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BENIN: President’s Patrice Talon relentless persecution of his most feared opponents: The Case of former State Minister of Finance Komi Koutche
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L & Amos Fofung

By slamming a heavy jail sentence on Komi Koutche, President Talon is hoping to clip the wings of someone presented as a formidable opponent in the 2021 Presidential elections
By slamming a heavy jail sentence on Komi Koutche, President Talon is hoping to clip the wings of someone presented as a formidable opponent in the 2021 Presidential elections

Widely considered as one of the success stories of African democracy with its peaceful political transitions, Benin has lost its shine since President Patrice Talon came to office in 2016. From controversial Halloween night’s constitutional changes to going after political opponents including his predecessor President Yayi Boni, there is growing fear that the West African nation is headed down the wrong path.  

In late July 2019, the Talon Administration released a list of “wanted” political figures it accused of evading justice in the country with  a decree stopping authorities from issuing identification documents for anyone who did not answer police summons, in a move seen as targeting Talon’s opponents abroad. Amnesty International said post-election “repression reached disturbing levels”

Four people were killed during the demonstrations. Benin’s status declined from Free to Partly Free in the Freedom in the World report, because a new electoral code and a series of decisions by the courts, electoral authorities, and the government resulted in the exclusion of all opposition parties from the April 2019 parliamentary elections.

According to Heritage Foundation 2020 report, Benin continues its slide toward less economic freedom, with scores dropping steadily from a high-water mark in 2016. Its economy is now well entrenched among the mostly unfree. 

While fighting corruption in Africa is critical and should be applauded, it becomes very troubling when targets are real and perceived political opponents of a seating President. Such seems to be the case in Benin, where most of those targeted are known to be people with presidential ambitions of their own.

On Saturday April 3rd,  2020 Benin’s Court for the Repression of Economic Offenses and Terrorism (CRIET) sentenced in absentia  Former State Minister of Finance Komi Koutché, Talon’s top Challenger’s  to twenty 20 years in prison and a 100 million CFA francs fine for embezzlement of public funds and abuse of office.

Koutché’s sentence made him the latest victim of President’s Patrice Talon relentless persecution of opponents perceived to be formidable challengers in the 2021 Presidential election in Benin. Earlier on, in October 2018, multimillionaire Sebastien Ajavon, who had voiced his ambitions for the top job, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years for drug trafficking. Former President Thomas Boni Yayi was kept under de-facto house arrest for 52 days after he criticized one-sided parliamentary elections that sparked bloody street protests. And in August 2019 a court in Benin court banned presidential rival and former Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou from polls for 5 years and  with a suspended 6-month jail term over 2016 campaign breaches.


By taking on Businessman and former Presidential candidate Sebastian Ajavon, Former Minister of Finance Komi Koutche and former Prime Minister and runner up in last Presidential elections Lionel Zinsou, President Talon is slowly but steadily pushing out his most formidable rivals in the 2021 elections .Photo credit Courtesy

 

For those sounding the alarm bells, one of the most cited examples is the frenzied manner in which the Talon administration has gone out to forcefully saddle embezzlement and corruption charges on former Finance Minister Komi Koutche.

Young, dynamic, and hardworking, Komi Koutche is one of the most persecuted members of the previous Administration. Accused of embezzling public funds and corruption, the abrasive manner in which the government has gone about the case , trampling on existing rules and creating new ones has only helped in fueling the feeling that there is more to the case than meets the eye.

To Koutche’s camp, the attempts to indict him at all cost are nothing short of attempts by President Talon to take out a potential and formidable rival. In a recent statement from Mr. Koutche’s team chronicling a timeline of his judicial travails, the former Minister is painted as victim and the whole process described as a sham and a political witch hunt.

From the statement, the judicial woes and persecution It all started in July 2017 when the Council of Ministers presided by the Head of State Patrice Talon, released two audit reports. The first audit report was about Benin cotton industry and the second about the management of the National Microfinance Fund (NMF). 

The council of Ministers was transformed for the occasion into an indictment court. The council pronounced a staunch indictment on Komi Koutche’s Management of the National Microfinance Fund and alleged misconduct by the audit reports. 

Joseph Djogbenou, then Minister of Justice, and personal lawyer to President Patrice Talon  and was instructed to initiate legal proceedings against Mr. Koutche. This procedure was faulted by Mr Komi’s team as due process was not followed and he was not heard in the proceedings as auditing rules and regulations require.

In August 2017, Komi Koutché filed a complaint before the Benin constitutional court on two counts (the Cotton’s audit and the National Microfinance Fund’s audit) alleging the violation of his rights to be heard during the audit proceeding as required by law. In December the constitutional court, presided by Professor Theodore HOLO, squashed the cotton audit ruling and declared that the government violated constitutional provisions. The appeal about the National Microfinance Fund (NMF) is yet to be reviewed because the government hasn’t responded to the investigatory measure indicated by the Court;

In a bid to better control the judicial proceeding, the current administration saw that Joseph Djogbenou, Minister of Justice responsible for prosecuting Komi Koutche became President of the Constitutional Court, the statement says, and it didn’t take that long for him to bring back Komi Koutche’s NMF appeal ushering a complete turnaround in the case.

He argued that the lack of hearing during an audit procedure is not a violation of the Constitution. This led to the convocation of Komi Koutche who at that time was out of the country and could not be present within that designated timeframe. 

This immediately resulted in the signing of an arrest warrant by the judge. On April 06, 2018, Komi Koutche appeared before a judge who found no reason to arrest him as requested by the prosecutor. By order, he set aside the arrest warrant of April 4, 2018, and stated that disciplinary proceedings will be opened later against Komi Koutche. 

July 2018 saw the creation of the Criminal Enforcement of financial and Terrorism Offences Court, CRIET, described by Komi’s partisans as a body designed to do the government’s bidding. To back this up, they point to the fact that Komi Koutche’s files were immediately transferred to the CRIET.

On August 27 after canceling Komi’s passport and ordering for his extrajudicial arrest while on visit abroad, Komi Koutche was arrested in Madrid on December 14, 2018, on a fraudulent notification to Interpol of the loss of his passport. 

Then State Minister of Finance (left) signing the second millenium challenge compact under with the CEO of MCC Dana Hyde under the watchful eyes of Former US Vice President and Presidential hopeful Joe Biden and former two terms president of Benin Boni YAYI

The government notarized the same day the April 04, 2018 arrest warrant, previously canceled by the judge, and transmitted it to Interpol. An extradition request was transmitted the same day.

Recognizing their blunder in utilizing a canceled arrest warrant, a new arrest warrant for regularization was issued under the pretext that Komi Koutche did not respond to a CRIET convocation on December 18. Note that at this time, Komi was incarcerated in Madrid. An additional extradition request was made to the Spanish courts.

After close scrutiny of the case, Komi Koutche regained his freedom on January 17, 2019, and the Spanish proceeded to reject the extradition request without the possibility of an appeal, stating that the CRIET could not offer guarantees of a fair trial.

At its 109th session, on July 2, 2019, Interpol, upon reviewing the issue through its legal department, concludes it’s a political file and decides to delete all the data in its database about Komi Koutche and moved to notify all its operations worldwide that any police collaboration under the pretext of international cooperation would be a violation of the constitution of the organization. This position applies as well for the French and the Guinean criminal police.

Despite the verdict by the international court and Interpol’s decision against proceeding with the verdict, Komi was in September referred back to the CRIET criminal chamber. 

The African court of human rights orders the Beninese government to report the abusive decision to cancel Komi Koutche’s passport and shall refer the rest of the claims to the fund and in December 2019, the U.S. administration after conducting its findings concluded that the lawsuit is based on political persecution and not corruption charges as claimed by Benin government. 

Getting into the new year, Komi Koutche’s lawyers were convened on the first appeal. It should be recalled that the lawyers mentioned the regularization warrant of December 27, 2018, issued under the pretext their client had not responded to convocation on December 18, 2018, was pointless since the issuers knew that Komi Koutche was already incarcerated in Madrid during this period. 

The appeal was dismissed with the lawyers requested to convene at the Supreme Court for the second appeal. 

During a press briefing on the criminal session which opened on March 16, 2020, Special Prosecutor of the CRIET evoked the NMF file for which Komi Koutche is subject to legal actions, among the dossiers to be studied…However this dossier was still the subject of a cassation procedure and the hearing on the cassation was on March 13, 2020. Apparently, the Special Prosecutor without any statement from the Supreme Court already knew the decision which would be taken the day after its press conference.

Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and returns the file to the CRIET prosecutor. Komi Koutche’s lawyer receives a summons to appear for his client on March 24, 2020, but the summoned could not be honored due to the global shutdown enforced so as to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

And with all airports limiting or completely halting flights, Komi’s lawyers say honoring the summon was not possible and have rather picked on the government for failing to comply with the demand of the African Court on Human Rights which requested that Komi’s travel documents be reinstated.

“Even if Komi Koutche can travel, he risks extrajudicial arrest once he steps into the country” his defense team is quoted to have said as they struggle to vindicate their client against the unjust political prosecution he faces.  Nevertheless  late at night from Friday 03 to Saturday 04 April 2020 Komi Koutche was finally tried in absentia by the judges of the Court for the Repression of Economic Offenses and Terrorism (Criet) and sentenced to  20 years’ imprisonment and 100 million F CFA fines .

In the face of his judicial woes, and relentless persecution, Komi Koutche has continued to speak out on seminal issues concerning Benin. From castigating President Talon for confiscating power, to calling on the international to help rescue democracy in Benin, Komi Koutche seems to be sending the message that if judicial persecution was the way to silence him, the government of Benin got it wrong as he is still very much in the political game.

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Nigeria: On 2011 Elections, US Envoy Got It Wrong-Former President Goodluck Jonathan
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ikechukwu Eze*

Former President Goodluck Jonathan

Our attention has been drawn to regurgitated discredited comments by John Campbell, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, who in a recent article on political developments in Nigeria, repeated his disproven assertions that the 2011 Presidential elections won by former President Goodluck Jonathan, was rigged.

Mr. Campbell styles himself as a ‘Nigeria expert’ at the Council for Foreign Relations, but in truth, he is regarded as a figure of ridicule in Nigeria for his postulations, which have repeatedly and consistently proven to be way off the mark.

How he can continue to make pretensions to be an expert on Nigeria, beats our imagination. Besides serving as a diplomat in his country’s embassy in our dear country, what other competences does Campbell possess to qualify as a Nigeria expert?

Sadly, he has continued to deploy his half-baked knowledge of the nation’s political environment and his closeness to the United States power brokers not only to canvass his ill-conceived political agenda, but to also exploit some Nigerian politicians.

For instance, because he is not well schooled in the tone and nuances of Nigerian politics, he had no way of knowing that the riots he cited in some cities in the north following the 2011 presidential election had nothing to do with his claims on rigging. Otherwise, why would Bauchi and Kano States, where former President Jonathan had only 16% and 15% of votes, witness the worst riots?

However, for the benefit of his audience, we will like to further state the following facts:

The 2011 Nigerian Presidential elections were adjudged by both local and international observers including the Commonwealth Election Monitoring Group and even the US contingent of both the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, as the most credible and transparent elections in Nigeria, since our great nation returned to civil rule in 1999.

Speaking on 18 April 2011, the chair of the Commonwealth Election Observer Group, former Botswana President Festus Mogae, said the 2011 Nigerian elections “discarded the notion that the country can only hold flawed elections”.

He further said: “Previously held notions that Nigeria can only hold flawed elections are now being discarded and this country can now shake off that stigma and redeem its image.”

Secondly, the 2011 elections saw a 75% reduction in election petition cases in Nigeria and the United States Institute for Peace described the elections as the “best run” election in Nigeria’s history, saying, inter alia, that “Nigeria’s 2011 general elections–in particular the presidential election–were seen widely as being well-run. This was especially important, given the universally decried elections of 2007.”

Thirdly, on December 29, 2011, the Nigerian Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, declared that then President Jonathan was validly elected. It is important to note that this was a seven man panel, and there was no dissenting judgment. The verdict had no such precedent in Nigeria’s political history.

Former President Jonathan is known for his ‘one man, one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth one vote’ policy. Before the 2011 elections, he said “my ambition is not worth the blood of any citizen” and was indeed guided by that creed throughout the process. He is also on record to have publicly called on members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to even attempt to rig for him, stating that he was a pencil in God’s hands.

There is no doubt that Nigerians above 45 years witnessed the past six presidential elections in the country- 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 – and are in a better position than Campbell to objectively appraise the processes. Today, our compatriots are focusing on such issues as electronic voting and complete independence of the electoral body INEC, as a way of strengthening our democracy, ahead of the next general elections. Anyone who means well for the country’s democracy should rather focus his attention on perspectives that could illuminate this path, not offer jaundiced and self-serving opinions on a settled past.

Perhaps this is the time to remind Campbell and other wheeling and dealing consultants like him that Nigerians have placed the 2011 elections behind them and are no longer in a position to welcome those who have nothing but sophistry to offer our citizens! As our own inimitable Fela would say, ‘Mr. Teacher don’t teach us nonsense’!

In the light of these overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the public, especially the esteemed audience of the Council on Foreign Relations, should ask themselves what Mr. Campbell’s motives are, especially as he has been known to act as a consultant to certain political interests in Nigeria.

*Spokesman to former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

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Merck Foundation joins hands with First Ladies of Africa to raise awareness about Coronavirus and how to stay safe and healthy
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry; H.E FATIMA MAADA, The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi; H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia; H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADO, The First Lady of Niger; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic; H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Republic of Liberia; H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville; H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia; H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGW, The First Lady of Zimbabwe; H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E. DR. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique and Former First Lady of Mauritania
Merck Foundation announces special awards during Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and movement restriction, “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards for African Countries to encourage media to be creative and effective in raising awareness and sensitizing Communities on how to stay safe and keep physically and mentally healthy during Coronavirus lockdown

ACCRA, Ghana, April 6, 2020/ — Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany together with African First Ladies of Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Guinea Conakry, Burundi, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), Chad, Zimbabwe, Zambia, The Gambia, Liberia and Congo Brazzaville, announced the call for applications for their ‘Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards for African countries. The theme of the awards is ‘Raising Awareness on how to Stay Safe and keep Physically and Mentally Healthy during Coronavirus Lockdown’.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation explains, “This unsettling period due to the coronavirus scare is difficult for everyone – both physically and mentally. While most countries are under complete lockdown or restricted movement, people do not know how to handle this situation. Social Distancing is our Social Responsibility and the only way to kill Coronavirus, however, it will take a lot of courage and discipline to practice it. Taking good care of your mental and physical health is important during this period. So, we decided to initiate these awards in order to reward the journalists who are raising awareness in most effective and creative way on how to keep safe and keep physically & mentally healthy during this phase”.

All the journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms from English speaking, French speaking, Arabic speaking and Portuguese speaking African countries are invited to send their entries for the awards. The most creative and influential media work aiming to raise awareness and sensitizing communities about this alarming topic at a regular basis will be eligible to win these awards.

“We have created four categories for Africa; English, French, Portuguese and Arabic speaking countries”, Dr Kelej added.

Merck Foundation will extend the awards to include Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian Countries in the next few days to involve all media across the global South. 

“Since most of the people are confined to their homes, they are spending a lot of time reading and listening to news through different platforms. Media professionals, it is your time to help the people to take care good care of their mental & physical health during these disturbing times, through your creative, informational and motivational work. You can guide them to adjust to their new and different routine & rhythm of life”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Details of the Merck Foundation “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards

Who can Apply:

Journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms from English speaking, French speaking, Arabic speaking and Portuguese speaking African countries

Last date of submission:

Entries can be submitted till 30th June 2020

How to apply?

Entries can be submitted via Email to info@merck-foundation.com along with your details (including Name, Gender, Country, Media house, Email address & Mobile Number) and entry as an attachment

Categories and Prize Money:
Category
TV USD 500
Radio USD 500
Print USD 500
Online USD 500
Prize Money USD 500

*Merck Foundation


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Juggling at the Top: What it Takes to Manage a Pan-African Energy Law Practice in 2020
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
Zion Adeoye, Managing Director of Centurion Law Group.

Zion believes that a practical mindset and local understanding is how African lawyers can make the difference in a very competitive industry
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 6, 2020/ — At 35, Zion Adeoye is the youngest Managing Partner at an African multi-national law firm. Appointed in 2020 to head the Centurion Law Group (https://CenturionLG.com), Zion embodies a new generation of African lawyers leading the continent into the transformations that will place Africa as the 21st century’s success story. As he reflects on his professional journey so far, he shares his lessons to any young Africans in search of a meaningful legal career on the continent.

Called to the bar in 2011, Zion holds an LLB from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and a BL from the Nigerian Law School. Having spent most of its early legal career in Nigeria working on cross-border energy transactions, he moved to South Africa in 2017 to take on the position of Senior Associate Attorney at Centurion, before being promoted to Managing Director this year. “By my third year at the University of Ibadan, I knew what I wanted to do was specializing in Energy Law. In fact, I had an unconventional journey because I completed by NYSC programme at the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) before proceeding to Law School,” he recalls. His early career in Nigeria would then take him to the Tax division of KPMG and eventually to top law firms in Nigeria such as Terra Cotta Legal, Olaniwun Ajayi LP and Templars, before moving in-house at the Transnational Energy/Bresson Power Group. Such experience has offered Zion a decade of expertise in energy, finance and taxation law, which has been the pillar of his success at the Centurion Law Group.

Swimming Against the Current: Beware of the Underdog

As a young Nigerian lawyer working for a pan-African energy law firm, Zion has been in the position of the underdog more than once in his career. “When you are a relatively young energy lawyer in Africa and practice law on a meaningful level, you get used to walking into a room and having people questioning your credibility,” he explains. “This is especially true of the oil & gas industry where a lot of deals are still made outside the continent in big places like Paris, London or New York by lawyers who are twenty to thirty years older than you and very often educated in big international universities. I have quickly learned to trust my African education and experience gained from doing deals on the ground. Trusting your abilities is key if you want to make it in this industry.”

From his experience gained doing deals in Nigeria but also Zambia, Uganda or South Sudan, Zion believes that a practical mindset and local understanding is how African lawyers can make the difference in a very competitive industry. “Do not let your age or gender bring you down. At the end of the day, clients will be judging you on the quality of the work you do. Do not be afraid of being the underdog,” he says.

Leading in Unchartered Territory: the Challenges of a Changing Legal Profession

As the legal profession worldwide enters unchartered territory, it is in need of leaders who understand both the evolving needs of clients, but are also willing to adopt new technologies and innovate to make their practice more efficient.

With the launch of its new on-demand legal services platform, CenturionPlus, the Centurion Law Group is bringing to Africa a new legal approach to solving clients’ requirements on a need-basis. “CenturionPlus is an answer to clients’ demand for more flexibility in the delivery and billing of their legal requirements, but also responds to the increasing complexity of corporate and commercial transactions made in Africa,” explained Zion. “Managing an African law firm in 2020 presents a lot of challenges, especially because our continent is growing so rapidly. You need to make sure your team stays ahead the curve and that your practice is constantly innovating to deliver on clients’ expectations. As a team leader, this requires you to build consensus and align your team around one vision and determination,” he added. Despite a challenging environment these past years, Centurion has remained ranked Band 1 law firm in its key jurisdictions such as Equatorial Guinea while its senior lawyers are constantly recognized for their contribution to the industry. At the end of 2019 for instance, Zion was recognized as an ESQ 40 under 40 Lawyer at the Nigerian Rising Stars Award.

Adapting to Change: Managing Multi-Cultural Relations with Clients and in the Workplace



Often described as one entity, Africa is one of the most culturally-diverse continent on the planet. Its 54 countries speak hundreds of languages, have their own particular legal regimes, and are at different stages of economic growth. Growing a pan-African practice requires a deep understanding of social and cultural nuances across Africa, which many executives often under-estimate. “The oil sector is one of the most internationalized industries so by nature you will be dealing with clients from all over the world willing to invest and do business in African jurisdictions that can be very different from one another,” declared Zion. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that because you have done a deal in Ethiopia, you can do the same deal easily in Ghana. Similarly, having as a client a major American oil company is not the same as working on a transaction for a major Chinese oil company. I have seen many law firms and lawyers making these costly mistakes,” he added.

To address this issue, Centurion has kept regionalizing over the years and currently has offices in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius and Germany. It has also diversified its lawyers and attorneys, who currently come from over 10 countries and notably speak English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. “If you want to be successful at managing your law firm, you need a multi-cultural mindset and an understanding that people from different countries and background do business differently and communicate differently,” declared Zion. “I always found that my legal background has been useful in this regard. As lawyers we are used to finding the right balance between technical, financial, commercial and legal aspects of a transaction. Managing your team takes the same approach of arranging different pieces together to attain a common goal.”

With this leadership style, Zion has earned himself a strong reputation among its peers and the firm’s leading clients from across the continent. When asked about what his biggest challenge was on accepting the responsibility of managing the firm earlier this year, he said: “The biggest challenge when you manage a law firm is having two jobs at the same time. As a Managing Director, I have to oversee several support departments such as business development and marketing, along with supporting other lawyers at the firm and coordinating our strategy. But I am also a lawyer with my own practice having to retain our biggest clients.”

*Centurion Law Firm
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SOUTH SUDAN CONFIRMS FIRST CASE OF COVID-19
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

The announcement was made by by First Vice President Dr Machar
The announcement was made by by First Vice President Dr Machar

Juba – South Sudan has confirmed its first case of COVID – 19 pandemic, becoming the latest African nation to report a case of the deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus.

This was announced by the country’s first vice president, who is also the deputy chairperson of the COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Riek Machar at a press conference in Juba on Sunday.

Dr. Machar said a 29-year-old female patient [UNMISS staff] arrived in the country from the Netherlands via Addis Ababa on February 28, and that she was being treated in isolation.

He explained that on Saturday, 4th April 2020, the Public Health Laboratory tested and confirmed a case of COVID-19 in an individual.

“The suspect presented to the UN clinic on 2nd April 2020 with fever, cough, headache, and shortness of breath. The Ministry of Health’s Rapid Response Team went to the clinic and collected samples the same day. The initial test came positive. A second run of the confirmatory test also returned positive,” said Machar

The deputy chairperson says the patient is currently in isolation and “in good health.”

Dr. Machar further said the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the outbreak including identifying and following up all the possible contacts.

It urged the public to remain calm and observe the public health measures such as social distancing and washing hands with soap.

“The government of the Republic of South Sudan seizes this opportunity to ensure the public to remain calm. The high-level taskforce has put in place relevant public health measures over the past two weeks. Social distancing in the only way we can minimize the risk of contracting and transmitting the disease,” said Dr. Machar.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has confirmed a case of coronavirus disease among its staff.

The patient has been resident in South Sudan for five weeks. However, she started working from home immediately after the onset of the symptoms. The patient is recovering well, UN says in the statement.

A month ago, the UN has imposed a travel freeze on all the staff travelling into country, ensured staff, who arrived prior to the ban self-quarantined for 14 days, introduced work-from-home measures to reduce numbers of people in offices and enforced social distancing rules and frequent hand washing by all personnel.

“The UN’s priority is to protect the people of South Sudan and UN staff who are here to serve. For that reason, the UN will make every effort to continue its activities to protect civilians provide humanitarian assistance, build peace and support development. The UN will also continue to support national-led COVID-19 prevention and preparedness efforts,” said UN in the statement, followed an announcement of first case of coronavirus.

Of recent, Juba government banned all the gatherings, international flight, sport activities and church mass and also imposed the night curfew in the country in effort to avoid the spread to the country.

The world youngest country has weak health capacity, a restive country has only four (4) ventilators for the individuals having problem with their respiratory system.

The confirmed of COVID – 19 pandemic, has already caused panic and worry amongst citizens of the nine (9) years old nation, which has been blighted by persisted conflict and corruptions for years.

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COVID-19:Nigeria Open to Evacuating citizens from USA
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

President Muhammadu Buhari

The federal government of Nigeria is preparing to evacuate it citizens from the United States as the country now tops the world in coronavirus infections.

By the time of this report, the United States had a record total of 304,826 positive cases and had already counted 7,616 deaths.

In a public notice dubbed “Evacuation of Nigerians from the USA” the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York called on Nigerians in the US to get ready, saying plans were well afoot to “rescue” them from the health pandemic raving thousands in the across the United States.

“The Consulate General of Nigeria is compiling names of Nigerian Nations requiring emergency evacuation during this challenging period of the covid-19 pandemic. The purpose of the exercise is to enable the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provide the necessary assistance nationals in the united states of America,’ a section of the noticed signed by Ninkanwa O. Okey Uche, Information and Community Relations officer at the New York Consulate reads.

The administration of Muhammadu Buhari via its consulate urged all citizens in need of evacuation to follow through with necessary modalities adding that as soon as arrangements are finalized, all those who wishes to be evacuated will be informed accordingly.

Nigeria is the first country to call it citizens back from the US as the world super power crumble to it knees after been hit hardest by the pandemic which started in Wuhan China earlier this year.

With just 232 confirmed cases, 5 deaths and 33 recoveries, Nigeria just like most African states still has lower casualty rates from the ravaging pandemic which now counts 1,274,543 confirmed cases worldwide with over 69,487 deaths.

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Rwanda: Government officials donate salaries to the fight of COVID-19
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

President Kagame (left) chatting with Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente during National Retreat
President Kagame (left) chatting with Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente during National Retreat

Government officials in Rwanda have agreed to donate their April salaries to help in the fight against coronavirus.

Their pledge comes when Rwanda registers 104 confirmed cases of coronavirus, in which four people were recovered and discharged as of Sunday.

A statement that came from Prime Minister’s office this Sunday, 5th April 2020 said that government officials ‘salaries will be forfeited, and be used in ongoing social protection initiatives.

“In the context of the fight of against COVID-19, and in the solidarity with the most affected Rwandans , the Government of Rwanda has decided over and above ongoing social protection initiatives, that all cabinet members, Permanent secretaries , Heads of Public institutions and other senior officials shall forfeit one month salary (April”, the statement said.

Rwanda is in a lockdown that is set to end by 19th April 2020. Life is hard for those who would get a meal because they have worked.

Government have set up a relief fund that help in distributing  food for the most vulnerable during the lockdown.

In late March during a national address, President Paul Kagame promised that government will do everything possible to support Rwandans “through this challenging time”.

“We know that this is not an easy period for most Rwandans, whose livelihoods have been interrupted across the country. But we ask you to be patient. Although we are making good progress, we cannot afford to relax yet,”  he said.

Citizens around the country were later  mobilized to help their neighbors during this difficult time.

Kigali Roman Catholic archbishop, Monsignor Kambanda Antoine on Sunday urged Christians around the country to share food with the most vulnerable as they move in a holly week  preceding Easter celebrations.

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The AFDB is a model of governance-President Akinwumi Adesina in reply to Le Monde Article
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
The African Development Bank has a very high reputation of good governance says AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina

PRESS STATEMENT BY DR. AKINWUMI ADESINA, PRESIDENT, AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK April 6, 2020, ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE

An article in Le Monde has come to my attention. Following its publication, I have been overwhelmed by the tremendous show of support and solidarity I have continued to receive.

The African Development Bank has a very high reputation of good governance. The Bank was rated as the 4th most transparent institution in the world by Publish What You Fund. I have strong confidence in the governance systems of the Bank put in place by the Board of Governors of the Bank.

The Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors is following its internal review systems and should be allowed to complete its review and work without interference from anyone or the media.

I am 100% confident that due process and transparency, based on facts and evidence, will indicate that these are all nothing more than spurious and unfounded allegations.

I would like all our highly dedicated Bank staff, shareholders and partners not to be moved or shaken by any of these blatantly false allegations.

I will stay calm and resolute. I will not be distracted. No amount of lies can ever cover up the truth. Soon the truth will come out. 

I will continue to discharge my duties and responsibilities as President, with the highest level of professionalism, dedication and unshaken resolve, to lead and support the Bank’s bold mission for Africa’s accelerated development, and to help protect the continent at this time of the COVID19 pandemic.“

Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina

President, African Development Bank

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Rwanda : Four discharged after recovery from COVID-19
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

A person recovered from coronavirus saying goodbye to the remaining patients in Kigali

A group of four people have been discharged from Kanyinya, a Health center in the outskirts of Kigali. They were discharged this Sunday, the 5th of April 2020 after recovering from coronavirus.

This is the first group of people who recovered from the pandemic after Rwanda announced its first case, on 14th March 2020.

As of  Saturday the 4th April, Rwanda had 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus. After discharging four, the number of cases reduces to 98.

All discharged people had been tested before, to confirm that they no longer carry coronavirus.

In mid-March, Rwanda announced a lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. The lockdown was prolonged up to 19th April, to further contain the deadly disease.

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Opinion: The pandemic is no time for fiscal distancing
April 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Akinwumi Adesina*

Akinwumi Adesina is the President of the African Development Bank

CNN)These are very difficult days, as the world faces one of its worst challenges ever: the novel coronavirus pandemic. And it seems almost no nation is spared. As infection rates rise, so does panic across financial markets, as economies drastically slow down and supply chains are severely disrupted. 

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. As such, it can no longer be business as usual. 

Each day, the situation evolves and requires constant reviews of precautionary measures and strategies. In the midst of all this, we must all worry about the ability of every nation to respond to this crisis. And we must ensure that developing nations are prepared to navigate these uncharted waters fully

That’s why I support the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ urgent call for special resources for the world’s developing countries. 

In the face of this pandemic, we must put lives above resources and health above debt. Why? Because developing economies are the most vulnerable at this time. Our remedies must go beyond simply lending more. We must go the extra mile and provide countries with much-needed and urgent financial relief — and that includes developing countries under sanctions. 

According to the independent, global think tank ODI in its report on the impact of economic sanctions, for decades, sanctions have decimated investments in public health care systems in quite a number of countries.

Today, the already stretched systems as noted in the 2019 Global Health Security Index will find it difficult to face up to a clear and present danger that now threatens our collective existence.

Only those that are alive can pay back debts.  

Sanctions work against economies but not against the virus. If countries that are under sanctions are unable to respond and provide critical care for their citizens or protect them, then the virus will soon “sanction” the world.

In my Yoruba language, there is a saying. “Be careful when you throw stones in the open market. It may hit a member of your family.”  

That’s why I also strongly support the call by the UN Secretary-General that debts of low-income countries be suspended in these fast-moving and uncertain times. 

But I call for even bolder actions, and there are several reasons for doing so. 

First, the economies of developing countries, despite years of great progress, remain extremely fragile and ill equipped to deal with this pandemic. They are more likely to be buried with the heavy fiscal pressure they now face with the coronavirus. 

Second, many of the countries in Africa depend on commodities for export earnings. The collapse of oil prices has thrown African economies into distress. According the AFDB’s 2020 Africa Economic Outlook, they simply are not able to meet budgets as planned under pre-coronavirus oil price benchmarks.

The impact has been immediate in the oil and gas sector, as noted in a recent CNN news analysis.

In the current environment, we can anticipate an acute shortage of buyers who, for understandable reasons, will reallocate resources to addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. African countries that depend on tourism receipts as a key source of revenue are also in a straightjacket. 

Third, while rich countries have resources to spare, evidenced by trillions of dollars in fiscal stimulus, developing countries are hampered with bare-bones resources. 

The fact is, if we do not collectively defeat the coronavirus in Africa, we will not defeat it anywhere else in the world. This is an existential challenge that requires all hands to be on deck. Today, more than ever, we must be our brothers and sisters’ keepers.  

Around the world, countries at more advanced stages in the outbreak are announcing liquidity relief, debt restructuring, forbearance on loan repayments, relaxation of standard regulations and initiatives.

In the United States, packages of more than $2 trillion have already been announced, in addition to a reduction in Federal Reserve lending rates and liquidity support to keep markets operating. In Europe, the larger economies have announced stimulus measures in excess of 1 trillion Euros. Additionally, even larger packages are expected. 

As developed countries put in place programs to compensate workers for lost wages for staying at home for social distancing, another problem has emerged — fiscal distancing.

Think for a moment what this means for Africa. 

The African Development Bank estimates that Covid-19 could cost Africa a GDP loss between $22.1 billion, in the base case scenario, and $88.3 billion in the worst case scenario. This is equivalent to a projected GDP growth contraction of between 0.7 and 2.8 percentage points in 2020. It is even likely that Africa might fall into recession this year if the current situation persists.

The Covid-19 shock will further squeeze fiscal space in the continent as deficits are estimated to widen by 3.5 to 4.9 percentage points, increasing Africa’s financing gap by an additional $110 to $154 billion in 2020. 

Our estimates indicate that Africa’s total public debt could increase, under the base case scenario, from $1.86 trillion at the end of 2019 to over $2 trillion in 2020, compared to $1.9 trillion projected in a ‘no pandemic’ scenario. According to a March 2020 Bank report, these figures could reach $2.1 trillion in 2020 under the worst case scenario.

This, therefore, is a time for bold actions. We should temporarily defer the debt owed to multilateral development banks and international financial institutions. This can be done by re-profiling loans to create fiscal space for countries to deal with this crisis.  

That means that loan principals due to international financial institutions in 2020 could be deferred. I am calling for temporary forbearance, not forgiveness. What’s good for bilateral and commercial debt must be good for multilateral debt.

That way, we will avoid moral hazards, and rating agencies will be less inclined to penalize any institution on the potential risk to their Preferred Creditor Status.  The focus of the world should now be on helping everyone, as a risk to one is a risk to all.

There is no coronavirus for developed countries and a coronavirus for developing and debt-stressed countries. We are all in this together.  

Multilateral and bilateral financial institutions must work together with commercial creditors in Africa, especially to defer loan payments and give Africa the fiscal space it needs.

We stand ready to support Africa in the short term and for the long haul. We are ready to deploy up to $50 billion over five years in projects to help with adjustment costs that Africa will face as it deals with the knock-on effects of Covid-19, long after the current storm subsides. 

But more support will be needed. Let’s lift all sanctions, for now. Even in wartime, ceasefires are called for humanitarian reasons. In such situations, there is a time to pause for relief materials to reach affected populations. The novel coronavirus is a war against all of us. All lives matter.

For this reason, we must avoid fiscal distancing at this time. A stitch in time will save nine.  

Social distancing is imperative now. Fiscal distancing is not. 

*Akinwumi Adesina is the President of the African Development Bank. He was formerly Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and and is the 2017 World Food Prize laureate. The views expressed are solely those of the author. Click here to read the full OpEd on CNN.com

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COVID-19: Cameroon Records 203 new cases as Total Confirmed Cases Reaches 509
April 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

203 new cases have been confirmed in Cameroon, as the total number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus reaches 509. This information was released by Cameroon’s Minister of Public Health in his daily briefing as the figure for April 3, breaking April 4.

This is the highest number of cases the country has had since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus was detected in the country. Eight people have died from the virus in Cameroon while 17 have recovered.

It is reported that the number of cases will sour if the social distancing measures, basic hygiene and other measures are not scrupulously respected by the population.

Minister Manaouda Malachie said: “The new confirmed cases were part of a large-scale sampling and testing that involved some 800 people who were suspected and their samples taken during the week,” while adding that the new cases “although asymptomatic have a high potential for contamination.”

The hot bed for the coronavirus remains Cameroon’s political capital Yaounde with over 240 cases recorded. Douala follows suit with some 51 cases while the South West Region has recorded two cases this far, one in Buea who died and the other in Limbe.

As part of containment efforts, Minister Manaouda Malachie has said that “Similarly, there is a large order for respiratory assistance equipment through the central procurement office of the United Nations Development Programme.”

The government is equally reorienting its strategy is it struggles to bring to an end the coronavirus in the country. The strategy involves massive and generalized testing, placement in immediate treatment of cases, active surveillance of suspected cases, awareness of the population (hygiene, distance), border control, and development of reliable local expertise for the response.

“My dear brothers and sisters, the coronavirus is a reality that should not be ignored. Let us protect our loved ones, protect ourselves. We should respect basic hygiene rules, and stay at home as much as possible,” the Minister of Public Health stressed.

The government has extended by 15 days some restrictive measures put in place to reduce the spread of the virus. The measures put in place include the shutting down of schools, borders, banning of gathering of more than fifty people, and encouraging people to follow hygiene rules.

Some of these rules have however not been fully respected across the national territory prompting Governors and Divisional Officers in some locality to close down the businesses for violating the laid rules. Security personnel have also been dispatched to the field to enforce the measures.

In the late hours of April 3, security officers were seen at Bonduma, a neighbourhood in Buea, South West Region checking and making sure that taxi drivers do not overload. The taxi drivers have been told to carry not more than three persons, two behind and one in front including the driver.

The Governor of the South West region Bernard Okalia Bilai has in a latest communiqué banned drinking spots in the Region, while eateries have also been told to close. Bars, night clubs are also not left out.

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Malawi records three positive Covid-19 cases
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

People wash their hands as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus on the last day that church gatherings were allowed, at a parish in Lilongwe on 22 March. Photograph: Amos Gumulira/AFP via Getty Images

Three people have tested positive for Covid-19, President Peter Mutharika has announced.

Mutharika made the announced in a televised statement on Thursday, marking the Southern African nation among those with cases.

Until the last 24 hours, Malawi was among five other African nations without any positive case.

In his statement, Mutharika indicated that the cases have been recorded in capital city Lilongwe.

‘’ I would like to inform the nation that for first time, we now have confirmed cases of Coronavirus disease in the country. There are three cases. The first affected person is a 61-year-old female from Lilongwe. The affected woman had recently returned from India where she was in contact with a relative who was later confirmed as Coronavirus positive. She was in self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Malawi, but later became symptomatic within the 14 days’ quarantine period,’’ he said.

The president also said that the second case is a relative to the index patient, while the third case is a domestic worker for the index in their household.

Meanwhile, Mutharika has said government is providing initial care and medical management for all three cases and tracing all close contacts and requiring them to go into quarantine for 14 days where they can be observed.

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