFIP network. This decision is a testament to our government’s commitment to listen to and serve the needs of its citizens,” he said. The gantries were switched off on Thursday at midnight at the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) Central Operations Centre.


Weah’s asset document leaked

The Liberian house of representatives is currently investigating the leak of the former president’s, George Weah, asset declaration documents. It is a mandatory requirement for all Liberian senior government officials, including the president, to declare their wealth upon taking office before the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to avoid conflicts of interest and illicit wealth accumulation during their time in office. However, these declarations are not to be made public.

Since the leak of Weah’s asset declaration documents, local legislator Frank Saah Foko has urged the House to conduct a probe into the leak, saying that publishing Weah’s asset declaration documents without his consent was illegal and could be punishable by law. It remains unclear who is behind the leak but legislators have summoned senior LACC officials to appear before them on Tuesday. The former president’s time in office was marked with accusations of corruption. His successor President Joseph Boakai, who won the November election, declared his assets in February and vowed to fight corruption.

Sierra Leone

Gov’t declares national emergency

President Julius Maada Bio has declared a national emergency after increased cases of substance abuse. The declaration comes after a sharp increase in the use of a synthetic drug known as Kush. The Kush, a mix of marijuana, tentanyl and tramadol, is a powerful painkiller and is said to be highly addictive. The drug has been blamed for causing hundreds of deaths and making scores of abusers mentally unstable.

The drug first appeared in the West African country some four years ago and is also widely used in neighboring Liberia. In a statement, Bio said a task force would be set up to implement a multi-pronged strategy to combat drug and substance abuse in the country. The strategy has been wildly applauded and welcomed by medical workers around the country. Sierra Leone has been scarred by a long civil war, which ended in 2002, and a devastating Ebola epidemic eight years ago, diamond-rich Sierra Leone has struggled to grow its economy and youth unemployment remains high.


Treaty to ease tensions proposed

Kenya has proposed a regional maritime treaty to defuse tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia. Earlier this year, Ethiopia signed a deal with Somaliland to lease a portion of its coastland in return for recognition of the region, which has claimed independence from Somalia since 1991. The deal has since angered Somalia and has further fueled concerns of further destabilization. Tensions escalated earlier this month when Somalia ordered Ethiopia’s ambassador to leave the country, as well as the closure of Ethiopia’s consulates in the region of Somaliland and the semiautonomous region of Puntland.

Kenya’s regional proposal was prepared in consultation with Djibouti. According to Kenya’s principal secretary for Foreign Affairs, Korir Sing’oei, the proposal was also in consultation with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) who has been assigned to be in charge of how landlocked states in the region can access ports on commercial terms. Neither Somalia nor Ethiopia has agreed to this proposal but are expected to meet and deliberate on the proposal. This treaty is to maintain regional stability.


Electoral commission renamed

The Government has announced a change of name of the electoral regulatory body. As of Friday April 12, 2024, the commission will be recognized as the Independent National Electoral Commission. The move was necessitated by the recent legislative amendment that sought to reshape the functions and structure of the electoral body. This development will help improve the efficiency and transparency of the country’s electoral process. The renaming comes a few days after a bill to amend the national electoral commission was approved by Parliament and endorsed by President Samia Suluhu Hassan. This marked the beginning of a wave of political reforms.

Peviously, the passage of the law was met with strong resistance from several political opponents. They argued that, the bill failed to address the true demands of the electoral process of Tanzania. One such demand was for civic polls to be supervised by the election regulatory body instead of the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG). In addition, they advocated for the inclusions of provisions allowing independent candidates to challenge presidential elections in court. Finally, district executive directors have been prohibited from serving as election returning officers.


Bank executive arrested for fraud

The Ugandan police have arrested Equity Bank Uganda’s former Executive Director Kenneth Onyango for Commercial Banking.  The bank executive’s name came up during an ongoing investigation into alleged stock loans and agent float financing fraud. Onyango was taken into custody on orders from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Pictures of a handcuffed Onyango has since gone viral on various social media platforms.

Information gathered indicates that the bank executive resigned from his position as executive director last month. The equity bank accepted his resignation with immediate effect subject to the outcome of the investigation, which by then was underway.  Police spokesperson, Patrick Onyango has declined to speak on the arrest.

However, the police is expected to issue an official statement on the arrest soon. Equity Bank Uganda has issued a statement saying it would not comment on the arrest since the investigations were still ongoing and a comment could jeopardize the inquiries. The unsigned statement from the bank went on to indicate that people of interest, including some staff of the bank, are currently assisting with the investigations. So far, five more members of staff have been charged with corruption and currently facing an anti-corruption magistrate court.


Chinese nationals arrested for cybercrimes

Twenty-two Chinese nationals have been arrested in connection with a cyber crime ring in the South African country. The arrest was made after a sophisticated internet fraud syndicate of 77 people was discovered. The charge was led by the drug enforcement commission (DEC), the police and other Zambian authorities including the immigration department. The anti-terrorism unit uncovered a large-scale criminal operation, after a multi-agency raid on a Chinese-owned business located in Roma, an upmarket suburb of the capital, Lusaka. Speaking to the press, Director General of DEC Nason Banda noted that the investigations into the case began as a result of the spike in the number of fraud cases being recorded.

The fraudulent Chinese company used to perpetuate the crime was identified as Golden Top Support Services. Golden Top Support Services is said to have hired unsuspecting Zambians to engage in conversations with mobile users across platforms like WhatsApp, telegram, and chatroom. Eleven SIM boxes, two firearms, and about 78 rounds of ammunition were discovered during the raid. The SIM boxes are believed to route calls across genuine phone networks. And more than 13,000 SIM cards, both local and foreign, were confiscated as well.


Journalist arrested over fraud story

Journalist Macmillan Mhone has been arrested by Malawi police over an online story published last year exposing fraudulent activities involving a businessman charged with conspiracy to defraud the Malawi Government. Mhone, who works for a daily national newspaper was arrested on Monday 8 April following a story he, allegedly, wrote in August of last year when he was working for another media house, Malawi24. Even though Mhone is yet to be charged, preliminary charges include conduct likely to cause breach of peace and public alarm. The story exposed fraudulent activities involving corruption suspect Abdul Karim Batatawala, who was charged with conspiracy to defraud the Malawi Government.

Mhone’s arrest comes two months after another journalist, Gregory Gondwe, went into hiding for writing a story about corruption in the military. The arrests have been condemned by several human rights organisations and press freedom advocates, including the Committee for Protection of Journalists and the Media Institute and for Southern Africa known as MISA-MALAWI. MISA-MALAWI bemoaned the current state of democracy in the country, “Malawi is one of [the] beacons of hope for democracy, to see this backsliding of our democracy is saddening for us in the journalism profession and also for everyone who wished our democracy to continue to grow.”


Government receives support from GAVI

A year after applying for grant from GAVI, the vaccine alliance which is meant to assist the country scale up the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination drive, the country has received a 1.6M support. Eswatini is one of the countries with a high cervical cancer burden in Africa. The country records about 360 new cases each year. According to statistics, one out of three women die as a result of late detection. As part of steps to combat the canker, the country is currently making efforts to screen and treat all women with confirmed cervical cancer to initiate improved chances of survival. More than 2000 women are currently living with cervical cancer in the country, with more than 700 cancer-related deaths recorded in the past five years.

Eswatini launched the HPV campaign in 2023. The campaign targets girls between the ages of 9 and 14. HPV vaccines are both safe and highly effective in preventing HPV types 16 and 18, which are together responsible for about 70 per cent of all cervical cancer cases globally. The vaccines are also very effictive in preventing precancerous cervical lesions caused by these virus types. The HPV vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if it is administered before girls or women are exposed to the virus. The incidence of HPV is fueled by high HIV rates, driving up cervical cancer case numbers and deaths.


Kagame decries failure of western countries

President Paul Kagame has assured citizens that the country would never again experience what happened in the 1994 genocide. Addressing the nation during the 30th anniversary of the genocide against the country’s Tutsis, President Kagame emphatically stated “Never will our people be left for dead again”. He was speaking during a commemoration ceremony at the BK Arena. While squarely pointing a finger at the Western countries’ inaction to avert or stop the genocide. Kagame, however, praised the African countries that came to Rwanda’s support. “Those soldiers did not fail Rwanda, it was the international community which failed all of us, whether from contempt or cowardice”, he said.

Present at the 30th anniversary commemoration were the leaders of South Africa, Congo, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Tanzania, as well as Israeli President Isaac Herzog, former US and French presidents Bill Clinton and Nicolas Sarkozy. The killings were ignited when a plane carrying then president, Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down over Kigali. The Tutsis then blamed the Hutus for downing the plane and killing the president, which led to the massacres that lasted over 100 days in 1994. Some moderate Hutus who tried to protect members of the Tutsi minority were also killed. An estimated 800,000 people were killed.

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