News in Brief

Leaders of IGAD member States Vow to join hands to fight COVID-19

AU Calls for continental Coordinated Response to arrest the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Africa and the African Union

The Heads of State and Government of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on Monday (March 30) convened an Extraordinary Summit via Video Conference to deliberate on a regional IGAD strategy to combat the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) in the region. (See article)

President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Arica, in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union, convened a teleconference of the Bureau of the African Union Heads of State and Government, ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit video-teleconference last week on 26 March 2020. President Ramaphosa emphasized that a continental coordinated response was more important than ever before in order to arrest the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic. He noted that the development and spread of the COVID-19 have stretched public health systems beyond limits and caused an enormous global economic, social and humanitarian meltdown. (See article)

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Thursday (April 2) expresses condolences on the passing of former Prime Minister of Somalia, Nur Hassan Hussein “Nur Adde” in London as a result of COVID-19. The deceased was the prime minister of Somalia from November 2007 to February 2009.

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab terrorists in the vicinity of Buulo Fuulay in Somalia on Friday (Mar. 27). The command’s initial assessment concluded this airstrike killed two (2) terrorists, while no civilians were injured or killed, a press statement issued by AFRICOM indicates.

Ethiopia

The Minister of the Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Gedu Andargachew on Thursday (April 2) held a phone conversation with Rasmus Prehn, the Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark about ongoing efforts exerted to ward off the spread of COVID-19. Gedu briefed the Danish Minister about the efforts undertaken by the Ethiopian Government in fighting the spread of COVID 19 so far in addition to the initiative taken to establish a joint front by IGAD member states to alleviate the dangers posed by the virus. Prehn confirmed his country’s commitment to joining hands with Ethiopia in the fight against COVID-19.

Gedu Andargachew, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and Ine Eriksen Soreide, Minister of foreign affairs of Norway held a phone discussion today (April 03) regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Gedu briefed the Norwegian Foreign Minister about Ethiopia’s measures taken to fight the COVID-19. Citing the recent virtual Summit of the IGAD member states convened to deliberate on a regional IGAD strategy to combat the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19), Gedu, underscored the need to take a joint approach to curtail the effects of the virus. Ine Eriksen Soreide thanked Gedu for the condolences he offered on the unfortunate loss of lives in Norway due to the virus. She noted the importance of cooperation at this critical time appreciating IGAD’s initiative and explained how the Nordic countries also are joining forces to fight the pandemic.

Ethiopia on Thursday (April 02) celebrated the 9th year of the start of construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) with a panel discussion. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Sileshi Bekele, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy said any external pressures and challenges from inside couldn’t deter the progress of the project. The dam will start holding 4.9 billion cubic meters of water next rainy season, the Minister said. Engineer Ashebir Balcha, Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) CEO, said the dam is progressing well and could start holding water next July. However, if plans to hold water is not achieved due to a variety of reasons, the country will lose up to €1 billion in just one year, he said.

Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed today (April 03) has held phone talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on the challenges of coronavirus (COVID19). “This is key in responding to ensuing economic hurdles that Africa will be confronted with,” the Prime Minister tweeted. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed has also held a phone conversation with South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday (April 1) on the need for collective leadership to overcome the impact of coronavirus (COVID19) together.

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s High Representative for Security and Foreign Policy, confirmed that the Union is preparing for an important aid package for Africa in the health field. Borrell confirmed this pledge during a phone call he made on Monday (March 30) with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, after the IGAD group summit which was devoted to discuss how the African deal with the COVID-19 epidemic. “Our priority remains to help preserve health systems, national budgets, and regional coordination,” Borrell said in a tweet on social networking site (Twitter). The European Union fears that the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic in Africa may deepen the continent’s problems, which will negatively affect the Europeans.

The Tulu Moye and Corbetti geothermal projects signed on Wednesday (April 01) new power purchase and implementation agreements with Ethiopia, worth a total of $1.2 billion of investment from both companies to generate 300 megawatts of electricity in Ethiopia using geothermal energy. Power Africa, a U.S. Government initiative, has been assisting the Government of Ethiopia and Ethiopia Electric Power since the start of the negotiation in 2013, providing continued legal, technical, project finance and capacity-building support to bring negotiations to a successful outcome.

Ethiopia and South Korea on Wednesday (April01) have signed two concessional loan agreements amounting to $93 million today. The loan would be used to finance the Addis Ababa Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and land information management system (LIMS). Of the total, $63 million will be channeled for the BRT project.

Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday (April 01) said the country will begin filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) reservoir in the upcoming rainy season. He made the remark following the 9th year anniversary of the commencement of the dam. “We will start filling the dam in the next rainy season,” he said. Ethiopians give a special place for the project because it is a symbol of sovereignty and unity, the Prime Minister said, adding,

After conducting a detailed assessment of the impact COVID-19 would have on its operation, the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) on Tuesday (March 31) decided to cancel the current electoral calendar and suspend elections operations of the coming national elections planned to be conducted in August 2020.

The Ministry of Health and Ethiopia Public Health Institute on Monday (March 30) unveiled a suite of new digital health tools that are built on top of DHIS2 to enhance surveillance, monitoring, and tracking of coronavirus cases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new systems were developed with support from USAID’s Digital Health Activity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Data Use Partnership, and the youth volunteer group to support the fight against COVID-19 across the country.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Saturday (March 28) held a video conference discussion with all regional chief administrators and mayors of the two administrative cities on COVID19 prevention activities. “All regions report preparedness with efforts underway to raise region-wide awareness on prevention protocols, with challenges experienced in maintaining social distancing particularly by religious institutions,” a statement from the Prime Minister Office indicated.

Eritrea

The Ministry of Health of Eritrea announced on Thursday (April 02) that four quarantined patients were diagnosed positive for COVID-19 during tests carried out on the same day. The announcement indicated that three of the patients are females adding, “All of them had returned home from abroad prior to the ban on Flights.” The total number of confirmed cases in the country to-date has now risen to 22.

Kenya

The death toll in Kenya from coronavirus jumped to 3 on Thursday (April 02) after 2 more people succumbed, the government said. Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the total number of confirmed positive cases had also risen to 110 after 29 new confirmations were recorded. Kagwe has warned of a possibility of a further increase in the number of positive cases in the country.

Kenya Bureau of Standard on Thursday (April 03) has banned the importation of secondhand clothes and footwear in the country, a week after Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina predicted the ban. In a public notice, the Bureau’s Managing Director Bernard Njiraini announced that the ban is a safety measure undertaken by the authority to avoid the spread of COVID-19 that has put the world’s activities at a standstill.

Somalia

Somalia has declared three days for the national mourning of ex-Prime Minister Nur Adde, who died in a London hospital after contracting coronavirus (COVID-19). President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo decreed on Wednesday (April 01) for flags to fly at half-mast and allow the public to mourn the former official who served as the first transitional government prime minister.

Somali President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has pardoned 148 prisoners on Thursday (April 02) as the country confirmed the 5th case of Coronavirus since last month. According to the office of the President, Villa Somalia the move is aimed at strengthening efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

The Paris Club of creditor nations agreed on Tuesday to restructure Somalia’s debt, including immediately canceling $1.4 billion owed by the country. Three decades of conflict have left Somalia all but cut off from the global financial system and relief from its debt is expected to open the way for new sources of financing for the country. The decision cancels 67% of the debts owed to Paris Club creditors by Somalia. Somali Finance Minister Abdirahman Beileh called the decision a big step forward for his country, which is also grappling with the coronavirus outbreak and a recent desert locust swarm.

South Sudan

Lam Akol, the leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) last week on Friday (March 27) said that he is considering the formation of a new political alliance in South Sudan. The announcement comes after the failure of his alliance with the South Sudan Opposition Alliance forces (SSOA) who worked to exclude the NDM from the position of the vice-president and four ministerial portfolios.

The United States has announced $8 million aid for each of Sudan and South Sudan in emergency health assistance, as part of its response to the global pandemic of coronavirus.”In addition to health assistance, humanitarian funding is being provided for South Sudan ($8 million), and Sudan ($8 million),” said the State Department in a statement issued on Friday 27 March. “This assistance will primarily provide health-related support and supplies to bolster water and sanitation activities”.

The revitalized peace implementation oversight body, RJMEC on Saturday (March 25) urged the South Sudanese parties to expedite the appointment of state governors and local governments. The power-sharing process at the level of state governors is stalled over a claim by SPLM-IG of President Kiir to be allocated six of the ten governors, while the other peace parties say it should take only five positions.

Sudan

The Sudanese government decided on Thursday 9April 02) to gradually put the whole country under lockdown saying the spread of the respiratory disease will determine the restrictive measures. Sudanese council of minister held an extra-ordinary meeting on Thursday to discuss the spread of the coronavirus in the country as the health ministry announced the eighth confirmed case of COVID-19.

South Sudan’s mediation announced the resumption of peace talks between the transitional government of Sudan and the armed groups, adding it would be indirect due to the coronavirus pandemic. The negotiations had been postponed for a week following the sudden death on 25 February of Sudan defense minister Jamal Omer who was also the head of the government negotiating team for security arrangements. In a statement released in Juba, the chief mediator Tut Kew Gatluak said it was agreed with the Sudanese to resume discussions on Thursday (April 02).

A Sudanese official said that South Sudan is committed to the financial compensations of the 2012 oil deal between the two countries despite the huge drop in global crude oil prices. Hamid Suleiman, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Energy and Mining on Wednesday (April 01) told the media that the agreement was not affected by the drop in global oil prices to about $ 30 a barrel.”The agreement is proceeding normally,” he said.

The Sudanese Minister of Health expected the spread of Coronavirus in the country after the detection of seven confirmed cases coming from outside the country so far. “From the seven cases, we fear and expect that the spread of the disease will start inside the country,” said Akram Eltom on (April 02) in a daily press briefing about the respiratory disease.

The Security Council on Monday (March 30) decided to not reduce the current number of troops and police of the African Union-United Nations Mission Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) until 31 May. “(…)UNAMID) shall maintain its current troop and police ceilings until 31 May 2020, and further decides that during this period UNAMID shall maintain all team sites for mandate implementation,” read the decision which was adopted through a written procedure due to the impact of coronavirus.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM-N/A) led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu has extended a unilateral cessation of hostilities for three months. In a statement released on Tuesday (March 31), al-Hilu said they decided the 3-month extension to show their “goodwill towards a peaceful resolution of the Sudanese conflict, and in order to give the ongoing peace talks an opportunity for success.”

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok would visit Egypt and Ethiopia in the upcoming days to urge the resumption of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), his office said on Monday (March 30). Hamdok’s office announced a call with the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday to discuss the stalled talks despite a series of meetings Washington hosted to break the deadlock. “Hamdok informed (Mnuchin) of his intention to visit Cairo and Addis Ababa in the near future to recommend the two parties to resume negotiations on the Renaissance Dam and complete the remaining outstanding issues,” reads a statement released after the telephone call.

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Leaders of IGAD member States Vow to join hands to fight COVID-19

The Heads of State and Government of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) convened via video-conference at the Extraordinary Summit on coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) pandemic on Monday (March 01). The leaders expressed their concern by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which constitutes an unprecedented global health crisis affecting a large part of the world and emphasised the need for coordinated global and regional leadership and approach to respond to health and economic implications of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

In the Summit, the leaders also took note of the increasing levels of coronavirus infections in IGAD member states and the looming threat of a health crisis in the region and expressed their concern by the unsustainable and potentially counterproductive uncoordinated global responses and unconnected country-specific measures to combat the COVID 19 pandemic. They underscored the urgent need for a comprehensive multi-sectoral, multi-agency strategy that addresses the impact of COVID-19 on all sectors especially health and the economy.

Taking all their concerns into account, the leaders have laid out plans to carry out through their own joint efforts and put forward their needs to be supported by the International community. The leaders resolved, among others, to “formulate a comprehensive regional response strategy and task the IGAD secretariat to develop an accompanying implementation plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the IGAD region that also incorporates the protection of populations and special groups that face difficulties accessing the national health systems such as IDPs, refugees, and migrants.” They also decided to establish an IGAD emergency fund for the control and prevention of pandemic diseases and adopt a coordinated approach to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in IGAD member states. They haver also agreed to further capacitate the regional disease surveillance, early warning, and response system of IGAD. The summit also resolved to hold an emergency meeting of the Ministers of Health and Finance in IGAD to analyze needs and costs related to the fight against the spread of COVID-19. The leaders also underscored the need to mobilize medical professionals and support from the IGAD community in the diaspora to join the fight against the pandemic in the region.

On their call for support from the International Community to IGAD, the leaders urged the international community to adopt a globally coordinated and coherent approach to tackle this public health crisis and to sufficiently empower and resource the World Health Organization to co-ordinate global responses to all pandemics including COVID-19 and directly assist governments in the IGAD Member States. They also “Request the International Financial Institutions, bilateral, regional and international partners especially WB, IMF, AfDB, to rapidly implement debt relief and cancellation and provide access to financial assistance, concessionary loans and essential support to the IGAD Member States and the Secretariat to effectively combat the Coronavirus.” They entreated the international community to support the IGAD regional emergency fund for the control of pandemic diseases and the strengthening of health systems in the region. The summit also appealed to the international financial institutions to urgently extend monetary and fiscal support, in addition to exercising flexibility for IGAD Member States to access finances needed to respond to the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Extending their request to international financial institutions, the IGAD member countries leader’s pointed out the need to support the distressed private sector in the IGAD region. The leaders indicated that international financial institutions can give attention, in particular, to build local manufacturing capacity for essential medical equipment and supplies to fight the outbreak of pandemic diseases such as COVID-19.

The summit appreciated the efforts and initiative of the Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, chair of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of Government to mobilize support from the international community to combat COVID-19 in the IGAD region. The leaders also appreciated and expressed their support to the efforts of the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali in galvanizing the international community towards formulating a global strategy to tackle the human and economic cost of the coronavirus scourge. They welcomed the intervention of the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia H.E. Abiy Ahmed Ali to mobilize international support for the IGAD region and the generous donation of medical supplies, laboratory testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) from the founder and director of the of the Alibaba Group to African Countries including the IGAD Member States.

The summit also acknowledged the central role and the proactive support of the African Union and its Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) through the capacitation of healthcare providers and emergency response teams, as well as the provision of medical supplies including testing kits. The summit also acknowledged the extraordinary sacrifices made by health care delivery workers across the world and in the IGAD region to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and appreciated the swift action taken by all the IGAD Heads of State and Government to contain and combat the spread of the Coronavirus.

Abdalla Hamdok, Prime Minister of Sudan and the Chair of IGAD, Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed President of Somalia, Riek Machar, First Vice President of South Sudan, representing Salva Kiir Mayardit President of South Sudan, and took part in the virtual summit organized by the IGAD Secretariat in Djibouti.

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AU Calls for continental Coordinated Response to arrest the rapid spread of the  COVID-19 Pandemic

President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Arica, in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union, convened a teleconference of the Bureau of the African Union Heads of State and Government, ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit video-teleconference on 26 March 2020. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Director of the Africa Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr. John Nkengasong, participated in the teleconference.

In his opening remarks, President Ramaphosa emphasized that a continental coordinated response was more important than ever before in order to arrest the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic. He noted that the development and spread of the COVID-19 have stretched public health systems beyond limits and caused an enormous global economic, social and humanitarian meltdown.

President Ramaphosa underscored the fact that poverty, poor sanitation, an existing disease burden, overstretched health systems, and extreme urban population density mean that the pandemic could explode in an even more catastrophic way than has been seen thus far in Africa. This necessitates the need for urgent action in order to stem the tide. President Ramaphosa emphasized that the AU, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and all health institutions should direct their efforts at stopping the spread of the virus.

The Bureau received a briefing from Dr. John Nkengasong, the Director of the Africa Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), who stated that the rapid spread of the COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health disaster. Dr. Nkengasong stated that the coronavirus has been spreading rapidly across the world, affecting 175 countries, with 470 000 confirmed cases and claiming more than 21,000 lives. He noted that 46 African countries have reported a combined total of 2,746 infections, 72 deaths, and 210 recoveries. He warned that the pandemic could explode in poor countries in an even more catastrophic way than has been seen elsewhere thus far.

The Bureau expressed grave concern about the rising local infections, in the context of densely populated human settlements on the African continent. Consequently, the Bureau underscored the importance of coordination across the continent and the necessity to exchange credible and real-time information about the spread of the virus. The Bureau agreed to establish a continental anti-COVID-19 Fund to which member states of the Bureau agreed to immediately contribute US $12, 5 million as seed funding. African Union Member States, the international community and philanthropic entities are urged to contribute to this fund.

The Bureau noted the critical role of the Africa CDC and its under-funding. In this regard Member States of the Bureau agreed to contribute an amount of $4.5 million towards boosting the capacity of the Africa CDC. The Bureau expressed concern about the possible shortages of medicines and vaccines as factories close or countries retain supplies for their own consumption. In this regard, the Bureau underscored the vital importance of coordinating efforts to increase global production and improve the availability of medical products and equipment.

Given the limited health infrastructure in Africa and the reality that most of the pharmaceuticals and medical supplies consumed on the continent are imported, the Bureau called on the international community to encourage open trade corridors, especially for pharmaceuticals and other health supplies. The Bureau urged the G20 to immediately provide African countries with medical equipment, testing kits, protective gear to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Bureau urged G20 countries to provide an effective economic stimulus package that includes relief and deferred payments. In this regard, the Bureau called for the waiver of all interest payments on bilateral and multilateral debt, and the possible extension of the waiver to the medium term, in order to provide immediate fiscal space and liquidity to governments.

The Bureau also urges the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank and other regional institutions to use all the instruments available in their arsenal to help mitigate against the scourge and provide relief to vital sectors of African economies and communities.

The Bureau expressed support and appreciation for endeavors of the Committee of African Health Ministers and paid tribute to the courageous efforts of all medical and health care officials on the continent engaged in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau also urges all citizens of Africa to abide by national measures implemented to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Member States of the Bureau of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government expressed their deepest appreciation to the Chairperson of the Bureau, President Cyril Ramaphosa for his timely convening of the meeting in order to develop a coordinated African response to curb and reverse the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Africa.

The Bureau of the African Union Heads of State and Government is chaired by President Ramaphosa and consists of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of the Republic of Mali, President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta of the Republic of Kenya, President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

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