CW 8/2021: Counted Out and Counted In
Press Review 20 February 2021 to 26 February 2021

Protests after run-off election in Niger

Last Tuesday, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) announced the results of the presidential election in Niger, according to which Mohamed Bazoum, the country’s former interior minister and candidate of the ruling PNDS, had won the run-off with 55.75 per cent of the vote. According to the electoral commission, the turnout was 62.91 per cent. In a first round of voting at the end of December, Bazoum had received just over 39 per cent of the vote and his challenger, former President Mahame Ousmane, just under 17 per cent. Ousmane was elected as the first democratically legitimate president in 1993 and was overthrown in a coup in 1996. Before the current elections, Ousmane received support from prominent opposition politician Hama Amadou, whose candidacy was banned by the electoral commission due to a conviction for human trafficking. Protests broke out in the country shortly after the election results were announced on Tuesday. Supporters of Ousmane took to the streets in the capital Niamey and gathered at the headquarters of the ruling party. In Dosso, 100 kilometres south of Niamey, the offices of a pro-government party were damaged by fire. There were also reports of shops and a police station being looted. Police cracked down on the protests and have since arrested over 450 people. The government in Niamey accuses Amadou of being the mastermind behind the violence, who is now on the watchlist of the security forces for an arrest warrant. In the meantime, Ousmane has declared himself the winner of the election and speaks of fraud but has not yet presented any evidence. An observer mission from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said the vote “took place under free, fair, credible and transparent conditions.” Nevertheless, there were two attacks on election workers’ vehicles in the western region of Tillaberi, which left seven election workers dead. The elections were supposed to mark the first democratic transfer of power in a long time. President Mahamadou Issoufou had voluntarily stepped down after two terms in office.

Covax vaccination initiative launches in Ghana, Tanzania admits Covid-19 problem

Last Wednesday, Ghana became the first country in the world to receive vaccine doses from the international Covax Vaccine Initiative. The first shipment is said to be 600,000 vaccine doses of the AstraZenenca drug. The goal of the Covax Initiative, which is being implemented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the vaccination alliance Gavi, is to ensure access to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for people worldwide. The focus will be particularly on small and middle-income countries. The initiative says it aims to deliver nearly two billion doses by the end of 2021, 600 million of them to the African continent. Ghana plans to start vaccinations next Tuesday. Initially, mainly health workers and people over 60 years of age will be able to seek vaccination. Côte d’Ivoire will be the second country to receive vaccine doses through the Covax programme this Friday. Overall, Covid-19 vaccination is off to a slow start on the continent. For example, so far only Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritius, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and South Africa are reported to have started administering vaccines. Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), criticised the quantities of vaccine pledged and ordered so far for African countries as insufficient to meet the target of immunising 35% of the continent’s population by the end of 2021. Overall, the CDC has so far recorded only about 3.8 million Corona cases and 102,000 deaths across the continent. Earlier this week, however, a team of researchers from Zambia and the US published a study attributing the low death toll to low testing capacity. According to the study, the Covid-19 mortality rate in Africa is higher than previously thought. A few days ago, in Tanzania, a country in which the number of unreported cases has long been suspected to be particularly high, a radical change of course occurred. President John Magufuli recommended the wearing of masks after an urgent appeal by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus to take urgent measures against the virus. Shortly afterwards, the Tanzanian Ministry of Health issued a warning on Covid-19, the problem of which had been denied by Magufuli until then. The death of Zanzibar’s Vice President, which his party claimed was due to a Covid-19 infection, as well as a striking number of positive Corona test results from Tanzanian travellers, now seem to have made the government rethink its approach.

In other news

Port Elizabeth, which is the largest town in the South African province of Eastern Cape has been renamed to “Gqeberha”.The new name is derived from the Xhosa word for the river that flows through the town. Xhosa is one of South Africa’s eleven official languages part of a unique few in the world that uses a “click” sound in its alphabet. Gqeberha (*click* “bear” “gha”) is one of the numerous towns, villages and airports that have now been renamed in the Eastern Cape. These moves seek to come to terms with the country’s arduous colonial and apartheid past. However, the decision to rename the town did not come without any hurdles: While the provincial Department of Culture sought to honour the history of the black population and give the community a strong sense of dignity, on the other hand many criticisms were directed at the costs for the state treasury. Additionally, the pronunciation of the new name also poses challenges for non- Xhosa speakers. However, there has been a positive response on Social Media, where numerous videos available on social media seek to provide viewers with the correct pronunciation of Gqeberha.

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