Sunday, January 31, 2021

Africa to Get 1 Billion Doses of Vaccines by December

31 JAN, 2021 - 00:01 

Zimbabwe Sunday Mail Correspondent

THE African Union Special Envoy on the Covid-19 crisis, Mr Strive Masiyiwa, says Africa will get more than one billion doses of vaccines by year-end.

In May 2020, the African Union appointed Masiyiwa as a special envoy to rally the private sector to provide solutions to Covid-19, while helping the continent to source personal protective equipment (PPE) and other material to combat the pandemic.

Speaking recently, Mr Masiyiwa said international donors had already pledged 700 million free doses this year under the global finance initiative, Covax.

This would be enough to vaccinate at least 27 percent (324 million out of 1,2 billion people) of the African population.

Based on advice from scientists at the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC), the continent must vaccinate 750 million (60 percent) of its population to stop the virus spreading.

Governments around the world, including the United States and Europe, have set even higher targets.

Africa is trying to secure more vaccines directly by purchasing on a pooled basis to get better prices.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa has set up a taskforce that is negotiating with manufactures on behalf of the continent.

So far the taskforce has secured an additional 300 million doses, as well as loans for those countries that cannot afford.

Mr Masiyiwa said small shipments will begin as early as this February, but substantive quantities will only start to flow to every country by April.

He added that the Vaccine Acquisition TaskForce was extremely confident it would secure the additional 500 million doses needed to reach 60 percent in a matter of weeks.

He warned, however, that preparations for rolling out large volumes of vaccines needed to start right away because the task was not going to be easy.

All vaccines will be distributed on an equitable basis through the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, an e-commerce website that allows countries to receive donations and to buy supplies.

Africa's Second Wave Could be Associated with Emergence of New Variants: Africa CDC

Sunday, January 31, 2021

A teacher measures the temperature of a pupil before school starts at the CR Swart High School in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 8, 2020.

Christian Kotze | AFP

Xinhua News Agency

At least 40 countries have experienced a second wave of the pandemic as of January 27, including all countries in the Southern Africa region, the Africa CDC said.

According to the latest figures from the Africa CDC, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the African continent stood at 3,534,360 as of Saturday morning.

Addis Ababa

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has noted that the ongoing second wave Covid-19 infections could be associated with the emergence of variants that are more transmissible.

"Africa is currently experiencing an increase in the number of confirmed Covid19 cases," the African Union (AU) Commission's specialized healthcare agency said in its latest publication on Saturday.

At least 40 countries have experienced a second wave of the pandemic as of January 27, including all countries in the Southern Africa region, the Africa CDC said.

"This new wave of infections is thought to be associated with the emergence of variants that are more transmissible," the Africa CDC said.

According to the agency, preliminary findings show that three new similar but distinct Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants, the 501Y/VUI - 202012/01, 501Y.V2, 501Y.V3, reported in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, respectively, "are significantly more transmissible than previously circulating variants, with high viral shedding observed among cases."

Despite the fact that there is currently limited data on the extent to which these new variants have spread in Africa, the Africa CDC stressed that preliminary data show that the 501Y.V2 variant has been reported in 22 countries globally including South Africa, Ghana, Botswana and Zambia.


The Africa CDC is presently working with partners and member states to map the regional spread of the new variants in Africa through regional genomic surveillance; and support laboratory centers of excellence to address the emerging SARS-CoV-2 sequencing needs of Member States and ensure availability of geographically representative and timely data.

Providing technical guidance for genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in Africa; ensuring quality-assured sequencing by specialized laboratories and regional laboratory hubs; and strengthen the capacity of national and regional laboratories to effectively respond to the emerging sequencing needs are also said to be the major Africa CDC intervention areas in the fight against the pandemic.

According to the latest figures from the Africa CDC, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the African continent stood at 3,534,360 as of Saturday morning. According to the agency's dashboard, the death toll related to the pandemic in Africa was at 89,839 as of Saturday morning.

A total of 3,014,896 people infected with Covid-19 have recovered across the continent, it was noted.

The Southern Africa region is the most affected area in Africa in terms of the number of confirmed positive cases, followed by the northern Africa region, according to the agency.

Fierce Gunfight as Suspected Al-Shabaab Attack Mogadishu's Afrik Hotel

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The scene following twin car bombs that exploded within moments of each other in the Somali capital Mogadishu on November 9, 2018. Casualties are feared as a huge bomb exploded at Afrik Hotel in Mogadishu on January 31, 2021.

Abdirazak Hussein Farah | AFP

Xinhua News Agency

Casualties are feared as a huge bomb exploded at a popular hotel located along the main airport road in Mogadishu on Sunday, witnesses and police confirmed.

The police near the scene said suspected Al-Shabab fighters breached the Afrik Hotel's barrier and stormed the facility's grounds, prompting a fierce gunfight.

"Our forces are exchanging fire with the attackers, we are trying to subdue them," the officer who did not want to be named told Xinhua on the phone.

Witnesses said they heard several blasts near the hotel.

They said the blast, which happened some minutes past 5 pm, caused massive damage to business premises around the highway and plumes of black smoke, which could be seen from a distance, engulfed the area.

"I heard huge blasts at the hotel and then a huge fire followed," Ismail Ahmed, a witness told Xinhua.

The Afrik Hotel is a popular hotel with government officials and located near Mogadishu airport.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack but al-Qaida allied terrorist group, al-Shabab usually stages such attacks in the capital and across the country.

Main Opposition to Boycott Republic of Congo Elections

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Republic of Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso, 77, who has held office for a total of 36 years

Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP



The Republic of Congo's main opposition party will boycott the March 21 elections in which President Denis Sassou Nguesso, in power for decades, is running for re-election.

The 77-year-old has held office for a total of 36 years, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in the world and head of a deeply poor nation.

The holding of the presidential election "must not divide us as it has done in the past", said Pascal Tsaty Mabiala, first secretary of the opposition group Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (Upads).

"We have unanimously decided not to take part in it, either directly, or by a proxy candidate," he added.

Upads — the group of former president Pascal Lissouba, who died in France last August — is the only opposition party to have a parliamentary group in the current national assembly.

Lissouba was overthrown in a brief civil war in 1997 by Sassou Nguesso, who had lost the country's first multi-party elections in 1992.

No age limit

In 2015, the country staged a referendum on removing a 70-year age limit and a ban on presidents serving more than two terms.

The move paved the way for Sassou Nguesso to secure a third term in 2016 elections that were marred by bloodshed and claims of fraud.

His rivals, former general Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and ex-minister Andre Okombi Salissa, disputed the results.

They were arrested, put on trial and each handed 20 years in jail on charges of undermining state security.

The country is in the grip of a deep economic crisis, triggered by the slump in oil prices but worsened by long-standing debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

7 Killed, 28 Injured as Angolan Police Confront Protesters

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Police officers are seen during an anti-government demonstration on the day of independence in Luanda, Angola, on November 11, 2020. On January 30, 2021, at seven people were killed during protests in Lunda Norte province.

Osvaldo Silva | AFP

By Arnaldo Vieira

Angola Correspondent

Nation Media Group

In a statement, however, the police service said it foiled an armed rebellion, organised by 300 members of the Lunda Tchokwe Protectorate Movement (LTPM), in self-defence.

Seven people were killed and 28 injured in Angola on Saturday as police quelled protests in Lunda Norte province, 656km north of the capital, Luanda.

The incident took place in Cafunfu village, Cuango Municipality.

In a statement, however, the police service said it foiled an armed rebellion, organised by 300 members of the Lunda Tchokwe Protectorate Movement (LTPM), in self-defence.

The police officers accused the demonstrators of attacking a police station in order to raise the movement’s flag.

LTPM’s head, José Mateus Zecamutchima, rejected the claim of an armed rebellion, saying it was a peaceful and orderly demonstration agitating for talks with the government about the region’s autonomy.

“The killing of seven demonstrators and the injuring of 28 others is a barbarous and cowardly act,” he said.

Fight for autonomy

LTPM, a political group set up in 2007, seeks the administrative and financial autonomy of the former Tchokwe Kingdom, which comprises the provinces of Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul, Moxico and Kuando Kubango.

Angola has extensive diamond reserves (estimated at 180 million carats), especially in the provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul in its north eastern region.

In 2007, the group sent its manifesto to the then President José Eduardo dos Santos asking for discussions on autonomy, but there was no feedback.

In 2017, the US Department of State, in its ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Angola, noted that LTPM members held several protests that year in a demand for autonomy.

It added that the government at times arbitrarily restricted the activities of associations it considered subversive by refusing to grant permits for organised activities.

Martí Among Us

On one anniversary of Martí’s birth, Fidel asked, "Why not erect a living monument to the beautiful, profound truth contained in Marti's axiom: "To be educated is the only way to be free?”

Author: Abel Prieto |

January 29, 2021 08:01:12

Photo: Roberto Chile

We have reached this January 28, 2021, having traveled a hard road, full of obstacles and traps, with the blockade tightened beyond all imaginable limits and a pandemic taking a lethal toll of more two million deaths on the planet.

Cuba's dignified resistance defeated the 240 measures imposed by Trump, intended to asphyxiate our economy and undermine the people's support for the Revolution. As President Díaz-Canel said, "They threw us to our death, and we are alive."

The subversive projects implemented with the use of mercenaries, "independent media" and social networks, only managed to fleetingly confuse a few people and add a new cartoonish chapter to the anti-Cuban campaign.

In the face of aggression by a frantic, rabid Goliath, sick with hatred and impotence, David appears as Martí always evoked him: a moral giant.

The small, besieged and slandered island has confronted covid-19 with scientific rigor, a spirit of solidarity and unquestionably positive results, both within its borders and in another 40 countries and territories. Ours is also among the very few nations that are making progress in the development of their own vaccines.

The Northern Empire, on the other hand, the world's greatest superpower, responded to the epidemic in a negligent, inhumane manner, focusing on the electoral and economic repercussions of the virus and not on those it had, and has, on the health of its citizens. The U.S. population is paying for the insensitivity of its rulers with the loss of many lives, particularly among the poorest.

At the same time, manipulations meant to discredit our doctors serving abroad failed in the face of the exemplary professionalism and generosity they leave wherever they are.

Martí was also obliged to respond to defamations launched in the U.S. press against his cause and his compatriots, and to defend, with passion and sound arguments, the capacity of Cubans to govern themselves and build a Republic free from the evils he saw and suffered in several Latin American countries and, above all, within the United States. A free, sovereign, just Cuba, capable of putting a brake on the imperial drive, along with Puerto Rico and other Antilles, and thus contribute to creating “the equilibrium” still lacking in the world.

The "stillborn who have no faith in their land" called him "crazy" for his convictions, integrity and patriotic fervor. Many years later, other cynical stillborns, the ideologues of neo-annexation, likewise lashed out at him and harshly dismissed his "delusions" about the destiny of an island they believed doomed to submission to the powerful neighbor.

Of course, they have similarly attacked his best disciple, Fidel, heir to this noble "madness," who founded a socialist, internationalist homeland, faithful to Martí’s ideas, and made transcendental contributions to equilibrium in the world.

On the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle, Fidel returned to Martí's influence on the protagonists of the assault on the Moncada:

"(...) from him we had received, above all, the ethical principles without which a revolution cannot even be conceived. From him we also received inspiring patriotism and such a superior concept of honor and human dignity that no one else in the world could have taught us."

This legacy that nurtured the Centennial Generation has, since 1959, become the patrimony of the great majority of the Cuban people and continues to be essential.

The struggle waged by the Apostle to counteract the advance among Latin American politicians and intellectuals of the Yankee "model" as an idealized paradigm, synonymous with "modernity", "development" and "freedom," has not lost its validity. That is why he endeavored so tirelessly to dismantle the myth. He denounced, among many other humiliating features of the supposed "model," the arrogance and hegemonic ambitions of "the American Rome," the obsessive cult of money as a cancer that gnaws at the foundations of that society and the control exercised by "colossal, opulent companies" in the elections.

He wrote these concise words about U.S. "democracy," "I do not want the people of my land to be like this one, an ignorant mass ruled by passions, who go where they are led, with noises they do not understand by those who play their passions as a pianist plays the keys."

Cultural decolonization is another basic component of Marti's thought. Although the pandemic revealed categorically the cruelty of neoliberalism and accelerated the empire’s decadence and declining credibility, the colonizing machinery of the advertising, information and entertainment industry maintains its effectiveness.

The decolonizing projects designed by Martí - from the Edad de Oro to his dazzling journalism - contain instruments of enormous value for the development of a cultured, free human being who cannot be manipulated, which is at the core of our educational project. In this field, he left unique lessons for his era and for the future, for Cuba, the Latin American and Caribbean region, and all humanity.

This is why Fidel asked so forcefully on one anniversary of Martí’s birth: "Why not erect a living monument to the beautiful, profound truth contained in Marti's apothegm: "To be educated is the only way to be free?”

Fidel was not proposing a sculpture or an obelisk. He was most likely thinking of the deep, full, continuous exercise of one of the key elements of his concept of Revolution, the one summoning us to "emancipate ourselves on our own and with our own efforts."

Investments to Expand Production of Bioproducts in Cuba

The availability of new facilities will free the country from the need to import such products, and support the use of ecological practices in Cuban agriculture

Author: Yudy Castro Morales |

January 29, 2021 08:01:34

Engineer Teobaldo Cruz in the Havana bioproducts plant’s fermentation area. Photo: Ariel Cecilio Lemus

Rooted in Fidel’s wisdom, like almost everything good between heaven and earth in Cuba, the use of bioproducts in agriculture dates back to the 1990s, when four production plants, located in the municipalities of Güira de Melena, Güines, Matanzas and Sancti Spíritus, saw the light of day under the guidance of our Comandante en jefe.

Engineer Teobaldo Cruz Méndez, lead investment specialist at the Labiofam State Enterprise Management Group (OSDE), is in charge of a project following the footsteps of those first facilities, looking to increase the country's production capacity for bioproducts approximately eight times over.

The investment plan includes three industrial complexes, located in Havana, Villa Clara and Granma, which are projected to meet practically the entire domestic demand for biofertilizers, biostimulants and biopesticides, in order to guarantee greater phytosanitary protection for crops.

A history of delays

The history of the bioproducts plant in Havana, still under construction, is much longer than it should be, repeatedly plagued by financial limitations and other problems that have unfortunately become commonplace in too many investment projects: delays, irregularities in planning and contracting...

Without passing judgment, briefly summarizing the course of the work is illustrative. At this point, 88% of the industrial erection has been completed and 99% of the civil works.

Teobaldo Cruz explained to Granma that plans for the Havana plant emerged in the first decade of the 2000s, that is, during that period the conceptual design and basic engineering were outlined, with a view toward manufacturing the bacterial control products Bactivec and Griselesf.

Some years later, however, it was determined that the facility could assume the manufacture of bioproducts, in addition to biological control products and Biorat to eliminate rodents and other pests.

This projection, very positive economically speaking, although delayed, began to take shape in 2012, a stage in which financial limitations began to have a stronger impact on the effort.

According to Cruz, the plant passed from one financier to another, until 2015 when the investment was resumed. From that time to date, the project has experienced a series of highs, lows and very lows in financial matters.

Nevertheless, beyond these tensions, the Havana facility still awaits completion of several subsystems and three fundamental systems, including electrical power distribution infrastructure, the waste treatment plant and the fire prevention system.

In the case of Villa Clara, fermentation elements are 65% complete, while work at the Granma plant is behind schedule.

Cruz reported that contracts have been signed with several Cuban companies to conclude work on the unfinished systems, which implies considerable savings.

"The total cost of the three plants comes to 50 million dollars and this collaboration with national industry has allowed savings of between 6 and 7 million dollars," he emphasized.

Two examples suffice to illustrate the savings. The rice scale, originally projected to cost $80,000 USD, can be made in Cuba for $26,000, additionally allowing for savings of 60% in expenses for materials initially conceived for civil construction.

The rice washing system, on the other hand, projected to cost 886,000 USD, can be manufactured by Cuban companies for approximately half that amount.

If all these alternatives can be concretized, the Labiofam investment specialist, stated, the Havana plant will be ready, with a minimum of conditions, by the last quarter of 2021, and Villa Clara, by the third quarter of 2022.

Increasing agricultural yields with new technology

More than a plant, the Havana facility is an industrial complex, capable of producing, in addition to Bactivec and Griselesf, 12 assortments of biofertilizers and biopesticides, and is studying the introduction of others compatible with submerged fermentation technology.

Cruz is confident that the Havana plant will reach its nominal capacity of 5,800,000 liters of fermented broth, equivalent to 3,800,000 liters of finished products. But production will increase in accordance with, among other aspects, agricultural demand and anti-vectorial campaigns.

He added that, in the specific case of bioproducts, the program, which not only includes the Havana industrial complex, but also those in Villa Clara and Granma, could provide supplies for one to 1.5 million hectares.

In addition, the four existing facilities are currently undergoing a capital renovation process based on two fundamental premises: nominal capacity and industrial reliability, in order to achieve higher levels of both production and efficiency.

Today, Cruz estimates, the production of Labiofam's four plants meets around 26% of the country’s total demand for bioproducts.

With the start-up of the new facilities, in addition to increasing production of biofertilizers and biopesticides, the enterprise plans to produce some 1,080 tons of Biorat per year, which will enable it to meet domestic demand and additionally export to other countries in the region.

Likewise, the production of the crop biostimulant Biobras 16, which can increase rice yields up to 25%, is also projected. Between the Havana and Villa Clara industrial complexes, the figures should reach 220,000 liters per year, the engineer reported.

The availability of these facilities, Teobaldo Cruz Méndez insisted, will, first of all, free the country from the need to import a considerable volume of products, and allow the Cuban industry to gradually develop a presence on the international market. In addition, the preparation of specialized technological packages for specific crops and planting seasons will be possible and, above all, the expansion will pave the way for our agriculture to develop at a higher ecological level.


The country produces today:

1,180 tons of biofertilizers.

1,200 tons of biopesticides.


2020 Plan: 568 tons of bioproducts, close to the volume obtained in 2019.

2021 Plan: 653 tons of bioproducts.

Source: Labiofam

Another Cuban Brigade Returns After Battling COVID-19 in Belize

In just one year of the COVID-19 battle, Cuba has traveled to every continent offering support to 40 countries

Author: Liz Conde Sánchez |

January 28, 2021 11:01:21

Photo: Jose M. Correa

With a message recognizing their work in Belize over more than nine months, the President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, welcomed to the homeland members of the Henry Reeve Contingent medical brigade offering assistance in the Central American nation, where they successfully completed the mission with which they were entrusted, battling the COVID-19 pandemic and providing assistance in several health institutions around the country.

"This brigade has done exemplary work providing coverage (...) in all this sister republic’s public institutions. The results achieved make us proud to have you as part of this army of white coats which has given a resounding demonstration of solidarity in these difficult times," the President stated to the 49 doctors who arrived in Havana January 23, a group including 20 women and 29 men from 12 provinces and the Isle of Youth special municipality, of whom 20 are specialists in General Comprehensive Medicine, one in Epidemiology, two in Clinical Laboratory, two in Imaging and two in Electromedicine, in addition to 22 registered nurses.

After receiving training in the different services provided by the Belize Public Health System, the Cuban professionals were distributed across the nation’s six regions, working in all public health institutions, as part of multidisciplinary teams with their Belizean counterparts and health care workers from other countries.

They conducted action research in institutions, communities, and border areas; assumed positions in emergency rooms and isolation units for COVID-19 patients in serious and critical condition; attended ambulatory patients in outpatient areas, providing hospital services, including those in the country’s mother-child program; and contributed with their experience in areas like diagnostic tools, special chemicals, and plasmapheresis, as well as in the repair and maintenance of medical equipment.

Antigen Testing of Suspected COVID-19 Patients in Havana

Given increasing numbers of new COVID-19 cases, the city’s polyclinics and hospitals have begun administering antigen tests to patients with symptoms indicative of a possible infection and capacity in isolation centers is being expanded

Author: Yudy Castro Morales |

January 26, 2021 10:01:29

Photo: ACN

Given the complex epidemiological situation in the capital, recently experiencing growing numbers of new COVID-19 cases, the city’s neighborhood polyclinics and hospitals have begun administering antigen tests for the virus to patients with symptoms indicative of a possible infection.

According to information presented in a meeting of the Provincial Defense Council, every facility of this type now has on hand the resources needed to provide the test, and depending on the result, can discard the presence of

SARS-COV-2 as the possible cause of illness in such cases.

According to established protocols, patients whose antigen test is negative are referred to hospitals specialized in treating non-COVID related respiratory illnesses, while those testing positive are transferred to isolation centers for suspected cases, where they will be given a PCR test, to definitively confirm whether or not they have been infected with the SARS-COV-2 virus.

According to an ACN report, Defense Council authorities insisted on the need to provide sufficient capacity in facilities of this nature to deal with the increase in suspected cases, although an effort is being made to reduce the number of patients referred to these centers by some 50%.

Tatiana Viera Hernández, Havana’s government program coordinator, stated that nine sites are ready to receive unconfirmed suspected cases of COVID-19, with a total capacity of 2,036 beds, with 566 occupied at the time.

The hotel chain Islazul has again prepared several of its facilities to be used for this purpose, including the Lido, Terrazas, Bella Habana and San Alejandro Hotels.

The Havana Defense Council also mandated that healthcare professionals in direct contact with COVID-19 patients return to working as they did in previous severe stages of the epidemic, with two continuous weeks on duty, remaining isolated when off-duty, followed by a period of quarantine.

Cuba Will Vaccinate its Entire Population Against COVID-19 in 2021

Dr. Eduardo Martínez, president of the BioCubaFarma state pharmaceutical enterprise group, reports that work is advancing to expand production capacity of Cuba’s candidate vaccine Soberana 02

Author: Nuria Barbosa León |

Author: Juan Diego Nusa Peñalver |

January 26, 2021 10:01:39

The BioCubaFarma enterprise group is adjusting capacity to make possible the administration of Soberana 02 to more than 150,000 persons, while a new clinical trial with children has been launched, as more steps are taken along the path to vaccinating the entire population. Photo: BioCubaFarma

Cuba’s national public health system is waging a hard battle against the new coronavirus, sparing no effort and overcoming physical and intellectual fatigue.

The Party and government’s strong political will has made this possible, along with the impressive work of our scientists who have again reiterated that Cuba will be among the first countries in the world to vaccinate its entire population in 2021, despite the tightening of the U.S. blockade of the island over the past 12 months, stated Dr. Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of the BioCubaFarma state pharmaceutical enterprise group, on his Twitter account.

The general director of the Finlay Vaccine Institute, Dr. Vicente Vérez Bencomo, has reported that the country is preparing capacity to produce 100 million doses of the injectable Soberana 02 vaccine against COVID-19.

Regarding this announcement, Dr. María Eugenia Toledo Romaní, epidemiologist at the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK), condemned the escalating sanctions imposed by the United States which have a negative impact on the effort to expand capacity toward this end, stating, “If we are obliged to purchase new machinery and erect more plants, this is extremely difficult given the limitations we face in acquiring the technologies.”

This is why BioCubaFarma is taking advantage of its international experience to sign agreements with other countries that can help with the needed resources and allow the project to advance.

Dr. Toledo additionally explained, “To conduct a Phase 3 clinical study of efficacy, in which we show that vaccinated subjects are less likely to become ill than those who were not vaccinated, we must measure this aspect and then make comparisons to find the necessary statistical evidence to finally determine that the candidate vaccine is no less effective than others on the world market.


Currently underway on the island is a Phase 2b expanded clinical trial

of the candidate vaccine Soberana 02 in persons between 19 and 80 years of age, in the Havana municipalities of La Lisa and Plaza de la Revolución.

Dr. Mayra García Carmenate, research coordinator at the 19 de Abril neighborhood polyclinic, explained that the site was selected for the trials because the facility has met the standard prerequisite of systematically adhering to “best practices,” and has participated in several months of training to prepare staff members involved and subjects who will receive either the vaccine or a placebo.

After administration of the vaccine, participants will remain under observation for one hour to evaluate any adverse side effects and will be actively monitored via out-patient follow up visits for a period of 28 days. If any reaction should occur, the subject is to immediately return to the clinic where a 24-hour medical post will be maintained to evaluate the situation and, if necessary, transfer the subject to the appropriate public health facility.

Dr. García noted that the community’s population is very enthusiastic and many have made their way to the clinic to volunteer. They have confidence in Cuba’s public health system and those selected are proud of their participation and the fact that their neighborhood was chosen for this type of clinical trial, she said, adding “None of those chosen during the recruitment have declined to sign the informed consent agreement.”

Volunteers and technical personnel alike are confident that Cuban science will defeat COVID-19 with intelligence and dedication.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Lockdown: Level 4 Extended by Two Weeks

Acting President and Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Constantino Chiwenga, addresses the media at his Munhumutapa offices yesterday

Herald Reporters

The national lockdown will continue at level four for a further two weeks to February 15 to consolidate and extend the progress already seen in taming and bringing under control the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Announcing the extension yesterday, Acting President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Constantino Chiwenga, said the heightened level of lockdown since January 5 had seen significant progress but there was still need to follow advice of the public health experts to rein in the unprecedented spike in infections and deaths.

In addition, it was likely that new strains and variants were circulating that could be transmitted more easily and were more infectious and samples were now undergoing genomic sequencing to see if these variants were in Zimbabwe, with results to be published as soon as they were available, said the Acting President.

Figures gathered by the Ministry of Health and Child Care show that Zimbabwe saw during January, with most of the month under level four, a surge in infections peaking in the middle of the month and then starting to fall. But the seven-day rolling average, which gives the trend line and evens out short surges and dips in the statistics, was still above the January 1 level at the end of four weeks although only a third of what was seen at the peak.

Graphs generated from figures published by the Ministry of Health and Child Care showing the daily number of new Covid-19 cases and daily deaths for the first four weeks of January, along with the seven-day running averages that create the trend lines and the number of active cases

The number of active cases also followed a similar curve, peaking a day or two later, before starting to fall as recoveries outpaced new infections. But deaths continue to rise, since it takes time from the moment of infection to develop the most severe symptoms, and the rolling seven-day average of daily deaths only started falling at the beginning of this week, around 11 days after the peak in infections.

Not only was the infection rate in relative terms falling, said the Acting President and Health Minister, but the recovery rate had risen from an all-time low of 54 percent to the current 75 percent. But people were still dying.

“Even though the numbers we are losing to the pandemic are falling, we bemoan the fact that Zimbabweans are dying at all. Any death is one death too many. Still, we need to stay the course by upping our vigilance. The war is not yet won,” said Acting President Chiwenga.

While Zimbabwe was on course to taming the new and severe second wave of infection, President Mnangagwa had decided the lockdown had to continue at level four for two more weeks.

“The President fully appreciates the difficulties which come with this extension. Livelihoods are being disrupted yet we must save lives and our nation. We must not lose the momentum, which means: We must mask up, sanitise, maintain social distance, stay at home and, get tested and if positive, self-isolate.”

In the longer term vaccination is seen as the best way to end Covid-19.

“Government will soon be bringing in vaccines against Covid-19. A roll out plan and deployment strategy is being finalised. The nation will be kept informed on all these developments,” said the Acting President.

Zimbabwe’s infection and death rates are now falling with the tight level four lockdown imposed at the beginning of January succeeding, as hoped and expected, in taming the second wave of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

But the second wave of Covid-19 infection was far more severe than the first wave. From our first infections in March to the end of last year there were 14 084 confirmed infections and 369 deaths. In the next 28 days, the first four weeks of January, this more than doubled to 32 646 confirmed infections and 1 160 deaths.

In retrospect that quick decision to move Zimbabwe from level two back to a tightly enforced level four national lockdown at the beginning of the month, and to extend the curfew, saved us from overloading medical facilities.

The decisive switch in lockdown levels also allowed the authorities to manage the inevitable surge of infections from all those who were infected in the festive season to work its way through their families, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

The death toll in the first four weeks of January was almost 800, but as can be seen from the inadequate controls in some other countries and delays in implementing high level lockdowns, it could have been devastating but for the swift Government action.

But although the trend lines show there is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for Zimbabweans, they also show we are still having to take special measures to maintain progress.

Average daily infections might be around one third what they were at the mid-month peak, but they are still very high by the standards of last year.

In mid-December, when the first signs of what became the second wave were appearing, Zimbabwe was seeing just 75 cases a day, about a quarter of the present average rate.

Although the rapid re-imposition and enforcement of a level four lockdown has tamed the surge in infections, we are still definitely still in the midst of fighting the second wave, but with significant and sharp reduction in infection rates seen in the last fortnight as we move down from the peak

Part of the success in taming the spike has come from Zimbabweans themselves taking Covid-19 far more seriously, and a large majority now wearing masks in public and following rules on social distancing, but there are still numbers, as police arrest statistics show, who are ready to take a chance.

7 Million Covid-19 Doses for African Health Workers   

 In a unique public/private partnership, MTN, Africa’s leading mobile network, has announced a donation of US$25 million to support the African Union’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

In a statement, MTN said the donation would help secure up to seven million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for health workers across the continent, which will contribute to the vaccination initiative of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

“The devastating impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and profound. Public and private partnerships are needed if we are to succeed in the fight against the pandemic and restore social and economic norms for our continent and our communities,” says Ralph Mupita, President and Chief Executive Officer of MTN Group.

On January 14 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union, announced that the African Union had secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses on behalf of its Member States, through advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2 billion to the manufacturers by the African Export-Import Bank.

This was a remarkable milestone in efforts to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for Africa’s people. However, with a population of about 1.3 billion, Africa requires many more doses to achieve at least 60 percent herd immunity. Contributions by private organisations, like MTN, are therefore essential to help the continent reach its target.

“Our goal is to ensure that all those who need the COVID-19 vaccine have access to it very quickly, but the biggest hurdle in Africa has been financing of the vaccines, and the logistics of vaccinating at scale. We therefore welcome the right partnerships, like the one with MTN, to achieve our minimum 60 percent vaccination target,” says Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, MTN has made significant contributions to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives and livelihoods within its African market. This donation is another example of MTN’s efforts to help find lasting solutions the challenges facing the continent and to guarantee a healthy Africa, for all Africans.

“We believe ongoing collaborations with key stakeholders across sectors are essential as vaccines are deployed in all our markets, with communication tools, technology and digital services being vital support infrastructure for a successful mass vaccination programme,” concludes Mupita.

“In the coming months, MTN Group will look at similar support commitments for the markets in which we operate in the Middle East.”

Covid-19: Equal Representation Could Save 112 Million Women's Jobs

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Report shows 740 million women work in the informal economy which bore the greatest brunt of the pandemic

A woman makes face masks at the T-KAY Garments in Rwanda; demand for these items are high due to Covid-19. Most women work in the informal economy, which bore the greatest brunt of the pandemic.

Cyril Ndegeya | Nation Media Group

By Moraa Obiria

Gender Reporter

Globally, 740 million women work in the informal economy which bore the greatest brunt ofCovid-19.

For women working in the informal economy, their income dropped by 60 per cent in the first month of the pandemic according to The Inequality Virus report.

As at August 2020, only 54 of 195 countries had introduced new or amended social protection measures targeting women and girls.

Some 112 million women may not lose their incomes if men and women were equally represented in jobs hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is according to Oxfam’s report - The Inequality Virus - released on January 25. Globally, 740 million women work in the informal economy which bore the greatest brunt of the health crisis.

Mitigation measures such as social distancing, lockdowns and dusk to dawn curfews, disproportionately affected service, retail, hospitality and tourism sectors where women are overrepresented.

For women working in the informal economy, their income dropped by 60 per cent in the first month of the pandemic, the report indicates.

Meanwhile, the increase of wealth for the 10 richest billionaires since the crisis began is more than enough to prevent anyone on Earth from falling into poverty induced by outbreak of Covid-19.

Women-tailored social protection

Similar to recent studies on gendered impact of Covid-19, the report highlights governments’ failure to establish women tailored social protection schemes or stimulus packages despite facing more of the unique challenges.

According to the report, as at August 2020, only 54 of 195 countries had introduced new or amended social protection measures targeting women and girls,

Kenya, Egypt, Rwanda, Tunisia, Liberia and Zimbambwe are among the few countries that have adopted gender responsive anti-coronavirus measures.

“It has been estimated that the pandemic will reverse the gains of the last 20 years of global progress made on girls’ education, resulting in turn in increased poverty and inequality,” cites the report.

Unpaid care work

The pandemic is also likely to widen intersecting inequalities as single mothers, women living in poverty, and racialised women have suffered the largest increase in unpaid care work.

Of great concern is the report’s indication that the children who need education the most to climb out of poverty, are unfortunately, the most likely to be left behind. This is as a result of the hit of the pandemic, which has left millions of parents and guardians without jobs or less income.

Further, it estimates a three per cent to 15 per cent decline in future earnings due to school closures, a decline that hits the poorest the most.

Unequal world

In the context of reducing maternal deaths, the progress has reverted backwards as the report indicates an eight per cent to 39 per cent increase in deaths per month in lower middle income countries. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed, fed off and exacerbated existing inequalities of wealth, gender and race…We are at a pivotal point in human history. We cannot return to the brutal, unequal and unsustainable world that the coronavirus found us in,” concludes the report.

“Humanity has incredible talent, huge wealth and infinite imagination. We must put these assets to work to create a more equal and sustainable economy that benefits all.”

Sub-Saharan Africa Conflicts Exposing More Women to Covid-19

Friday, January 29, 2021

More than 300,000 refugees from Ethiopia, Sudan and CAR have crossed into neighbouring countries 

Refugees who fled Ethiopia's Tigray conflict at the border reception centre in Hamdayit, Eastern Sudan, on December 4, 2020. The UN is concerned over potential 'massive community transmission' of Covid-19 in Tigray region. 

Yasuyoshi Chuba | AFP

By Kamau Maichuhie

Nation Media Group

More than 60 per cent of the 2.5 million people displaced within Ethiopia’s Tigray, Darfur in Sudan and the Central Africa Republic(CAR) in the ongoing conflicts in the regions are girls and women.

UNHCR warns that the fresh conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa could lead to a sharp increase in Covid-19, especially among girls, women and children if no urgent measures are taken.

The interruption of Covid-19 surveillance and control activities  in the region, coupled with mass displacements and overcrowded conditions, is feared to have facilitated massive community transmission of the pandemic.

About 2.5 million people have been displaced within Ethiopia’s Tigray, Darfur in Sudan and the Central Africa Republic(CAR) in the ongoing conflicts in the regions. More than 60 per cent of them are girls and women.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is now warning that the fresh conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa could lead to a sharp increase in Covid-19, especially among girls, women and children if no urgent measures are taken.

Spokesperson for the office of UNHCR Boris Cheshirkov, in a press statement reported that more than 300,000 people had crossed the border into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo, with tens of thousands being displaced internally.

Makeshift shelters

“Most newcomers are staying with host communities or in makeshift shelters,” said Mr Cheshirkov.

He noted that their urgent needs include water and shelter as well as health and sanitation facilities to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases.

The United Nations (UN) has also raised concerns over potential "massive community transmission" of the coronavirus in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, amid displacements, conflict and a damaged health care system. 

In its first on-the-ground assessment from Tigray, published last week, the UN decried the dire humanitarian crisis facing the region, where at least two million are in need of urgent aid.

The report said hospitals, schools and other public service facilities have been ravaged since the conflict between Ethiopian forces and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) began in early November. 

Overcrowded condition

"The interruption of Covid-19 surveillance and control activities for over a month in the region, coupled with mass displacements and overcrowded conditions in displacement settings, is feared to have facilitated massive community transmission of the pandemic," the report said.

The report was based on two humanitarian missions conducted by the UN and government agencies in December. The fact-finding teams stressed that the situation was "dire," and that two out of four refugee camps in Tigray remained inaccessible.

Ethiopia has one of the highest Covid-19 caseloads in Africa, with at least 127,000 people infected.

Social distancing

Relief Web has also indicated humanitarian actors in CAR have recorded an almost two-fold increase in the number of cases of violence against girls and women as a result of restrictions related to Covid-19. 

The agency is worried that the conflict will even make things worse as people, most of them women and girls, flee their homes to refugee camps where social distancing and sanitation conditions are pathetic.

UNHCR is already seeking $151.5 million this year to respond to the CAR situation. The agency is calling on the international community to urgently expand support to the CAR humanitarian response to allow more aid to reach those in remote areas.

South Africa Police Seize Haul of 'Miracle' Anti-Covid Drug

Saturday, January 30, 2021

OR Tambo International Airport  where police said the tablets suspected to be ivermectin worth nearly $400,000 had been seized.


Custom officials at South Africa's main international airport have seized hundreds of thousands of tablets of a drug some people claim could be a remedy against coronavirus, police said Saturday.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) said in a statement that "tablets suspected to be ivermectin" worth six million rand (nearly $400,000) had been seized at Johannesburg's OR Tambo international airport in the past two weeks. 

Six suspects have been arrested, and charged with carrying unregistered medicine and importing drugs without a licence, the statement said.

"The unregistered medicine, which are mainly in tablet form, are believed to have been imported for sales purposes and would have been utilised in the treatment of the Covid-19 virus," it said. 

Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic agent that some people claim is a potential cure for the novel coronavirus. 

Demand for the drug has surged as a result, even though scientists insist there is not yet enough evidence to promote it as a coronavirus remedy.

South Africa's health products regulator tentatively approved the controlled use of ivermectin on humans this week, revoking a decision in December to block imports of the drug, which is not locally produced.   

The ban had sparked outrage among doctors lobbying for more research into ivermectin and fueled its underground trade.

Ivermectin is mainly used to kill parasites such as head lice on both animals and people, and has been widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s to treat river blindness.

It is usually registered for veterinary use in South Africa but is not forbidden for humans.

South Sudan Approves Establishment of AU Hybrid Court

Saturday, January 30, 2021


South Sudan on Friday approved the establishment of the long-awaited African Union Hybrid Court enshrined in the 2018 revitalised peace deal to try war crimes committed during the more than six years of conflict.

Michael Makuei Lueth, Minister of Information and Broadcasting said the cabinet has authorised Rueben Madol, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to start the process of establishing the Hybrid Court. "Cabinet authorised him (Madol) to start the process of establishing all these institutions in accordance with the provision of the peace agreement," Makuei told journalists in Juba after the weekly cabinet meeting. Chapter 5 of the peace deal signed by President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar calls for the establishment of the Hybrid Court, transitional justice, accountability, reconciliation and healing institutions.

The UN panel of experts on South Sudan has on several occasions accused the government of delaying and obstructing the process of establishing the Hybrid Court. The court once set up will be constituted by both South Sudanese and judges from other African countries.

South Sudan is currently struggling to implement key aspects of the 2018 peace deal, like the training and unification of both opposition and government troops. The necessary unified forces estimated to be around 83,000 personnel are expected to take charge of security during the transitional period.

Charles Tai Gituai, chairperson of the Revitalized Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) which monitors the fragile peace deal said on Thursday that the peace process has stalled citing delays in the graduation of the unified forces.

He disclosed that the intermittent clashes witnessed in the Central Equatoria state since September 2020 between the South Sudan army (SSPDF) and Sudan People's Liberation Army-In-Opposition (SPLA-IO) threaten the fragile ceasefire that has been largely holding since 2017.

South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013, following political disagreement between President Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, leading soldiers loyal to the respective leader to fight. The 2015 peace agreement signed to end the conflict collapsed in the aftermath of renewed violence that broke out in July 2016, forcing Machar to flee the capital.  

AMISOM to Intensify Security Ahead of Somalia Elections

Saturday, January 30, 2021

A group of Nigerian Policemen deployed in Somalia, as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission, patrol in Beledweyne, Somalia, on December 14, 2019. 

Luis Tato | AFP

Xinhua News Agency

The AU said Friday its senior officials were in Baidoa in southwest Somalia Thursday for meetings on strengthening security and cooperation ahead of upcoming elections in the country.


The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has kicked off key meetings to seek ways of enhancing security during the elections in the Horn of Africa nation.

The AU said Friday its senior officials were in Baidoa in southwest Somalia Thursday for meetings on strengthening security and cooperation ahead of upcoming elections in the country.

Simon Mulongo, Amisom deputy head of the mission, said they have held meetings with the AMISOM police and military component and discussed issues of re-aligning and harmonising mission's activities in the region and in the sector.

"Particularly, we looked at how the Formed Police Unit, together with Individual Police Officers, can better collaborate with Somali police to ensure that they strengthen matters of policing, especially as we plan for a secure electoral process in the whole of Southwest State," Mulongo said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

The Amisom team also met with South West State senior leaders and agreed on how South West State Police are going to be organized and re-organized for the purposes of enhancing their policing activities.

Somalia is preparing for crucial national elections, and Amisom is mandated to provide security during the process in a spirit of consensus and collaboration with the Somali security agencies to ensure the process is secured. 

Close cooperation

According to the AU mission, the Amisom police component and the Somali Police Force (SPF) are both parts of the national election taskforce, the highest security team tasked with securing the elections.

The AU mission said the task force will have satellite command centers across the country including Baidoa in Southwest State.

Augustine Kailie, Amisom police commissioner, reiterated the importance of working closely with Somali forces to improve security to, during and in the aftermath of the electoral process.

"We came here (Baidoa) to harmonize our operations. Elections are approaching, so we have to provide joint security. The police will be involved, the military will be involved, the civilian component will also be involved. Because of that, we have put modalities in place on how to jointly provide security for the elections," Kailie said.

Analysts say Somalia is facing multiple threats to its stability from continued terrorist attacks, increased political polarisation, the Covid-19 pandemic, the worst desert locust invasion in decades and floods.

These threats, the experts say, have resulted in food insecurity for an estimated 1.3 million people and increased the number of internally displaced persons. 

Great Lakes African Leaders Call for Central African Republic Ceasefire

Saturday, January 30, 2021

A Rwandan peace-keeper from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) patrols the road leading to Damara, where skirmishes took place during the week on January 23, 2021.

Florent Vergnes | AFP



African leaders from the Great Lakes region called on rebels in the conflict-riven Central African Republic to agree to a ceasefire on Friday.

Election-based violence in the country has displaced more than 200,000 in the past two months, the United Nations said.

Rebels controlling about two-thirds of the nation launched an offensive a week before contested presidential elections that returned Faustin Archange Touadera to power.

"The Heads of State and Government urge all rebel forces to observe a unilateral and immediate cease-fire," Angolan Foreign Minister Tete Antonio said at the end of a meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Luanda.

"We want a Great Lakes region without armed conflict, without death, or forced displacement of inhabitants," said the statement from African officials.

The mini-summit, which Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Rwandan Paul Kagame attended, also said it would support a CAR request to the UN Security Council to lift a heavy weapons embargo.

CAR said the lifting the embargo was needed in order to fight the rebels.

Landlocked CAR is one of the world's poorest nations and has seen a string of coups and wars since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Rwanda, Burundi Placed on UK Travel Ban

Saturday, January 30, 2021

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives at Heathrow airport, west London.

Daniel Leal-Olivas | AFP

By Ivan R Mugisha

The United Kingdom has added Rwanda and Burundi to its travel ban red list to prevent the spread of new variants of Covid-19.

A UK government statement on Thursday said that the decision to ban travel from both countries follows the discovery of a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, that may have spread to other countries, including the UAE, Burundi, and Rwanda, the UK says.

The United Arab Emirates was also placed on the UK travel ban list.

"From 1 pm on Friday 29 January, passengers who have been in or transited through the United Arab Emirates, Burundi, and Rwanda in the last 10 days will no longer be granted access to the UK," the statement says.

“Any exemptions usually in place will not apply, including for business travel. British nationals currently in the UAE should make use of the commercial options available if they wish to return to the UK. Indirect commercial routes that will enable British and Irish nationals and residents to return to the UK continue to operate."

It added: "Today’s action follows new measures announced by the government to minimise travel across international borders and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission, including managed isolation in hotels and the need to declare a reason for travel."

The ban will not only dampen prospects of recovery for its national courier- RwandAir which has flights to Heathrow Airport, but will also undermine ongoing plans to host the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) slated for June, during which thousands of delegates are expected to fly into the country from various parts of the world.

The biannual meeting was originally slated for June last year in Kigali but was postponed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Rwanda says it plans to upgrade its testing capacity to trace new variants of the virus. 

The country is experiencing a deadlier second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed 186 people and infected 14,529 people as of Thursday, January 28. 

The country currently has 5,109 active cases while 9,234 people have recovered. 

Kigali has so far spent 11 days close under a total lockdown due to a surge of infections. 

Due to a persistent rise in cases, the country's positivity rate is now 7.2 percent.  

A cabinet meeting is expected in the next few days to assess the progress in curbing the virus and issue new measures.

Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda: A Life of Tribulations After 27 Years in Power

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo attend a farewell ceremony for late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, held for family and heads of State, at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on September 14, 2019.

Zinyange Auntony | AFP

By Michael Chawe

Correspondent in Lusaka, Zambia

Nation Media Group

At the apex of political tension due to one-party State policies, increasing autocracy and the resultant economic downturn that led to a shortage of food and other essential products in the late 1989 to 1990, it was clear the Kaunda government was at the exit door.

Still waving his famous white handkerchief, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding President, is rarely seen in public due to old age.

Soon turning 97 years of age, Dr Kaunda’s voice is not as audible as it once was.

‘KK’, as he is fondly called, a vegan of many years, is one of the few remaining African liberation heroes, who has witnessed several leadership transitions.

He is still popular but not exactly in a political sense.

At the apex of political tension due to one-party State policies, increasing autocracy and the resultant economic downturn that led to a shortage of food and other essential products in the late 1989 to 1990, it was clear the Kaunda government was at the exit door. Those shortages of essential commodities bred food riots.

However, having been in power for about 27 years, it was unimaginable that Dr Kaunda would agree to leave office.

Still, the pressure mounts, with the labour movement, students, young and adults alike were fed up preparing to kick him out.

As that happened, a group of concerned and mostly educated Zambians gathered at Lusaka’s Garden House Motel on July 19-20, 1990 and formed the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).

The movement transformed into a political party after Dr Kaunda cut short his tenure, amended the Constitution to end one-party State politics and return to multiparty politics, and called for elections on October 31, 1991.

The MMD and Mr Frederick Chiluba emerged victorious, ending Dr Kaunda and his United National Independence Party’s 27 year-reign.

Zambia's second President Frederick Chiluba

Zambia's second President Frederick Chiluba and his wife Regina are pictured as Rupiah Banda (not pictured) is sworn in as Zambia's fourth President in Lusaka on November 2, 2008. 

Political trials post 1991  

Soon after losing power, Dr Kaunda’s tribulations started piling on – the State denied him a retirement house, froze his salary and other entitlements and regularly curtailed his political freedoms.

In a self-titled biography, ‘Levy Patrick Mwanawasa – An incentive for Prosperity’, Zambia’s third President Mwanawasa recounts to his biographer Amos Malupenga as follows: “…I had to force him [Mr Chiluba] to give Kaunda his first salary [after leaving office]. I said [to Chiluba], ‘you will also be a former President at some point and you would want to be properly treated’. That is when he gave me a cheque to go and give Kaunda. Dr Kaunda got his first cheque as an entitlement shortly before I resigned as Vice President.”

Mr Mwanawasa went on, “…Soon after leaving State House, Dr Kenneth Kaunda was detained and searched on an allegation that he had stolen some books from State House… I advised that it was not necessary to resort to those levels … he was investigated … nothing came out of that investigation.”

But on his part, Mr Chiluba argued that he did not provide Dr Kaunda with his entitlements because the former President had returned to active politics against the provisions of the Constitution. 

Attempt to run for presidency

Dr Kaunda attempted to once again run for the presidency in 1996, five years after leaving office, but his ambition was thwarted when the Chiluba government amended the Constitution, introducing stiffer conditions for one to qualify as a candidate.

Amendment Act No. 18 of 1996 of the Zambian Constitution, in Article 34(3)(b), states: “A person shall be qualified to be a candidate for election as President if … both his parents are Zambians by birth or descent…”

This provision was widely considered to have targeted Dr Kaunda, as it was common knowledge that he was born of parents who originally came from the neighbouring eastern country of Malawi .

They migrated to and settled in northern Zambia’s Chinsali District, where his father was a missionary.

Zambians and the international community widely condemned the Chiluba government for the repressive constitutional amendment.

But despite being technically stopped from running for the presidency and the withdrawal of his UNIP party from the elections, Dr Kaunda marshaled political support as leader of the former governing party.

Gunshots at Kabwe

Alongside another opposition leader and lawyer, Dr Rodger Chongwe, the former President was shot in about August 1997, in the small mining town of Kabwe, about 140 kilometers north of the capital, Lusaka.

Dr Kaunda and Dr Chongwe claimed State police officers shot and wounded them after they addressed a political rally. 

A few months later, another misfortune befell Dr Kaunda.

After the failed coup in October 1997, Dr Kaunda and many other opposition leaders were detained on suspicion that they were behind the army-staged coup attempt.

The statesman denied any link to the coup.

Heir apparent shot dead

In the bloody turn of events, Dr Kaunda’s son, the widely anticipated heir to the leadership of his father’s party and a potential President, was shot dead on November 4, 1999.

The Kaunda family, and Zambians in general, to date insist that the former army officer was killed in a political assassination.

Major Wezi Kaunda, once a member of Parliament in the home village of his mother, former first lady Betty Kaunda, in Malambo Constituency of the Eastern Province, was at the time of his assassination serving as chairman of UNIP in Lusaka.

The assassination was disguised as a carjacking.

Major Kaunda was with his wife in the vehicle when he arrived at his home in a Lusaka suburb, when the armed attackers approached.

She recounted that he told the killers, “I am Major Wezi Kaunda. Please take my car. Take whatever you want. I am not resisting. Spare my life and my wife. Just take the car.”

A gunman reportedly said, “We know who you are. Do you think we don't? Shoot him.”

The gang ordered him out of the vehicle and shot him multiple times. He was rushed to hospital but died a few hours later.

The mystery about Major Kaunda’s assassination remains unsolved.

His killing escalated the tension between Dr Kaunda and Mr Chiluba. Dr Kaunda subsequently quit active politics in 2000 and focused on peacemaking and mediation in Africa, as well as campaigns to combat HIV/Aids.

Friday, January 29, 2021

SADC Chair Nyusi Calls for Collective Resource Pooling

30 JAN, 2021 - 00:01 

President Nyusi

Farirai Machivenyika

Senior Reporter

Southern African Development Community (Sadc) leaders have recommended the pooling of resources in the region for the collective procurement and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines for member states.

This was revealed by Sadc chairman and Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi yesterday in a statement on the Covid-19 pandemic, whose second wave has resulted in a spike in infections in the region.

The initiative will be led by Sadc’s Committee of Health Ministers.

President Nyusi praised the member states’ initiatives and collective and coordinated efforts in the fight against the disease since its outbreak last year. He said the approval of a number of vaccines in the past few months had brought a ray of hope and said it was necessary for the region to continue building on strategic alliances.

“In this regard, we recommend the Sadc Committee of Ministers of Health to establish a strong regional collaborative strategy which pools resources together to urgently acquire the vaccine for distribution to our citizens setting priorities in accordance with the level of risk and enhance vaccine research capabilities and develop regional manufacturing capacity for vaccines in the future,” President Nyusi said.

He said the region must intensify cooperation and collaboration between member states, through increased data sharing, policy harmonisation and standardisation, pooled procurement of essential medical and non-medical equipment to address the pandemic in a more effective way.

“We must also reinforce our health systems so that they remain ready to deliver other life-saving services and better withstand future pandemics,” said President Nyusi.

“In addition to health measures, we should continue to embark on common regional strategies, harmonised and synchronised initiatives; including electronic platforms to monitor the safe cross border movement of people, vehicles and goods, as well as implementing national action plans that address social consequences.”

The Sadc chairman attributed the increase in infections to the new coronavirus strain that has higher potential to be transmitted.

President Nyusi said the pandemic remained a major challenge in most Sadc member states.

In the first two weeks of January 2021, the total number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases stood at 346 010, accounting for 22 percent of the total number of cases registered since the beginning of the pandemic in the region.

“There is a growing concern that infections are being driven in part by a new strain of coronavirus known as 501.V2 which has so far been reported in three Sadc countries according to the Africa Centre for Disease Control,” President Nyusi said. “In fact, more than 50 percent of all new daily infections of Covid-19 on African continent have been reported in the Sadc region. Under this scenario, our health systems are rapidly reaching the limit of their capacities and the situation is expected to worsen in the short term.”

President Nyusi said the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on the lives of citizens was becoming widespread and devastating, with education, employment and economic activities being severely disrupted. This, he said, had worsened poverty, with all underlying social consequences that include increase in crime and gender-based violence.  President Nyusi commended member states and Sadc citizens for their sacrifices and hardships endured since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Late Seyoum Mesfin: A “Statesman” Abroad, A Fugitive at Home

Editor’s note: Writing on reactions to the death of Seyoum Mesfin, the Queen of Sheba says “To those who care about justice, honesty, decency and integrity around the world, and most certainly in Ethiopia, such underserving eulogies are no more than a fictious piece.”

The late Seyoum Mesfin during an interview with Demtsi Woyane , hinted TPLF action, about two days before TPLF forces attacked the northern command of Ethiopian Defense Force. (Photo: screenshot from DW video from youtube)

The Queen of Sheba

January 29, 2021

Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ethiopia in November last year, the news, information and narratives on the country have been so appallingly distorted that it has become nearly impossible to tell the facts and the truths from lies and fabrications. The disinformation campaign has been well orchestrated by TPLF cabal remnants, their sycophants and conflict entrepreneurs around the world.

This article focuses on the late Seyoum Mesfin, the former foreign minister of Ethiopia for a quarter of a century, who was killed in a shootout with the federal army as he and his forces resisted arrest in the treacherous hideout caves in Tigray. We have witnessed a stream of unwarranted homages and eulogies from his long-time comrades, friends, and allies. We have also heard from his cronies, benefactors, and beneficiaries, ad nauseum.

This piece intends to put things in perspectives by presenting a contrasting account by recalling a few disastrous and embarrassing accounts during his incompetent and combative reign as the top man in the foreign ministry. To be sure, Seyoum in Ethiopia is widely known—and forever remembered—as a pathological liar. I will only draw just a few examples to provide irrefutable evidence.

The Ethio-Eritrea Border Ruling: The Jumbo Lie

It is to be recalled that Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bloody war from 1998 to 2000 purportedly on their disputed borders. At the culmination of the war, they agreed to take the matter to the international boundary commission where Ethiopia lost its case—and Badme, the major thorny front, was awarded to Eritrea.

Seyoum shot into notoriety when he audaciously, but shamefully, pronounced that Ethiopia won the case. He fooled millions of Ethiopians in a broad day light—fortunately, only for short hours, before he was exposed to his lies. He, and his TPLF cabal regime, once again, humiliated and hurt Ethiopians—in the most brutal way.

The liar-in-chief of Badme, who led the bloody putsch to overthrow the Abiy government and dismantle the constitution (which I am not a fan) that led to his demise, was eulogized by Alex de Waal, one of the chief shenanigans, as such: “Seyoum deserved to end his days in comfortable retirement with all the respect due to a statesman and patriot.” It is agonizingly dishonest that the criminal mastermind, who led, directed and financed the fatalistic insurrection of colossal calamity, obtains such a warm tribute.

Yes, such treasonous acts are termed as “statesmanship” in Africa, by apologist African experts in the West, as de Waal. These are, however, well known by their true nomenclature globally, and described as insurrection and mutiny, often punishable by death. 

GERD: The Sold Dam

The erstwhile foreign minister never repented for his sins during and after his time in office. As Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed took the helm of power—and the boundless authority and influence the cabal forces amassed for nearly 30 years have receded—Seyoum and his co-conspirators retreated to Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray, to plot against the government—with impunity.

The aging and disoriented cabal forces dominated the airwaves in the Tigray region, openly antagonizing and daringly inciting war from their rendezvous in exclusive hotels—and pubs. They orchestrated, sanctioned and financed acts of treason in hundreds of millions of birr, while millions of Tigrayans withering under poverty and hunger. Seyoum, and a few notorious mouthpieces, made ghastly statements, warnings, and threats.

In his last days, prior to the breakout of the conflict and his demise, this failed “statesman” became visibly agitated and enraged—with more willingness to prevaricate at whim. In his relentless ploy to erode Abiy’s credibility and his global recognition, he astoundingly accused him of “selling the GERD” in such shameful manner, comparable to the Badme fiasco.

“The GERD has been sold”, he shamefully pronounced to the chagrin of millions of Ethiopians at home and abroad. Thank God, he lived to see the first fillings of the highly-anticipated dam.

But this did not detract the “statesman” from taking other dives for adventurous lies.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Abiy was like a dagger on the heart of the TPLF cabal. While the rest of Africa and the black race celebrated his prize, the cabal scrambled, conspired, and petitioned against it.

In his yet another epic lie, Seyoum told the world—fortunately from his little corner in a studio in Mekelle—that the Nobel committee was considering to revoke Abiy’s Prize. When the firecracker of this fabrication hit its climax, the Nobel committee released a counterstatement which brought the futile attempt of dethroning Abiy to its miserable end.

So much for a “statesman”—when he was nothing but a wicked bogeyman.

In a recent piece I wrote entitled (Un)Nobeling Abiy Ahmed: The Burden of Couching an Old Goofy Dog, I observed: “It is interesting that—from the “deranged” leader in the highest office in the United States to those serving humanity in the atrocious trenches of the world—many have been seen to be moaning, salivating and raving about this particular prize awarded to Abiy. To be sure, while his prize is a proud moment—and accomplishment—for most Ethiopians and Africans alike, its revocation, though impossible, would be a no big deal.”

The Tigray Debacle: The Treacherous Trend

To those who care about justice, honesty, decency and integrity around the world, and most certainly in Ethiopia, such underserving eulogies are no more than a fictious piece—cobbled up by a sycophant foreign enabler of a defunct cabal force—only worthy of a trash can.

At the birth of the TPLF, the cabal and its henchmen kicked off with the swindling of a relief intended for drought and famine victims. Martin Plaut*—a former BBC reporter who now turned a surrogate spokesperson for the cabal—wrote in March 2010, “Millions of dollars in Western aid for victims of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 was siphoned off by rebels to buy weapons, a BBC investigation finds.”

At its death, the cabal remnants are plotting comparable misdeeds. They are refusing to transfer the funds generated for those afflicted by the conflict in Tigray region—even through third-party humanitarian agencies. They have openly declared—as stated by one of its notorious mouthpieces—that the funds instead would be channelled for lobbying. No wonder some of the shenanigans and paid operatives are not jumping ship—yet.

One should seriously question if there is any reason for lobbying on behalf of the dead TPLF whose coffin got struck with the last huge nail. The critical funds could instead be used to help better the lives of hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans—whom they pretend to represent.

The same conduct that enabled the emergence of the cabal brought its demise.

While the belligerent cabal remnants are relishing in their cosy residences in the US, Europe and elsewhere—which many of them acquired through looted wealth from Ethiopia—their countrymen, women and children are suffering from a conflict they torched and cheered. To add insult to the injury, they are now committing the humanitarian funds to line up the pockets of lobbyists and conflict entrepreneurs—to resurrect the dead miserable horse.

It is not in the DNA of the TPLF cabal and its crumbling remnants to heed such humanitarian, civil and diplomatic calls. If they did, they could have ruled Ethiopia—which they typically referred as “the country”—for many more decades.

Thank heavens that this mortally greedy, shamelessly arrogant, dizzyingly condescending, callously conspiratorial, brutally cruel, morally corrupt, and revoltingly provincial cabal—which never assumed statesmanship—refused such calls. Or else, it would have continued to devour the flesh, suck the blood and corrupt the soul of the nation—for a long, long time.

In Conclusion

Seyoum Mesfin was one of the chief humpty dumpties—and architects of the cabal. No amount of the king’s horses, no amount of enabler mules could save him from unceremonious demise.

Oh, yes, no amount of eulogies—either by a foolish fan, a foreign chum or a paid sycophant—could wash away his brutal crimes, nation-shattering lies, and monumental sins.

As lies are for earth, the sins are for hell.

I, for one, am not rushing to wish Mesfin a rest in heaven.

The Queen of Sheba may be reached at | @TheQueenofSheb5

* It came to my attention that the Martin Plaut twitter account which refers to Sebhat Nega in this piece is a bogus. While the oversight is regretted, it would in any way diminish neither the content nor the facts of the piece (as exhibited here). 

Africa Ramps Up Vaccine Procurement Tactics

Friday, January 29, 2021

A bottle containing the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Oli Scarff | AFP


After a slow start, Africa has shifted up a gear in Covid-19 vaccine procurement, securing hundreds of millions of jabs from pooling initiatives amid efforts to gain ground in the global inoculation race.

So far only a small handful of African countries have started immunising their populations against Covid-19, starting with the Seychelles and more recently Mauritius.

Wealthier nations have been accused of bulk-buying excess doses directly from manufacturers -- limiting supply and securing better deals than governments with less purchasing clout.

Most African countries are relying on the African Union (AU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to shoulder at least part of their inoculation campaigns by providing vaccines and helping to finance their rollout.

Secured doses

On Thursday, the AU announced it had secured 400 million doses of Covid-19 jabs for its members in addition to 270 million doses trailed earlier this month.

The WHO-backed Covax sharing facility is meanwhile said to be on track to deliver 600 million vaccines to the continent by the end of 2021.

Some African countries have also started negotiating directly with suppliers.

Algeria reached a deal this month to buy Russia's contentious Sputnik-V vaccine, while Senegal is in talks to acquire doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine.

South Africa, the continent's worst virus-hit country, is expecting a first batch of 1.5 million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines on February 1.

Africa's most industrialised economy will also get nine million shots from Johnson & Johnson, if its vaccine is approved, and is negotiating with other undisclosed manufacturers.

Countrywide campaign

Morocco's King Mohammed VI received a vaccine against Covid-19 on Thursday, the palace said. 

It added that Morocco's countrywide free-to-all vaccination campaign will "roll out progressively and in tranches, reaching all Moroccan citizens and residents aged 17 and over" -- some 25 million people.

The virus has ravaged the densely populated cities of Casablanca and Sale, near Rabat.

During the virtual 2021 World Economic Forum this week, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa lashed "vaccine nationalism," accusing rich countries of hoarding doses to the detriment of poorer counterparts. 

Potential threshold

It is estimated that Africa will need 1.5 billion vaccines to immunise 60 percent of its 1.3 billion inhabitants -- a potential threshold for herd immunity against Covid.

But the WHO on Thursday cautioned that Covax and the AU combined would only be able to deliver jabs for around one third of the continent this year.

"Reaching 30-35 percent (of the African population) could be a realistic assumption by the end of 2021," WHO Africa's immunisation coordinator Richard Mihigo said during a virtual press briefing.

Africa was likely to receive its first Covax vaccines before mid-February, he added, without specifying which countries would come first.

"By March we will definitely see most of the countries start vaccinating," Mihigo predicted.

"It is a slow start, but we are expecting that in the coming months things are going to ramp up."

Slower delivery

While the AU says it has secured 670 million doses, delivery is expected to be slower, with only 50 million vaccines promised for between April and June so far.

The bulk of these pooled provisions will be Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, followed by a few million Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.

Time is ticking. Several African countries are struggling to contain a second virus wave that has proved more virulent than the first, piling pressure on weary staff and under-equipped hospitals.

To date the continent has recorded close to 3.5 million Covid-19 cases and 88,000 deaths, according to a tally compiled by AFP.

Those figures remain relatively low compared to other regions, but the threat is worsening.

New cases

On Thursday, the WHO warned that more than 175,000 new cases and 6,200 deaths had been reported over the last week alone, mostly in northern and southern Africa.

Recorded infections have increased by 50 percent in the last four weeks, and the number of deaths has doubled.

Even more concerning is a Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa and now "powering record case numbers" across Africa, the WHO said.

Known as 501Y.V2, it is thought to be more contagious and has cropped up in at least six African countries and 24 worldwide.

"What's keeping me awake at night right now is that it's very likely circulating in a number of African countries," said WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti in a statement.

Another virus variant first detected in Britain has also been reported in The Gambia and Senegal.

The WHO is supporting African countries to build and boost genomic surveillance capacities needed to track and respond to other potential variants.

Moeti called on governments to ramp up testing in the meantime and continue enforcing social distancing measures.

"In addition to the new variants, Covid-19 fatigue, and the aftermath of year-end gatherings risk powering a perfect storm," she urged.

"We must stick to our guns and double down on the tactics we know work so well."