This weekend, the African World Festival returns to Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for its 38th year. The free, three-day event features food, fashion, music, dance performances and more that celebrate African American history and African culture.“It’s an exciting one, because we missed out last year,” said Edward Foxworth III, the museum’s director of external affairs and marketing. “It is a weekend of entertainment, family and youth activities.”The musical lineup for the event will include Sunshine Anderson on Friday, Grammy Award-winner Angelique Kidjo on Saturday and Tim Bowman Jr. on Sunday. Other activities include the Rock the Runway Fashion Show and African drummers and dancers, as well as more than 160 vendors of Afro-centric souvenirs, visual arts, hand crafts, apparel and food. A youth/family area, entitled Watoto Village, will feature storytellers and a school supply/book giveaway, as well as a special appearance from Detroit Pistons players.“It’s free, it’s family-oriented, and it’s outdoors,” he said, “and it’s one of the last major activities people can experience before fall and winter come.”In addition to celebration, the festival will also discuss challenges facing African Americans, including the shootings of unarmed black people, systematic racism and the area’s recent flooding.On Saturday, Detroit City Councilwoman Pro Tem Mary Sheffield will give a Unity Walk, where she will discuss diversity and inclusion.“Her whole thing is to bring people together under one roof, so we’re not just there having a great time but we’re talking about things that relate to the challenges that African Americans are experiencing,” Foxworth said.New this year is an outdoor, augmented reality exhibit that explores the journey of African Americans. In it, participants scan panels with their cell phones to learn more about specific topics through interactive experiences, like animations and interviews, that will appear on their phones. It will be unveiled at the festival and remain for the foreseeable future.“We really think that young people and families are going to get a lot out of this, because it will allow them to have a lot of fun and interact with the imagery of the exhibit,” Foxworth said.Due to COVID, this year’s event will be outside only, though the museum will be open with extended hours. Those interested in visiting the museum must sign up for a timed admission on www.thewright.org. All guests, vaccinated or not, are asked to wear masks, and chairs for main-stage events will be socially distanced. The Detroit Health Department will also be doing vaccinations, as well as providing free screenings for COVID and HIV.Foxworth said it was important for people to be able to interact with others who look like, act like and talk like themselves around a weekend of shared culture, but the festival is for anyone who loves history, art and culture.“This is an opportunity for everyone to learn more about African American history and culture,” he said. “We hope that sensitivity will increase better understanding and unity.”The 38th Annual African World Festival will take place from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Aug. 20-22 on the grounds of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History at 315 E. Warren Avenue, Detroit. Entrance is free. For details, visit www.thewright.org/events/african-world-festival.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The coronavirus is sweeping across Africa at a pace not seen before in the pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, highlighting the severity of a third wave driven by the spread of the Delta variant.One million Covid infections were reported on the continent in the past month alone, pushing the overall caseload to six million, according to the W.H.O., which urged wealthier nations to distribute more vaccine doses.Over a month, that is the fastest growth of new cases so far in Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the health organization’s director for the continent, said in an online news conference. By comparison, it previously took three months to go from four million to five million total cases.“Africa’s third wave continues its destructive pathway, pushing past yet another grim milestone,” Dr. Moeti said.The situation in at least 18 African countries paints a grim picture, and with limited vaccine supplies, many nations on the continent have been unable to contain a new surge in infections. Unlike in places like the United States or Europe, where inoculations are relatively widespread, the effect of the Delta variant in Africa has seen hospitalizations rise, while deaths have surged 43 percent in the past week on the continent. Adding to the dangers posed by the virus are additional risks faced by people living with H.I.V., according to a new study. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to two-thirds of H.I.V. cases worldwide.The Delta variant has been detected in 21 of Africa’s 54 countries, with Algeria, Malawi and Senegal among the countries experiencing a surge in infections.The resurgence has pushed several governments to impose new lockdown measures, including restricting movement between cities, extending curfew hours, and shutting down schools.The coronavirus has left already-fragile health systems even more strained, overwhelming doctors and nurses and draining limited oxygen supplies. At least five countries have reported shortages in intensive care beds, including South Africa, which has been particularly badly hit. Hospital admissions have increased in 10 others.A W.H.O. survey of six African countries during the current wave showed that they were producing only a third of the medical oxygen they needed. Dr. Moeti said that monoclonal antibodies, which have been recommended for high-risk patients, were out of reach for many Africans.Even as cases rise, only about one percent of people in Africa have been fully immunized. And of the continent’s population of more than a billion, just 52 million have received even one dose of a vaccine — that accounts for only about 1.6 percent of the 3.5 billion who have been vaccinated worldwide, according to the W.H.O.Dr. Jean-Jacques Mbungani Mbanda, the minister of public health in the Democratic Republic of Congo, urged wealthy nations to step up vaccine donations. Congo, where dozens of lawmakers have died after contracting the virus, has faced a severe wave, with more than 70 percent of the sequenced cases attributed to the Delta variant, Dr. Mbanda said on Thursday.“The vaccine is the only way to reduce the extent of deaths,” he added. Only 2.2 percent of Congo’s nearly 90 million people has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to a New York Times tracker. To ease the impact of the pandemic, African leaders, meeting in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan, on Thursday called for a three-year $100 billion infusion of emergency funding from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest nations.On Thursday, W.H.O. officials also pressed wealthier nations to steer away from considering booster shots and instead focus on their global responsibilities to ensure fair access to coronavirus vaccines.The pandemic is “nowhere near finished,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director general.Anna Schaverien
The coronavirus crisis has gravely impacted the tourism sector in Africa. Elcia Grandcourt from the UN World Tourism Organization says what needs to be done to reboot the industry.
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As if the struggle to secure its meager supplies of coronavirus vaccines wasn’t bad enough, Africa is now having a hard time getting people to take them. Only 5.22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have been vaccinated, a region with a population of about a billion.
From suspicions about Chinese-made vaccines in Zimbabwe and conspiracy theories in Ivory Coast about covid-19 being “a planned event by foreign actors” to Somalia, where the Islamist militant al-Shabaab group is warning people they’re “guinea pigs” for AstraZeneca, large sections of Africans are steering clear of vaccines. Only about 17.5% of the doses available in Ivory Coast and 19% in Zimbabwe have found their way into arms. Already lagging behind the rest of the world in its inoculations, the wave of vaccine skepticism — made worse by a lack of trust in local governments and misinformation on social media — threatens to put the continent even further behind.
“There’s a lot of fear and suspicion surrounding the vaccines,” said Salomon Sadia Koui, a 32-year-old nurse who waited for people to turn up at a white vaccination tent at the Parc des Sports de Treichville in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. “Women ask if the shot will make them sterile. They believe it’s a way to control the population because Africans have too many children.”
Vaccine hesitancy is standing in the way of efforts by African governments to head off successive waves of the virus. A prolonged pandemic will delay the continent’s recovery, already forecast by the International Monetary Fund to be the slowest region to revive. It will also provide a fertile breeding ground for virus variants that are reducing the efficacy of some of the vaccines used across the rest of the world.
The reluctance to get inoculated comes as the relentless pace of deaths from the pandemic continues unabated. Having claimed more than 3 million lives across the globe since it emerged in 2019, the virus’s burden is increasingly being borne by some of the poorest places on the planet.
Africa is relying primarily on the AstraZeneca shots supplied by Covax — the initiative backed by the WHO, the vaccine alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to offer doses cheaply to developing countries. The program has delivered about 11.5 million doses to sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Senegal and other countries have received doses donated by China, Russia and India.Even as vaccines start to trickle in, a deep distrust of government is becoming one of the biggest obstacles medical authorities face.
“A majority of Nigerians do not believe the disease is as serious as the federal government is trying to portray,” said Ifeoluwa Asekun-Olarinmoye, a public health lecturer and epidemiologist at Babcock University in Nigeria.
In Ivory Coast, a survey by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that two out of three Ivorians feel the threat from covid-19 is exaggerated. More than two fifths believe the disease was planned by “foreign actors,” Africa CDC said in February. One of the world’s first countries to receive shots from the Covax initiative, Ivory Coast is barely using the doses, having inoculated only about 94,800 people, or 0.4% of its population.
Elsewhere, the disease is seen as a scheme by the elites to profit.
“When international organizations and donor countries started announcing their intention to pump in financial assistance, Cameroon announced its first case,” said Fidelis Mbawah, a post graduate student in Yaounde, the country’s capital. “This is a ploy to make money.”
It doesn’t help that the official numbers for Africa are relatively small, registering just 4.43 million cases and 117,890 deaths, a fifth of the number of people who have died in the U.S. alone.
Anecdotally, however, poorly-equipped hospitals across the continent have groaned under the strain of people infected with covid-19. Testing is sparse and accurate record keeping is rare. In South Africa, the continent’s most developed nation, the number of excess deaths is triple the official tally of almost 54,000, and scientists say they’re almost all due to covid-19.
That hasn’t helped the case for vaccination. In Zimbabwe, a country plagued by poor governance and economic collapse for two decades, the barrier that hesitancy presents is particularly stark. A March survey by the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance of 561 people showed 75% unwilling to be vaccinated.
The source of its supplies, China, inhibits many from taking the shots. The ruling party, in power for all 41 years since independence, has had a close relationship with Beijing since a liberation war in the 1970s. Anti-China sentiment has risen in tandem with antipathy toward the government.
Teachers are “concerned and suspicious, more so since the vaccine came from China,” said Takavafira Zhou, president of the 200,000-strong Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, whose members are eligible for the shots in the first inoculation phase. “Very few are willing to be vaccinated.”
Of the 1.635 million doses that have arrived in the country just over 311,900 have been administered, with the daily number inoculated falling to as low as 140 on March 10.
The low numbers are despite government efforts across Africa to encourage citizens to get vaccinated. Politicians in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have been among the first to receive shots and both Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, have publicly taken vaccines. In Ivory Coast, the government mounted social media campaigns including Facebook Live events and in Zimbabwe the health ministry has used animated videos on Twitter to urge citizens to visit inoculation sites.
The continent’s health leaders say they are confident the rollout will eventually succeed.
“There’s an element of fear, which leads to misinformation and can make the population reluctant to accept a vaccine,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, said at a March Briefing. “As people receive their vaccines this will shift. When they see people they know receive the vaccines this will hopefully lead to an increase of people who are willing to get vaccinated.”
Many front-line health workers are less sanguine.
“We fear that people won’t accept the vaccine when it arrives here,” said Jean-Marie Kongoue, a nurse in the northern Ivory Coast town of Odienne. “Some people can’t read and don’t follow the news. They listen more to friends and family who tell them not to get the vaccine. Others don’t believe the virus exists.”
Outsource Moneti, an Atlanta-based IAD, has launched its commercial and technical operations in the West and Central Africa region, making it the first American independent ATM deployer to operate in the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union as well as the six countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, according to a company press release.”We are thrilled and excited to start our company’s journey in Africa,” Mika Diol, founder and CEO of Outsource Monetic, said in the press release “Thanks to the mindset, skills, and capabilities of the team, we have the foundation of success in our mission to innovate and reshape the ATM channel in the 14 African countries we operate in. We are bringing users new ways of interaction by modernizing and adding up valued-added services to the ATMs.”Outsource Monetic will run its African operations from an office in Dakar as the hub for Africa West activities and from the Lomé office as the hub for Africa Central operations.Local remote teams will be established in each of the 14 countries to supervise, operate and service the network of ATMs rolled out by the startup.
African recoveries Union (3,901,061) Member by States region:(55) reporting COVID-19 cases (4,343,062), deaths (115,464 and recoveries (3,901,061) by region:
Central (143,782 cases; 2,317 deaths; 129,033 recoveries): Burundi (3,119; 6; 1,155), Cameroon (61,731; 919; 56,926), CAR (5,569; 75; 5,112), Chad (4,619; 167; 4,279), congo (10,084; 137; 9,286), DRC (28,542; 745; 25,841), Equatorial Guinea (7,219; 106; 6,799), Gabon (20,636; 127; 17,456), Sao Tome and Principe (2,263; 35; 2,179)
Eastern (542,862; 9,709; 412,963): Comoros (3,789; 146; 3,577), Djibouti (9,876; 96; 7,985), Eritrea (3,447; 10; 3,166), Ethiopia (227,255; 3,146; 169,038), Kenya (145,670; 2,348; 99,095), Madagascar (28,063; 500; 23,940), Mauritius (1,192; 14; 774), Rwanda (23,343; 314; 21,072), Seychelles (4,395; 24; 4,091), Somalia (11,978; 576; 5,058), south Sudan (10,372; 114; 10,090), Sudan (31,833; 2,063; 24,214), Tanzania” (509; 21; 178), Uganda (41,140; 337; 40,685)
Northern: 1, 286, 138; 36,950; 1,124,498): Algeria (118,286; 3,126; 82,553), Egypt (209,677; 12,405; 159,054), Libya (167,825; 2,823; 152,921), Mauritania (18,012; 450; 17,322), Morocco (501,688; 8,891; 488,015), Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (353; 20; 236), Tunisia (270,297; 9,235; 224,397)
Southern (1,926,620; 60,670; 1,820,172): Angola (23,331; 550; 21,890), Botswana (42,674; 636; 38,203), Eswatini (17,373; 669; 16,645), Lesotho (10, 707; 315; 4,674), Malawi (33,805; 1,127; 31,360), Mozambique (68,578; 789; 58,283), Namibia (45,323; 564; 43,555), South Africa (53,256; 1,482,682), Zarnbia (90,029; 1,226; 88,018), Zimbabwe (37,273; 1,538; 34,862)
Western (443,660; 5,818; 414,395): Benin (7,515; 93; 6,452), Burkina Faso (12,956; 152; 12,593), cabo verde (18,836; 181; 17,143), cote d’Ivoire (45,145; 261; 44,473), Gambia (5,602; 168; 5,145), Ghana (91,260; 754; 89,092), Guinea (20,807; 133; 18,473), Guinea Bissau (3,678; 66; 3,059), Liberia (2,042; 85; 1,899), Mali (11,705; 405; 7,101), Niger (5,072; 188; 4,747), Nigeria (163, 736; 2,060; 154,098), Senegal (39,364; 1,077; 38,101), Sierra Leone (3,995; 79; 2,829), Togo (11,947; 116; 9,190)
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).Media filesDownload logoCoronavirus: African Union Member States reporting COVID-19 cases as of 11 April 2021, 6 pm EAT
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KAMATSAMO, SOUTH AFRICA – It is hard to see COVID-19 here, in the small village of KaMatsamo. Goats pick their way through a path that runs from the highway, the main thoroughfare in this South African town of some 23,000 people. On a recent day, most residents were not diligently wearing masks outdoors, as is the law. About half were.
Africa’s megacities will bear deep scars from this coronavirus pandemic. But 59% of the continent’s population lives in rural areas, according to the World Bank, and large-scale lockdowns have effectively sealed off these rural areas — for better and for worse, residents say.
On a recent fall day, VOA spoke to a group of residents who had gathered by the side of the road in this town just 12 square kilometers in size. Several said they knew of someone who had contracted COVID-19 — but most said that they did not think the virus itself has penetrated their community to the extent that it has urban areas.
But the pandemic is deeply felt here, say residents — who point not to death tolls, but to economic and social devastation. South Africa is the continent’s epicenter, with more than 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 52,000 deaths.
Phakade Sambo is a bright 22-year-old with a dream — one that she said the pandemic has slashed.
“It’s been a problem — like, a really problem, a big problem — to me,” she said.
She wants to learn a trade and, eventually, set up her own carpentry shop.
“I can’t continue with my carpentry studies,” she said, after re-adjusting an already neat row of avocados at her roadside stall. “I just stopped, and I can’t even start my own business because the money is too low. People are complaining they can’t even buy this fruit, they are complaining They say it’s too much money, I’m being expensive or something. They say that.”
Data about COVID’s impact on Africa’s urban-rural divide is still being gathered. But one recent study from a group of Nigerian and British researchers warns that rural African communities risk being left behind in the pandemic because of the lack of amenities like good road networks, clinics and hospitals.
Freddy Nkosi, Congo country director at VillageReach, an NGO that focuses on remote, rural low-income countries, says the big efforts like, say, vaccination, are that much more difficult in rural settings.
“You need to keep the vaccines in the cold-chain environments and you need to train the people who will transport the vaccines,” he said. “You need to train the people who will be using the vaccines, I mean the health workers. So getting all these different pieces of puzzles in the very short period of time, that’s very, very challenging.”
For a town like KaMatsamo, which is less than a day’s drive from Johannesburg, that is doable. And for that reason, residents say they feel safer here than in the city.
“It’s better to stay in a small place because we have small [number of] people, than in big cities,” said supermarket worker Sam Limana. “Because in the big cities, because there’s a lot of people, some of them, they don’t know about COVID, they’re stubborn, they don’t know about this, they don’t care about this.”
“I think around the rural area, it’s much better than the city, because there’s not a lot of people,” said security guard Zama Changela, who said he lost a colleague to the virus. “I think it’s safe to be in a rural area.” But VillageReach South Africa director Nkosi says his experience in the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa is concerning.
“I travel in over five provinces so far, where I see a disparity between what is happening in the urban area, or in Kinshasa, and what is happening in most of the rural areas, where, for example, if I have to start with the health workers and commit to health workers in the rural areas, they have limited access to personal protective equipment compared to those who are in the urban areas,” he said.
But here is the thing: rural African life has always been rich, complex and — perhaps above all — resilient. For hundreds of years, this area was a settlement of the Shongwe Matsamo people, a brave society who valiantly defended the Swazi king against attacks.
And then, in the late 1800s: catastrophe. Within a few years, this whole village was wiped out by smallpox.
This pandemic, too, could end up being another blip in its long history.
The presence of power is often taken for granted. Take Mthokosizi Ntumba, killed by the South African Police Service while caught up in recent student protests at Wits University. It seems that no matter how many civilians are tortured, harassed and killed by the police, nor how many stories abound of corruption and incompetence in the institution, South Africans see no urgent need to ask whether this power structure actually serves their needs.
Like the police, monarchies have evaded questions regarding their relevance and the contemplation of a society where they no longer exist.
There exist forms of authority so pervasive, so blended into our understanding of the world and rooted in our political landscape, they seem to transcend time and rise above criticism. Like antique furniture, royal families have preserved themselves through conflict and seismic societal change, the purpose of their dusty presence rarely questioned because “they’ve just always been there”.
Initially resisting colonial conquest, so-called “tribal” leadership reluctantly made compromises throughout the 20th century, most clearly in the establishment of Bantustans. Utilising methods of indirect rule, colonial and apartheid governments manipulated indigenous leaders to control black populations to serve the interests of white domination. This ethos of compromise shaped the ANC in our transition to democracy and resulted in chiefs’ integration into post-apartheid South Africa.
But does the existence of these miniature monarchies not collide with our attempt to animate democracy? How can we reconcile its indispensable values — that all people are equal and entitled to freedom — with hereditary kings, who monopolise power through the justification of birthright? Power is always wielded over others. It demands submission and enforces control. If equality and freedom are the precious values we say they are, authority must be justified. As Noam Chomsky says, if power cannot be justified, then it is illegitimate.
News of the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu swarmed headlines: he was one of Africa’s most iconic monarchs.
A conflict rose within me. On the one hand I am Zulu, not the most fervently traditional perhaps, but fascinated by my people’s tumultuous history and proud of our heritage nonetheless. The notion of ubuntu, that “I am because we are”, which emphasises the importance and interconnectedness of all people, is a truth I hold steadfast.
It’s a moral truth that has been lost to excess individualism and shallow appeals for unity void of solidarity.
Ubuntu has radical political implications. Because all life is immeasurably valuable, any structure that disregards people’s dignity and exploits others for its own interests must be harshly criticised. Zwelithini was a part of such a structure.
The divine right of kings
The supremacy of royalty often relied on supernatural validation, usually reinforced by religious institutions. The right to rule was once and sometimes is still seen as divinely sanctified by the heavens, ancestors or other spiritual forces. We can’t risk being lulled into these distortions of what the true functions of concentrated power are.
Monarchies have historically relied on force to amass and nourish their power throughout the ages. Kingdoms are forged in the bloodbath of war and then sustained through strategic self-interested politicking.
Neither might nor hereditary succession justifies the right to rule. The Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims has been entangled in determining who are legitimate customary authorities. There are significant material and political benefits to being bestowed with legitimate indigenous royal authority or “chieftaincy”. But no one is born to lead; the opportunity to serve others through leadership must be granted through the informed and collective consent of the people.
It is exactly the tyranny of concentrated power, whether in the Palace of Versailles or through the draconian policies of apartheid, that has driven the pleas for leaders to be accountable, effective and disposable when necessary. Indigenous leadership, before and after 1994, has disastrously failed to meet these criteria.
The Ingonyama Trust: serfdom in democracy
The dismantling of African societies and the subjugation of their people could not have occurred without severing and dramatically transforming the precolonial relationship to land. Land was once communally owned under the custodianship of an indigenous leadership, for the collective sustenance of a people — this communalism applied to all means of production. Access to these resources varied depending on the customs and beliefs of a particular polity.
Colonisation, the arrival of markets and industrialisation meant land could be privately owned, its riches extracted for profit by the newly inducted subjects of empire and settler enterprise in exchange for pitiful wages. Mass poverty, once unknown in African societies, became a fact of modernity for indigenous peoples — one that persists into the present.
The Ingonyama Trust, resulting from negotiations between the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the then ruling National Party on the eve of democracy, is a fund used to manage land owned by the KwaZulu-Natal government in the interests of its citizens. Zwelithini was the sole trustee, essentially entitling his rule with approximately three-million hectares of land, which represents about 30% of all land in the province.
Has this monopolistic control over land benefited the ordinary people of KwaZulu-Natal? Sadly, the Zulu monarchy has failed its people. Through the Ingonyama Trust, and the lucrative benefits of holding some influence over the province’s government, the dispossession resulting from colonial domination has been sustained throughout the province.
KwaZulu-Natal is one of the country’s poorest provinces. Its development has been hindered by political violence and corruption, and compounded by crime, gender-based violence, food insecurity, HIV infections and unemployment. Through “permission to occupy” certificates, the Trust receives R100 on all lease agreements in areas under its jurisdiction for developmental programmes, but an estimated R100‑million has not improved living standards of most citizens.
Meanwhile, indigenous leaders receive generous government salaries. The Zulu royal house recently received a budget increase of R4.5‑million. This totals to R71.3‑million for 2020. The inequity of such salaries should be distressing. As citizens went hungry across the province, food insecurity increased by the stringent lockdown, leaders live in opulence that millions of South Africans will never obtain. The lottery of birth cannot determine who is and isn’t entitled to well-being.
In 2018, Zwelithini took the decision to turn permission-to-occupy certificates into long-term lease and rental agreements, the prices reportedly ranging from R1 500 to R7 000. This decision was challenged by the Rural Women’s Movement, which highlighted how severely poverty and landlessness affected women in rural areas. These activists emphasised that security of tenure was pivotal to financial security.
Across KwaZulu-Natal there are communities that feel neglected by the Ingonyama Trust. They ask why they are forced to pay rent to live on the land of their ancestors? Even when rent is paid, the fruits of these tributes to the monarchy are often not seen.
Authority that avoids justification will respond with hostility. In 2018 a parliamentary high-level panel declared the Ingonyama Trust to be unconstitutional, finding that “there is little evidence that the revenue generated by leases is used for the benefit of communities or their material well-being”.
The Zulu king responded not with an openness to criticism but rather the threat of secession. With this threat, memories of the brutal violence between the IFP and ANC during and after the country’s transition reminded many of how the king’s influence can manifest into dangerous political action.
Is it fair that one unelected man can speak for millions, essentially holding the government hostage to his will and threatening to ignite civil war?
One can accept the role of indigenous leaders as custodians of culture and symbols of heritage, especially those that might have been lost to the imperatives of colonialism and apartheid. But pursuing this mandate does not require an excessive amount of authority, money or political leverage.
As Africans — because of the traumatic whiplash of colonisation and the onslaught of its subsequent mutations — at times we attempt to freeze ourselves in time, latching onto romantic visions of life just before encounters with European power. We avoid difficult but necessary questions about our cultures, histories and heritage. To realise the freedom that has long been struggled for, we must ask if our institutions serve all people and begin reinventing our futures.
A transitional government in Libya has taken power officially beginning a tenure designed to end with democratic elections late this year.
In the capital Tripoli on Tuesday, Fayez Sarraj, head of the outgoing United Nations-supported administration in western Libya, transferred power to Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, and Mohammad Younes Menfi, who chairs a three-member Presidential Council.
The ceremony in Tripoli came a day after Dbeibah and his Cabinet were sworn in before lawmakers and Libya’s top judges in the eastern town of Tobruk.
Lawmakers had already endorsed the interim government last week amid international pressure to implement a U.N.-brokered political roadmap.
That roadmap, agreed to by a U.N.-picked Libyan political forum last year, set Dec. 24 for general elections in the oil-rich country.
The unexpectedly smooth transfer of power is seen as an important step to end the chaos in the North African country.
The lack of a proper handover among legislators in 2014 was a major factor in the split of Libya’s institutions.
The presence of thousands of foreign forces and mercenaries is another major challenge.
The U.N. Security Council last week called for countries with troops and mercenaries in Libya to withdraw them “without delay.”
The U.N. has estimated that there are 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya, including Syrians, Turkish, Sudanese and Russians brought to the country by the rival sides.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.
The country was in recent years split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
More than half of African countries have now received Covid-19 vaccines, through a mixture of direct donations from countries such as China, Russia, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and deliveries through the World Health Organisation’s Covax scheme.
Healthcare workers, African governments and humanitarian organisations continue to call on rich countries to aid with vaccine provision, saying that many more are needed.
On Monday, Sierra Leone launched its vaccination programme with an event at the State House in the capital, Freetown. President Julius Maada Bio was the first citizen to get the injection. He called on other political leaders to lead by example and prove to their people that the vaccines were safe.
Sierra Leone, which has a population of about 8 million, has so far received 200,000 SinoPharm vaccines, as a donation from China, and 96,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines through the Covax scheme.
Irish ambassadorPresent at the launch was Irish ambassador Lesley Ní Bhriain, who said the country’s initial response was very proactive in terms of closing the airport and encouraging prevention strategies, but the vaccination programme will bring a better level of security.
“It’s important here because the health system is very fragile,” Ms Ní Bhriain said. “Being able to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers means they at least have some protection. The chances of surviving here [if you get Covid-19] are much lower compared even to a middle-income country.”
When the pandemic began, Ms Ní Bhriain said, there were just two ventilators in Sierra Leone. “There isn’t a reliable power supply. There aren’t a sufficient number of healthcare workers paid to care for somebody.”
Ireland has allocated €5 million to the international vaccine response for 2021.
As of March 12th, Covax had delivered more than 14.6 million vaccine doses to 23 African countries.
There have now been more than 4 million confirmed coronavirus cases across the African continent, and 108,064 deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, more than 1.5 million confirmed cases and nearly half of the continent’s deaths were in South Africa.
Limited testing capacitySome of the low figures elsewhere are believed to be a result of a limited testing capacity, but researchers have also theorised that there could be a variety of reasons the disease has not affected the continent as badly as was anticipated, including youthful populations, lifestyle differences and previous experience dealing with outbreaks of disease.
While border closures, curfews and other measures slowed the spread of Covid-19, the economic impact has been devastating for many Africans.
“We need global solidarity and vaccine justice for Africa,” said the president of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, speaking at the launch of the African Economic Outlook 2021 report last week.
According to analysis by the International Rescue Committee, surplus vaccines bought by the UK, EU and US could vaccinate everyone above the age of 16 in the 20 countries they have identified as being most at risk of a major new humanitarian crisis in the coming year.
That includes Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.