News in Brief Why the Global Debt of Poor Nations Must Be Canceled The 3rd Meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government on COVID 19 INTERPOL launches a three-year Support Program to AFRIPOL Africa and the African Union In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), the African Union (AU) and the Government of Rwanda have decided to postpone by one year the second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2020) initially set to take place from 1 to 7 September 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda. This decision was endorsed by the IATF2020 Advisory Council during its sixth meeting held virtually on Sunday (April 26), after careful assessment of the situation. The 55 member states of the African Union will soon receive further medical supplies for their COVID19 response, after the arrival in Addis Ababa on Wednesday (April 29), of the third batch from the Jack Ma Foundation. The supplies, weighing 125 tonnes, consist of 4.6 million single-use surgical masks, 500 000 civilian use KN95 masks: 100 000 medical-grade N95 masks: 200,000 pieces of protective clothing: 200,000 face shields: 2,000 thermometer guns: 500,000 medical gloves: 300 ventilators: 500,000 each of swabs, extraction and detection tests: and 100 infrared thermo detection machines. The three-year “INTERPOL Support Program for the African Union in relation to AFRIPOL” was launched on Tuesday (April 28). The online ceremony was presided over by the Executive Director of AFRIPOL, Dr. Tarek A. Shaarif, and INTERPOL’s Global Outreach and Regional Support Director, Ms. Roraima Andriani. The Program will enable the two institutions to work together to strengthen the capacities of the police agencies of the African Union Member States in Fighting criminal activities in the African Continent. It will also contribute to enhancing the technical and analytic capabilities of AFRIPOL as institutional and operational levels. The two institutions have also agreed to develop a concrete implementation plan that addresses the key areas of the continent, in line with relevant African Union Agenda, including the 2020 Theme of the year: Silencing the Guns, and Agenda 2063, among others. (See article) The board of the African Union’s COVID19 Response Fund held its first meeting, online, on Monday (April 27). AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat informed the newly nominated COVID-19 board of trustees that the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) estimates that implementation of the Africa Continental Strategy on COVID-19 will require USD $420 million over the next six months”. The Chairperson highlighted that the Union is using the economic, humanitarian, and health dimensions to get through the global pandemic. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in Dhobley on Monday (April 27) has handed over several boxes of hand washing soap and public sensitization materials to members of the local community as part of their support to combat the spread of the Coronavirus.“Today’s awareness campaign was important. We shared with members of the community the necessary preventative measures to reduce the spread and what to do when people start showing symptoms of the disease,” said Noor Bihi Osman, Coordinator of the Jubbaland Ministry of Health. The Force Commander of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Lieutenant General Tigabu Yilma, said that the operational capability of his forces and their capacity to conduct offensive operations against the enemy remains high. Lieutenant General Yilma was speaking in Baidoa on Monday (April 27), where he commissioned new operational vehicles and military hardware, which will add firepower and increase the mobility of AMISOM forces in clearing main supply routes, securing population centers and degrading Al-Shabaab terrorists in the Southwest State. The third round of the meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government on the COVID 19 Pandemic was convened by Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union, on 22 April 2020. This was a follow up to the two previous meetings (26 March and 3 April) of the Bureau of the Assembly on the same subject. (See article) Ethiopia The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved on Thursday (April 30) $411 million to help Ethiopia meet the urgent balance of payment needs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also approved a re-phasing of disbursements under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and Extended Financing Facility (EFF) arrangements that have been supporting Ethiopia’s economic reform program since December 2019, and a reduction in access under the EFF arrangement, to maximize financial support under the RFI. Germany on Thursday (April 30) announced a support package of 120 million Euro to help Ethiopia address the negative economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Funds will support the macroeconomic stability of the country, the safeguarding of jobs in the textile industry, and the procurement of medical goods in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, has assured Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that Germany will be a reliable partner on Ethiopia’s side in times of the Corona pandemic. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed continues his call for debt cancellation for low-income countries in a piece published in the ‘New York Times’ on Thursday (April 30). He appreciated the recent offer of the G-20 countries to some of the world’s lowest-income countries to suspend debt repayments until the end of the year. The Premier, however, argues the measure is by no means adequate given the gravity of the danger the COVID-19 pandemic poses on the economic survival of such lowest-income countries. “At the very least,” Abiy says,” the suspension of debt payments should last not just until the end of 2020 but rather until well after the pandemic is truly over,” adding, “It should involve not just debt suspension but debt cancellation. Global creditors need to waive both official bilateral and commercial debt for low-income countries.” (See article) Gedu Andargachew, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands have held a phone discussion on Thursday (April 30) emphasizing the need to take a joint approach in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. Gedu briefed Kaag about Ethiopia’s measures taken so far to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and curb its spread. He underscored that international coordination and partnership is crucial in fighting the border-less disease. Kaag agreed with Gedu’s belief for international cooperation and expressed her country’s commitment to supporting Ethiopia’s efforts in fighting the pandemic through both bilateral and multilateral institutions. The Government of Ethiopia has been taking tough economic measures to save lives and ensure quick recovery from the adverse effects of COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Finance. Finance State Minister Eyob Tekalgn on Thursday (April 30) said making available 15 billion birr to private banks to enable them to provide debt relief and additional loans to their customers are among the measures. The House of Peoples Representatives (parliament) on Thursday (April 30) has referred a resolution postponing the country’s general election to the pertinent committee. The resolution tabled by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) was sent to the Legal, Justice and Administration Affairs Standing Committee for further scrutiny. Before directing it to the committee, the House endorsed the resolution with a majority vote, one against and 18 abstentions. PM Dr Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday (April 29) met heads of competing political parties to discuss the current status of COVID-19, postponed election schedule, and legal options. The parties have explored various constitutional options for conducting the election, which was postponed due to the Coronavirus outbreak in the country. The election was originally planned for August 29, 2020. Ethiopia on Wednesday (April 29) has reported one new case of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), out of 1, 408 samples taken over the past 24 hours. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has now reached 131. Fatalities remain at 3, with overall test count stands at 17, 842. A Chinese medical team dispatched by the government of China, on Wednesday (April 29) has concluded its 15-day mission to Ethiopia. Members of the team shared their experiences on prevention and control of COVID-19 to Ethiopian health experts. According to Dr. Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health, they also offered a virtual seminar to local health professionals. Minister of Health, Dr. Lia Tadesse, on Tuesday (April 28) has extended her appreciation to the Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Academy for repairing 31 mechanical ventilators in its workshop. In her official Facebook account, she wrote that the maintenance works being carried out to restore the functionality of the ventilators has an enormous role in supporting the fight against COVID19 in Ethiopia. National Metrology Agency and Black Lion Hospital have also maintained 6 and 8 ventilators and brought them to service respectively, according to the Minister. The Russian Federation on Wednesday (April 29) donated $10 million to FAO to assist the fight against the desert locust outbreak in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. The funds will be used to buy pesticides, fuel, vehicles, and sprayers, as well as for the employment and training of personnel for the pest’s elimination. FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, welcomed the donation. Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde on Tuesday (April 28) joined “Rise for All”, a new initiative that brought together women leaders to mobilize support for the UN Recovery Trust Fund and the UN roadmap for social and economic recovery from COVID-19 pandemic. The first to join the initiative are President Sahle-Work Zewde, Norwegian PM Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, and other Executive Directors of UN agencies. “Rise for All” is the United Nations Secretary-General’s initiative which calls for solidarity and urgent action in response to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. “Team Europe” on Tuesday (April 28) expressed its commitment to strongly support Ethiopia in its Coronavirus (COVID19) response. It has already provided €25 million as a rapid response to the Ethiopian health sector, out of the initial €200 million for 2020. “Team Europe” is an initiative launched by the European Union (EU) and the Member States to support partner countries around the world with €20 billion to fight the COVID19 outbreak. The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP) on Tuesday (April 28) has signed a joint study agreement with GreenCom Technologies to build a gas processing plant in Ethiopia. The agreement is aimed at building a gas processing plant that also produces Petrochemicals and other industry inputs out of natural gasses. The gas processing project which is to be implemented jointly by the US-based GreenCom Technologies and Hyundai Engineering and Construction need more than $ 3.6 billion to be implemented upon the completion of the study. Out of the total budget needed to run the project, $70 million will be covered by GreenCom technologies, it was learned. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has adopted a national tourism recovery strategy to help the industry cope with the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dr. Hirut on Tuesday (April 28) said the strategy is amid at mitigating the impact of the pandemic in the tourism industry of the nation. The strategy was referred to different stakeholders for discussion, and incorporated recommendations of the tourism committee and regional offices, she noted. Ministry of Health said more than 27,000 people in Gurage zone have received yellow fever vaccination as part of the efforts to contain the disease. In a statement issued on Monday (April 27), Health Minister Dr. Lia Tadesse said that active case search was conducted in five kebeles of the district, and 1, 275 households and two schools were visited as part of the response effort. Eighty-six confirmed cases and four deaths have been reported so far, Dr. Lia noted in a statement. The 3rd-round medical shipment of Jack Ma Foundation arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday (April 27). Representatives from the African Union (AU) and the Ethiopian Government attended the event held at the Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services. The medical supplies donated by Ma foundation include 4.6m masks, 500,000 swabs, and test kits, 300 ventilators, 200,000 clothing sets, 200,000 face shields, 2,000 thermal guns, 100 body temperature scanners, and 500,000 pairs of gloves. TsionTeklu has been appointed as State Minister for Economic Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, effective April 06, 2020. Prior to her new appointment, Mrs. Tsion has been serving as a State Minister of the Ministry of Education. Eritrea The Eritrean Ministry of Health on Thursday (April 30) announced that seven patients have recovered fully after standard tests at the National Laboratory and were released from the hospital. This brings the number of recovered patients to-date to twenty-six (26). The total number of confirmed cases in the country to-date is 39. The chairman of the sovereign council, Lieutenant General Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan Abdul Rahman, on Wednesday (April 29) has received a congratulatory message from President Isaias Afwerki, the President of the State of Eritrea, on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan. President Afewerki, on behalf of the government and people of his country, expressed his sincere congratulations to the Chairman of the Sovereign Council and members of the Council on this occasion, wishing Sudan and its people a further growth, development, and stability. Djibouti The US military base in Djibouti is going on lockdown after the second case of Coronavirus was confirmed, according to an American military newspaper. Camp Lemonnier, which provides the US military with a strategic foothold in East Africa, will go on indefinite lockdown to prevent further spread of Covid-19. A second sick contractor tested positive and was evacuated from Djibouti, prompting the lockdown of the base, reported Stars and Stripes newspaper. The US military on Tuesday (April 28) prepared to stop access to the Djibouti base and move personnel living in town to the army compound. The measures were described as temporary, according to a spokesperson for the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. Kenya The first generation of desert locusts in Kenya has matured and is ready to breed, according to a United Nations agency. Desert locusts normally mature and start laying eggs from two to four months. This means that the first generation of locusts bred in the counties of Samburu, Isiolo, Wajir Mandera, and Marsabit could begin mass breeding. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – in an update dated Tuesday (April 28) – warned that the current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as more swarms form and mature in Ethiopia and northern and central Kenya. Eight police officers are feared dead after they were swept away by flash floods in Chemoe, Baringo North, on Thursday (April 30) night. The officers are said to have been pushing their vehicle which was stuck in the bed of River Kagir when the floods swept them away around 7.30pm. Baringo County police commander Robinson Ndiwa said one body had been recovered and the search for the others going on. Somalia Somalia’s health minister announced on Wednesday (April 29) evening that the country’s number of Coronavirus cases had risen to 582. In a press briefing, Dr. FawziaAbikar Nur said that over the past 24 hours, the central laboratory in Mogadishu had recorded 54 positive cases, 40 of the patients being male and 14 female. “We have no new deaths as a result of Covid-19. Thus, our past record of 28 deaths stands,” she said, adding that two patients recovered. Somali militant group al-Shabab has executed three of its own members for alleged spying on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, local residents and regional officials said. El Bur district commissioner Colonel Nur Hassan Gutale on Thursday (April 30) said the three men were executed by a firing squad late Tuesday in the center of the town as dozens of people watched. A Ugandan peacekeeper serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has tested positive for COVID-19 in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu, a military spokesperson said here on Thursday (April 30). “He is doing well and receiving great medical attention. Thanks to the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defense Forces) health officers that have gained practical experience through their support to the national anti-COVID-19 campaign,” said Richard Karemire, Ugandan military spokesperson. Somalia is experiencing a new wave of flash floods and Save the Children is warning of the devastating impact on children due to these multiple disasters. According to the recent reports, heavy rains is already wreaking havoc in some parts of the country while other riverine communities are left in fear as the Juba and Shabelle river levels continue to rise. On April 28th, heavy rains in Gardo town and surrounding areas caused flash floods killing at least 6 people, including 3 children and 31 people are still missing. Two civilians were killed and three injured in a United States airstrike in Somalia early last year, the US said in a rare acknowledgment of civilian casualties from United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) military operations. The deaths were mentioned on Monday (April 27) in a debut quarterly assessment report by AFRICOM on allegations of civilian casualties raised in connection with its operations against armed fighters in Somalia, Libya, and other African countries. “Regrettably two civilians were killed and three others injured in a February 2019 airstrike. We are deeply sorry this occurred,” AFRICOM’s commander, US Army General Stephen Townsend, said in the report. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday (April 29) attended a high-level meeting on Somalia via video conferencing. Organized by African Union, the conference discussed “steps to be taken together to support political transition and peace processes in the aftermath of COVID-19,” Cavusoglu said on Twitter. South Sudan The former governor of the abolished Boma state David YauYau on Thursday (April 30) briefed President Salva Kiir about the security situation in the area which is now part of Jonglei state. The meeting comes days after allegations that YauYau rebelled again blaming Kiir for delaying the appointment of state governors and local governments. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the former Murle rebel said he briefed Kiir on the security situation in Boma after his two visits to the area, according to a statement issued by the South Sudanese presidency press service. Sudan The deputy head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, on Thursday (April 30) discussed the security developments in the disputed areas of Abyei with the South Sudanese presidential for security affairs. Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan Daglo “Hemetti” and Tut Kew Gatluak spoke by telephone about recent bloody attacks that took place in Abyei, according to the official SUNA. “The two sides agreed on the need to find radical and final solutions to the problem during the next two days,” said the agency without further details about these attacks. The African Union Representative in Sudan Mohamed Belisha Wednesday said the regional body would support Sudan’s request for a special political mission without any military component. Belisha met on Wednesday (April 29) with Kabbashi Shams al-Din, a member of the Sovereign Council and Omer GamarEldin State Minister for Foreign Affairs to discuss Sudan’s position on the upcoming UN political mission which will be set up on the basis of Chapter VI of the UN Charter. Sudan’s health authorities announced a jump in Coronavirus cases, with 67 new infections on Thursday (April 30) taking the total to 442 confirmed cases with 31 fatalities. A statement issued by the Federal Ministry of Health said that 59 new cases were registered in Khartoum state, two cases in Al Jazirah state, and one case in the states of Gedaref, South Darfur, West Kordofan, Northern, and Sennar. The ministry further said that the state of Khartoum recorded one death, among the previously announced cases, while two fatalities were recorded in Al Jazirah among Thursday’s cases. Sudan’s Anti-Corruption Committee has confiscated 79 real estate properties that were illegally acquired by leading members of the country’s Islamic movement during the regime of ousted President Omar Al Bashir. On Thursday (April 30), the Empowerment Elimination, Anti-Corruption, and Funds Recovery Committee announced that the confiscated properties in total amount to 36,411,114 square meters. The value of the seized funds is estimated at $1.20 billion. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok pledged to support the appointment of Deputy Head of Mission for UNISFA in the disputed area of Abyei, said Jean Pierre Lacroix the head of UN peacekeeping department on Tuesday (April 28). On 14 May 2019, a month after the ouster of the former President Omer al-Bashir the United Nations Security Council decided to appoint a civilian deputy head for UNISFA to work with Sudan and South Sudan to establish the Abyei Police Service. Lacroix on Tuesday requested the Security Council to extend the UNISFA mandate for six months after reporting about the recent attacks in the disputed area and the need to end the intercommunal violence between the Ngok Dina and the Misseriya. U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Donald Booth said he tried to convince the SPLM-N al-Hilu to engage in peace talks with the Sudanese government and stressed that he told them that his country would not support their demand for self-determination. Booth made this statement in a web event on Sudan and U.S. relations organized by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Colombia University last week on Friday 24 April. Head of the Sovereign Council of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, on Monday (April 27), received a phone call from U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to discuss Sudan’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. “In his phone call, Pompeo discussed arrangements to remove Sudan from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) and U.S. aid to Sudan in confronting the Coronavirus pandemic,” said a statement released by the Sudanese presidency. The Sudanese government on Sunday (April 26) dismissed reports about the control of the country’s largest port terminal of Port Sudan by Dubai’s DP World, one of the world’s biggest port operators. On Saturday Aljazeera TV reported that the Sudanese government is undertaking measures to hand over control of Port Sudan seaport to the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s DP World. The Sudanese government and Darfur groups under the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) have reached an agreement to allocate 40% of the western Sudan region’s resources to its development for 10 years. The agreement was reached during a negotiation session that took place on Sunday (April 26) through video conferencing facilitated by the European Union in Khartoum and Juba. ***************** Why the Global Debt of Poor Nations Must Be Canceled By Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia Note: This article was published on ‘The New York Times’ on April 30, 2020 ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — On April 15, Group of 20 countries offered temporary relief to some of the world’s lowest-income countries by suspending debt repayments until the end of the year. It is a step in the right direction and provides an opportunity to redirect financial resources toward dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. But if the world is to survive the punishing fallout of the pandemic and ensure that the economies of countries like mine bounce back, this initiative needs to be even more ambitious. At the very least, the suspension of debt payments should last not just until the end of 2020 but rather until well after the pandemic is truly over. It should involve not just debt suspension but debt cancellation. Global creditors need to waive both official bilateral and commercial debt for low-income countries. These steps need to be taken with a sense of urgency. The resources freed up will save lives and livelihoods in the short term, bring back hope and dynamism to low-income economies in the medium term and enable them to continue as the engines of sustainable global prosperity in the long term. In 2019, 64 countries, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, spent more on servicing external debt than on health. Ethiopia spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health. We spend 47 percent of our merchandise export revenue on debt servicing. The International Monetary Fund described Ethiopia as being at a high risk of external debt distress. The dilemma Ethiopia faces is stark: Do we continue to pay toward debt or redirect resources to save lives and livelihoods? Lives lost during the pandemic cannot be recovered; imperiled livelihoods cost more and take longer to recover. Immediate and forceful action on debt will prevent a humanitarian disaster today and shore up our economy for tomorrow. We need to immediately divert resources from servicing debt toward responding adequately to the pandemic. We need to impede a temporary health crisis from turning into a chronic financial meltdown that could last for years, even decades. Ethiopia must spend an extra $3 billion by the end of 2020 to address the consequences of the pandemic, while our balance of payments is set to deteriorate. Increasing health care spending is essential, irrespective of debt levels, but we have less money on hand, and much of it is due to creditors. A moratorium on bilateral and commercial debt payments for the rest of this year will save Ethiopia $1.7 billon. Extending the moratorium till the end of 2022 would save an additional $3.5 billion. Low-income countries can use the financial resources freed up by cancellation or further deferment of debt repayments to invest in our battle against the pandemic, from providing necessary medical care to our citizens to ameliorating our financial difficulties. In October, the I.M.F. reported that the five fastest-growing economies in the world were in sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Ethiopia. In early April, the World Bank reported that sub-Saharan Africa would face its first regionwide recession in over 25 years and the region’s economy could shrink by as much as 5.1 percent. This is not a result of bad policies, mismanagement or any other ill typically associated with developing economies. The recession will be the product of the Coronavirus outbreak. Preventing or at least minimizing the recession is critical to maintaining years of hard-won economic gains across the continent. The current moratorium in bilateral debt collection until the end of the year will help, but it won’t be enough, given the gravity of the challenge we face. The moratorium must be extended until the Coronavirus health emergency is over or canceled altogether. The creditors need to do this unconditionally. Official bilateral creditors are no longer the principal source of external debt financing for many developing countries. Private-sector creditors, including investment banks and sovereign funds, are. They should play their part in the effort to rescue African economies from permanent paralysis with a sense of solidarity and shared responsibility. It would help avoid widespread sovereign defaults and chaos in the market. And it would be morally indefensible if resources freed up from a moratorium in bilateral debt collections were to be used to pay private creditors instead of saving lives. Most of our countries managed to borrow funds on the back of solid economic performance and highly promising and evidence-based development programs and trajectories. Nobody foresaw this promise being derailed by a once-in-a-century event such as the Coronavirus pandemic. Under these circumstances, there is no room for traditional arguments such as moral hazard. Low-income countries are seeking relief not because we squandered the money but because we need the resources to save lives and livelihoods. It is in everybody’s enlightened self-interest that the borrowers be allowed breathing space to get back to relative health. The benefits of rehabilitation of the economies of the hardest-hit countries will be shared by all of us, just as the consequences of neglect will harm all of us. ***************** The 3rd Meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government on COVID 19 The third round of the meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government on the COVID 19 Pandemic was convened by Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union, on 22 April 2020. This was a follow up to the two previous meetings (26 March and 3 April) of the Bureau of the Assembly on the same subject. The meeting brought together nine Heads of State and Government, including Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minster of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission and his team participated in the meeting. This round also included African Business Leaders to reflect on the AU strategy to combat COVID-19, and solicit their support for the effective and successful implementation of the strategy. It is to be recalled that at its meeting on 26 March 2020, the Bureau decided to establish a COVID-19 Response Fund and pledged financial support towards the efforts of the African Center for Disease Control (ACDC). Significant contributions were made by members of the Bureau and the private sector leaders towards both initiatives. The Bureau called on the rest of the AU Member States, the international community, and philanthropic entities to also contribute to these initiatives. President Cyril Ramaphosa underscored the devastating socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on African countries, and accordingly, emphasized the need for rapid and concrete support from international partners to ensure that trade and investment flows are not further disrupted by any measures that are not consistent with WTO rules during this extraordinary global shock. The Chairperson of AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat briefed the Meeting on the substantive progress made in operationalizing the COVID – 19 Response Fund, including the appointment of a Board of Trustees, as well as the legal framework of the governance and operational structure to ensure accountability and transparency. The Heads of State and Government and Business Leaders also expressed their strong support for a two-year debt standstill, as well as a proposal to addressing the private debt of African countries. In order to ensure effective implementation of the Africa COVID-19 response strategy, the Heads of State and Government agreed to convene a meeting with the Heads of State and Government who chair Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as soon as possible. This is instrumental to create synergy and coordination between national, regional, and continental efforts in tackling the Pandemic. The Heads of State and Government also encouraged the Business Leaders to establish a private sector platform to develop further proposals to support the Continental response strategy for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau of the Assembly once again reiterated its unwavering support to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its role in the fight against COVID-19, under the able stewardship of its Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. ***************** INTERPOL launches a three-year Support Program to AFRIPOL An online ceremony has launched INTERPOL’s operational working relationship with AFRIPOL, the African Union (AU) Mechanism for Police Cooperation on Tuesday (April 28), a statement issued by AFRIPOL indicated. According to the statement, the two organizations will now implement their joint action plan to position AFRIPOL as a strategic Pan-African policing partner and strengthen Africa’s fight against terrorism, organized and emerging crime, and cybercrime. The ceremony follows an agreement signed between INTERPOL and the AU in January 2019 to work together in tackling serious global crime. During the kick-off event, senior law enforcement leaders from both organizations underlined the importance of INTERPOL’s global network and policing capabilities in shaping a coordinated response in African law enforcement operations. “With region-specific capabilities an essential part of INTERPOL’s global police response, this new working relationship is the natural continuation of our long-standing work with African law enforcement, and we look forward to tackling Pan-African crime holistically, effectively, and together,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. Law enforcement cooperation is vital to global security,” said Dr. Tarek Sharif, Executive Director of AFRIPOL, emphasizing that criminals are highly organized and collaborative, resulting in serious transnational organized crime. He expressed optimism that the joint program will enable concrete cooperation in addressing crime on the African Continent. Due to the forged powerful partnership between the two organizations, the statement said: “ AFRIPOL will now have access to INTERPOL’s wide range of global criminal databases and secure police communications network called I-24/7, enabling it to work directly with law enforcement in each of INTERPOL’s 194 member countries.” INTERPOL opened its Special Representative Office to the AU four years ago to build on the strength of its four African Regional Bureaus – Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zimbabwe – and National Central Bureaus across Africa. Its AU office works to support the voice of law enforcement at the African Union as part of the efforts to strengthen security in Africa. Regarding cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, the Statement said: “With the kick-off event coinciding with the global pandemic currently exposing police to contamination in the line of duty, INTERPOL has issued guidelines for the safety of law enforcement agencies in Africa and beyond. As criminal groups continue to exploit social and economic changes generated by COVID-19, INTERPOL has alerted its member countries to associated crimes through its global threat assessment report that is updated regularly based on the experiences of its 194 member countries. The COVID-19 pandemic in Africa has seen increased cases of cybercrime, counterfeit drugs, and domestic and sexual violence.” According to the statement, INTERPOL will also provide operational support to its African counterpart. “INTERPOL has a long history of working with Africa’s law enforcement to support field operations against terrorism, cybercrime and a wide range of organized crime including human trafficking, fake pharmaceuticals, drugs, and environmental crime. INTERPOL is currently implementing throughout Africa a multi-million Euro project called “I-One” to equip National Central Bureaus with high-tech IT equipment and training to ensure sustainable law enforcement capabilities and security,” the statement reads. Similarly, INTERPOL’s WAPIS Programme enables effective collection of police information through a centralized national system and helps African law enforcement share information collected at the national, regional, and international levels. Today’s kick-off event represents the operational implementation of an INTERPOL – AFRIPOL joint action plan in line with the cooperation agreement, AFRIPOL’s five-year strategy, and work plan (2020-2024) and INTERPOL’s Strategy and Business plan for Africa, the statement added. According to the press release, Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is sponsoring the project for the next three years (April 2020 – March 2023).

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