Author Archives: Europe correspondent

AU confirms Ebola outbreak

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a new Ebola outbreak in the northeast province of the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on June 1 released a statement announcing the outbreak in Mbandaka, in Équateur province. According to the statement, six cases have been confirmed, with four deaths and two patients under medical care.

“It is likely more people will be identified with the disease as surveillance activities increase,” added the statement.

EU reinforces humanitarian aid

The European Commission proposes €14.8 billion for humanitarian aid, of which €5 billion come from the European Union Recovery Instrument to reinforce the humanitarian aid.

The increased budget reflects the growing humanitarian needs in the most vulnerable parts of the world. The Humanitarian Aid Instrument will provide needs-based delivery of EU assistance to save and preserve lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and dignity of populations affected by natural hazards or man-made crises.

A significantly enhanced Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve will reinforce EU action in response to all aspects of the health crisis, as well as other emergencies. Funds can be channelled to provide emergency support as and when needed through EU instruments such as humanitarian aid in cases where funding under dedicated programmes proves insufficient.

DRC: new Ebola case established

Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed a case of Ebola in the western province of Equateur, over 1,000 km away from the ongoing outbreak in the country’s east, Health Minister Eteni Longondo told journalists on June 1.

The diagnosis presents a serious challenge to health authorities. In April, Congo was days from declaring the end of the second-largest Ebola epidemic on record when a new series of contaminations was confirmed in the east.

Botswana repatriates citizens

Botswana will undertake efforts to repatriate citizens stranded abroad due to coronavirus travel bans, with more than 100 travellers to arrive on June 3 from Ethiopia, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said on Saturday, May 30.

In order to alleviate the plight of our citizens abroad who have been adversely impacted by the pandemic, mostly students and those affected by the global travel bans, we have decided to assist them with financial assistance to either cope where they are or to return them home,” Masisi said in a speech, transmitted by TV channels.

Masisi said the government has already helped 400 people to return from South Africa and neighbouring countries.

Botswana medics have established 35 coronavirus cases, one of patients died.

However in spite of the relatively low contamination cases rate the economy has been severely hit, with real gross domestic product forecast to contract by 13% in 2020.

Botswana ended a 48-day lockdown a week ago, allowing businesses and schools to reopen under strict conditions but its borders are still closed with only returning citizens and essential goods allowed in.

At present the toursitic industry operators reamin trapped between clients requesting their money back, and accommodation in safari lodges reluctant to return deposits. This has caused serious cash flow problems.

The proposal of a voucher or credit for the future trips do not convene many clients,
explainging they found themselves in a financially fragile situaiton, and they are not sure they will be able to afford the luxury trip to Botswana natural resorts in the future.

As a result the Botswana communities has been suffering a serious economic set back caused by absence of toursits, who were the major consumers of local services of guides, drivers, restaurants, traditional crafts, and souvenirs, and other endeavours related to the touristic industry infrastructure.

Africa’s tourism industry in general has been hard hit by coronavirus lockdowns. Overnight, hotel bookings were canceled, safaris postponed and cultural tours abandoned. The operators are struggling to stay afloat in hope the tourists will come back soon.

Tripoli-Malta to fight human trafficing

Malta Prime Minister Robert Abela surprise visit to Tripoli evoked keen attention of all parties concerned with the ongoing migrant crisis, related to Libyan conflict, especially in view of the Memorandum of understanding signed on May 28 in the Libyan capital between the head of Maltese government and chair of Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj. The content of document has not been revealed yet, however the European Commission has already expressed the support of attempts of the archipelago state to deal with persisting migrant flows in a country of transit.

When it comes to migration and related challenges in general, we share the determination expressed by Malta to address migration in a comprehensive way, supporting actions in countries of origin and transit” the spokesperson of the European Commission said, responding to the Africa Diplomatic Magazine request of reaction.

During the visit the Maltese head of government reiterated the firm position on the need to address and defeat the human trafficking in Africa, underlining that Malta is facing unprecedented and disproportionate flows of irregular migratiion, on the scale it has no capacity to deal with alone. In spite of the repeated calls for solidarity to the European partners, there was hardly any response, especially recently, in the pandmeic context.

Previously on multiple occasions Valletta has been requesting the EU member-states for an adequate funding to secure Libyan borders, and also equal redistribution across Europe of constantly arriving irregular migrants. However in the actual context of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, causing the European governments to close borders, Malta demands became increasingly difficult to fulfil. In the meantime the summer departures from Libya and arrivals have continued, causing mounting pressure on Valletta, but also the other Mediterranean countries like Spain, and Italy, facing almost weekly disembarkments.

Abela, as the preceding heads of Maltese government, has underlined that is spite of its limited resources, Valletta has always respected its international obligations on a humanitarian grounds. In the obvious absence of relevant resources, the successive governments have been looking for the EU support to resolve the increasing problem of human trafficking in Africa. Malta has been asking for stronger Tripoli GNA controls on human trafficking networks.

The Libyan southern border, and costal line should be focus of monitoring operation to counter human trafficking, rather than focusing on the consequences of these criminal activities, to avoid risky Mediterranean Sea crossing. Recently various reports of NGOs indicated there are more than a half a million migrants on Libyan territory, in search of possibility to reach the European coasts. However not all of them are from sub-Saharan Africa, some come from Asian countries, as distant as Bangladesh.

Valletta and Tripoli will be setting up joint coordination units the to deal with the migration crisis, according to MaltaToday. Sources close to the talks indicated that the coordination units would ensure regular communication between Maltese government and GNA when addressing migrant rescues in the Mediterranean.

https://twitter.com/maltatoday/status/1266747709559410690?s=21

Al-Sarraj and Abela discussed Operation IRINI, and agreed that this should consider both Malta and Libya’s reservations about mission.

Meetings were held with al-Sarraj, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala and Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga, in presence of the heads of the Libyan coast guard and navy. Abela led the delegation of Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and OPM head of secretariat Clyde Caruana.

Image above: courtesy of Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna

Côte d’Ivoire joined counterterrorist operation

Soldiers from Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso conducted their first joint operation against jihadists insurgency near their shared border, neutralising eight suspected militants and arresting 14 others, Ivorian army said on May 24.

Burkina Faso and its neighbours Mali and Niger in West Africa’s vast Sahel zone are conducting operaions against Islamist insurgencies with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State, claiming to re-consturct the historic Caliphe of Sokoto.

Those terrorist groups have been strengthening and expanding their range of operations, leaving coastal countries like Cote d’Ivoire at risk of violence and unrest breaking into their territories.

The joint operation was launched on May 11 with about 1,000 Ivorian soldiers participating from their side of the 580-kilometre border with Burkina Faso, Ivorian army announced in a statement.

The suspected militants were killed in Burkina Faso, the army confirmed, adding that the operation is ongoing.

Jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have escalated dramatically over the past year despite significant military support from France, which is engaged in partnerships with former colonies.

While Cote d’Ivoire has mostly been spared the violence affecting its neighbours, it was the victim in 2016 of an attack claimed by al Qaeda in which gunmen killed 19 people at a beach resort.
Image: illustration

Kidnapped Bulgarian capitan freed

Captain of a Portuguese-flagged cargo ship who was kidnapped along with seven other sailors by pirates off the coast of Benin last month, has been freed, Bulgaria’s foreign Ministry announced on May 25.

The Bulgarian captain of the container ship Tommi Ritscher, which was attacked at the port of Cotonou in the Gulf of Guinea on April 19, was already in an European country and would soon return to Bulgaria, the Ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry said it has been in close coordination with the ship’s owners but did not give other details. It’s unclear what whether the other seven sailors have been released.

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