Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Tuesday it was “not proper to ignore” the coronavirus pandemic, in comments suggesting a shift from her Covid-sceptic predecessor who downplayed the disease.
In another sign of change, Hassan also ordered an easing of restrictions on media that had been banned before she took office last month.
Hassan announced she would create an expert Covid taskforce to advise her government, saying they would canvass global opinion on the pandemic and make recommendations about “remedies” and policies.
“It is not proper to ignore it. We cannot reject or accept it without any evidence from research,” Hassan told her newly-appointed permanent secretaries at a swearing-in ceremony in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday.
“They (experts) will tell us more about the pandemic, and advise us about what the world is proposing. We cannot accept everything as it comes, but we also cannot isolate ourselves as an island while the world is moving in a different direction.”
Hassan became Tanzania’s first female president last month following the death of John Magufuli, a Covid-sceptic who spent the better part of the pandemic denying coronavirus existed in his country before his sudden death at 61.
Authorities said Magufuli, nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style, died of a heart condition on March 17 after a mysterious three-week absence but his political opponents insisted he had coronavirus.
Hassan has vowed to “start where Magufuli ended” and all eyes have been on potential changes to the country’s policies and openness regarding Covid-19.
Tanzania has not reported any Covid-19 data since April 2020 and few measures have been taken to curb the spread of the virus, which Magufuli said had been fended off by prayer, insisting face masks were not needed.
“We cannot be reading about Covid in the world and when you reach sections about Tanzania, one find gaps. I think we need to be clearer whether we accept or not,” she said.
In another policy announcement, Hassan ordered that officials “free” media outlets banned by her predecessor, whose administration was criticised for a heavy-handed crackdown on the press.
“We should not give any room to say that we are suppressing media freedom,” she said.
“Our regulations should also be clear for every offence and their punishment. We should not use force to ban media platforms.”
No media outlets were mentioned by name, but last year Tanzania’s Daima newspaper was indefinitely banned while broadcaster Wasafi TV, and online network Kwanza TV, were handed suspensions.
Tanzania was long seen as a haven of stability and democracy in an otherwise volatile neighbourhood, but alarm grew over a slide into autocracy under Magufuli’s rule.
Most foreign media were not allowed into Tanzania to cover the 2020 presidential election in which Magufuli and Hassan, then his deputy, won a second term in a disputed vote. Capital News
Michela Wrong's "Do Not Disturb" is a scathing critique of Rwandan President Paul Kagame's authoritarian rule and the international community's failure to acknowledge it. Photo Handout PublicAffairs
Rwandan President Paul Kagame is often portrayed as his nation’s savior. But in her new book “Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad”, former Financial Times journalist Michela Wrong presents him as a ruthless dictator.
Michela Wrong’s investigation is a public relations disaster for Paul Kagame. “Do Not Disturb”, published by PublicAffairs, is a contemporary history book that reads like an intricate thriller. Wrong seeks to dismantle Kagame’s image as the saviour of Rwanda and the man who helped the small nation develop into the country it is today following the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis.
Her 500-page work is based mainly on interviews with those who have known Kagame all his life. From his youth growing up as a refugee in neighbouring Uganda to his rise to power following the genocide and his more than two decades as president.
The book focuses on two Rwandans who were once very close to Kagame: Fred Rwigyema and Patrick Karegeya. Both have since been murdered.
“Men of whom one can honestly say, ‘I never heard a bad word said about him’ are rare, but Fred Rwigyema appears to have been one of them,” writes Wrong.
Throughout the book he is described as a charismatic and humane leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in stark contrast to Kagame, who is portrayed as insecure and cruel. To this day the circumstances of Rwigyema’s 1990 death in northern Rwanda remain unclear – that same year the RPF first tried to overthrow president Habyarimana’s Hutu regime.
Wrong, who was a journalist for Reuters and the Financial Times in Africa for many years, knew Patrick Karegeya well. Karegeya served for a long time as Rwanda’s intelligence chief. But realising that Kagame was becoming increasingly authoritarian, he eventually fled to South Africa.
He was strangled to death in a Johannesburg hotel in January 2014. Kigali denies any involvement. But a few days after his death, Kagame declared: “Whoever is against our country will not escape our wrath.”
Threats 'dealt with preemptively, and extraterritorially'
Karegeya, the main character in the book, is portrayed as witty, intelligent and likeable. In contrast, Kagame is “introverted, suspicious, unaccountable, and a prey to sudden violence”.
It is Karageya who best explained the nature of the regime in 2003, when he was still close to Kagame.
“We have a higher population density than any other country in Africa,” he said. “So we have no space for another war (...) Because of that every threat will be dealt with preemptively, and extraterritorially (...) There are two countries in the world that have this doctrine, us and Israel.”
The Uganda years
Some of the most riveting chapters in the book recount the years the RPF leaders spent in Uganda. Many fled there in 1959 and in the following years after anti-Tutsi violence erupted in Rwanda.
They joined the rebellion led by now President Yoweri Museveni and helped him seize power in Kampala in 1986. As thanks, they were given high-ranking jobs in the Ugandan army. Gradually the RPF became an army within the army.
Museveni still says he was taken by surprise when it attacked Rwanda in 1990. “The mass departure was a major humiliation for the Ugandan government,” writes Wrong.
Over the years the relationship between Kagame and Museveni, his former mentor, would sour. The two countries later battled each other in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over access to the vast nation’s mineral resources, killing many Congolese civilians in the process.
The plane crash that triggered the genocide
The event that triggered the Rwandan genocide occurred in April 1994 when the plane carrying Hutu president Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down.
Wrong devotes many pages to the question of who fired the missile, whether Hutu extremists or the RPF. Kagame’s former allies, including Karegeya, declared after fleeing Rwanda that it was the RPF. But French judges concluded in 2012 the most likely culprits were Hutu extremists.
Three months after the start of the genocide the RPF seized power. During those three months, writes Wrong, “despite RPF’s ubiquitous modern-day label as the ‘former rebel group that stopped the genocide’, the movement’s priority at this juncture was capturing power, not saving lives”.
She describes how, 10 days after Habyarimana’s assassination, the RPF vehemently objected to the UN sending more peacekeepers to Rwanda. She also cites UN expert Robert Gersony’s conclusion that around 30,000 people were killed by the RPF in the months after the genocide.
Rwanda invades DR Congo
In 1996 Rwanda invaded DRC – then known as Zaire – ostensibly to pursue those responsible for the genocide who had fled there.
But the UN would also accuse Kagame’s men of killing thousands of Hutu civilians, including women and children. UN experts also accused the Rwandans of remaining several years in eastern DRC to plunder the country’s natural resources.
So why has the West, which failed to intervene during the genocide, been so lenient with Kagame all of these years? For Wrong, “there was the amorphous sense of guilt felt by white liberals toward the entire history of colonial oppression: (...) shame-faced feelings that stretched back through the generations and were associated with any community that had been victimized or gone ignored as the pampered West turned its stony face away”.
Rwanda is regularly denounced today by organisations like Human Rights Watch for repressing opposition and the lack of individual freedoms. Wrong believes that by choosing to ignore Kagame’s true nature, Western powers are effectively abandoning Rwandans a second time.
“Rwanda’s is a private grief,” she writes. - Nicolas GERMAIN, France 24
NAIROBI, KENYA — Catholic bishops in Uganda are mourning Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, who was found dead in his room April 3.
His death shocked the East African nation, where the archbishop had come to be known as a defender of the rights of the poor and the downtrodden. The cause of death was not released immediately.
The 68-year-old archbishop will be buried April 8 at St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart Cathedral Rubaga in Kampala.
Bishop Joseph Antony Zziwa, chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, expressed the bishops' deep regret at the death of the archbishop.
On April 2, the country had watched the archbishop join other Christian leaders in a Way of the Cross procession in St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral. The activity had been organized by the Uganda Joint Christian Council, an ecumenical grouping of Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Churches.
From time to time, Lwanga attracted the ire of government officials after he castigated injustices and government excesses. In 2018, he charged that the government had recruited priests and nuns to spy on him. The archbishop said a caller had told him that the government thought he wanted to overthrow it.
Recently, he had been condemning corruption, abductions, disappearances and killings related to January elections.
In his last message at the Good Friday gathering, Lwanga said the disappearance of people — especially young people — was brewing anger, divisions and anxiety among the citizens and contravened human rights frameworks.
"We are troubled that the disregard of God-given rights and freedoms will weaken our social fiber of harmony, social cohesion and responsive leadership," the archbishop said.
Religious, political and social leaders have continued to eulogize Lwanga. Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu said Lwanga's death left a huge gap in the Ugandan Catholic Church.
On April 3, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in a Twitter message: "With profound grief, I have learnt of the death of Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga. I join the Catholic Church, all religious faithful and the country in mourning Archbishop Lwanga. He died in faith."
Lwanga was born in Kyabakadde in the Buganda region of Uganda. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Kampala in 1978. He was named bishop of the new Diocese of Kasana-Luweero in 1996. In 2006, he became the archbishop of Kampala after the retirement of Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala. - Fredrick Nzwili, Catholic News Service/National Catholic Reporter
The CDC previously warned against unnecessary travel even for vaccinated people.Kevin Mohatt/Reuters
If you’ve had your shots, you can pack your bags. Americans who are fully vaccinated can travel domestically and internationally at “a low risk” to themselves as long as they mask up and avoid crowds, federal health officials said Friday.
US residents who have had their shots don’t need to quarantine or be tested for the coronavirus before or after traveling within the US, according to updated guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaccinated Americans don’t need to get a COVID-19 test before boarding an international flight — unless the country requires it — but should get one before returning to the US, according to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
“The new guidance today speaks to travel. We state that fully vaccinated people can resume travel at low risk to themselves,” Walensky said at a White House press briefing Friday.
“For example, fully vaccinated grandparents can fly [domestically] to visit their healthy grandchildren without getting a COVID-19 test or self-quarantining.”
“However, fully vaccinated people should get tested and have a negative test result before they board an international flight back into the United States,” she said.
Travelers flying to other countries should still be tested three to five days after arrival in the US, she said.
But she warned that now is not a good time to travel due to a recent surge in infections.
“While we believe fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases,” she said.
The agency previously warned against unnecessary travel even for vaccinated people, but said it would update its guidelines as more people got the jabs.
“Every day you get more data, and you change your guidance based on the existing data,” said Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska’s College of Public Health.
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