COVID-19, that invasive arrival from the north, has taken its time to reach Africa. But it has quickly made up for lost time, because if on February 20 there were scarcely 210 people affected by the virus in the entire region, on April 4, Africa already had 8018 confirmed cases in 50 of the 54 countries on the continent, 339 deceased and 652 people healed.
The 15 countries of the Community of West African States, all affected, totaled 1,597 cases and 45 deaths as of April 4.
Similar to European countries, practically all African countries have taken measures to prevent the spread of the virus: closure of schools at all levels, of public places, mosques, churches, shops, borders and airports, limitation of internal movements and distancing Social.
However, in some countries, these measures have taken a violent nature.
The first night of the curfew, from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., which was established in the Ivory Coast on March 23, 2020, the independent journalist Bally Ferro reported police abuses in the economic capital, Abidjan, as explains on the Ivorian news website Yeclo.com:
La première nuit, du mardi 24 au mercredi 25 mars 2020, a eté émaillée de bavures policières, avec les bastonnades et autres sévices corporels infligés par les agents des forces de l’ordre aux contrevenants…
The first night, Tuesday, March 24 through Wednesday, March 25, 2020, was riddled with police abuse: beatings and other corporal punishment inflicted by law enforcement officers on violators (…).
The Cameroonian filmmaker and human rights activist Saïd Penda denounced the behavior of Ivorian law enforcement in a Facebook post:
Certaines vidéos que j’ai regardées sont d’une extrême violence, des agents des forces de l’ordre frappant aveuglément sur toutes les parties du corps avec des ceinturons militaires comportant des éléments métalliques.
Some of the videos I have seen are of extreme violence, law enforcement officers blindly beating everywhere on the body with military belts studded with metal parts.
In Senegal, the inhabitants in search of food have difficulties to respect the curfew from 20 = 00 to 06:00 hours that the President of the Republic decreed in Dakar on March 24. But law enforcement agencies have not waited long to launch it against those who violated the state of emergency, as Senegalese journalist Momar Dieng found:
Des images postées sur les réseaux sociaux ont montré des policiers bastonnant avec une extrême violence des personnes qui ont eu la malchance (ou l'outrecuidance) de se trouver encore dans les rues après 20h…
Ces violences policières ont eté observées et filmées dans plusieurs quartiers de la capitale, dont la Médina.
Images have been published on social networks that show policemen handing out batons with extreme violence to people who have had the bad luck (or the impudence) to still be on the street after 8:00 p.m. (…)
These police violence have been observed and filmed in various neighborhoods of the capital, such as the Medina.
In Burkina Faso, where six ministers have contracted the disease, the online newspaper lefaso.net quotes a statement from the Burkinabe People's and Human Rights Movement (MBDHP) in which it denounces the violence with which security agents treat citizens, and condemns:
… Les actes de torture et autres traitements inhumains et dégradants infligés par certains éléments des forces de défense et de sécurité (FDS) aux personnes appréhendées durant les heures de couvre-feu. Ces actes are unacceptable dans un ANDtat de droit et ce d’autant plus that the Code de la santé publishes prévoit une répression adéquate en cas de non-respect d’une mesure sanitaire.
(…) the acts of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted by some elements of the Defense and Security Forces (SDS) on people detained during the curfew hours. These acts are unacceptable under the rule of law, especially since the Public Health Code already provides for an adequate punishment in the event that a sanitary measure is not respected.
Nigerians are used to the violence of their security forces. Rebecca Bantie of the website thebbcghana.com reports how a man who had gone out looking for food for his wife died at the hands of the Police:
Residents of Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, are furious over the death of one of their own at the hands of the police who were supposed to protect, enforce the law and guide citizens.
The deceased went out to buy food for her starving pregnant wife during the lockdown order in the capital. The man, unfortunately, lost his life at the hands of the police who didn’t exercise patience with him but beat him for arguing which lead to his death, an eyewitness reported.
Residents of the Nigerian capital Abuja are furious at the death of one of their own at the hands of the police, who allegedly protect, enforce the law and guide citizens.
The deceased had gone out to buy food for his pregnant wife, hungry because of the order of confinement in the capital. The man, unfortunately, lost his life at the hands of the Police, who did not show patience with him, but beat him for having confronted the police, which led to his death, an eyewitness reported.
Journalists and medical personnel in the spotlight
Journalist Awa Faye indicates on seneweb.com that some of her colleagues have also been ill-treated in Senegal, which led to a statement from the Senegalese Young Journalists Convention (CJRS), in which they condemn the ruses of some police officers. .
In Niger, journalist and alert trigger Kaka Touda Mamane Goni was arrested for revealing the presence of a suspected case of COVID-19 at the Niamey General Reference Hospital, according to a statement from the Collectif Tournons la page Niger (TLP Niger).
In another statement, Reporters Without Borders revealed that in addition to the attacks and intimidations, citizens have also been deprived of access to sources of information:
The authorities of Nigeria and Liberia are not limited to the fact that they are attached to the media, presumably to their contrôlés ou proches du pouvoir. Celles du Cameroun ont exclude communication gouvernementale plusieurs médias privés critiques très populaires. Et à Madagascar, the programs of free antenne dans lesquels des auditeurs sont susceptible d’intervene et d’exprimer leur opinion sur la pandémie et sa gestion sont désormais interdits.
The Nigerian and Liberian authorities decided to limit access to the presidency to a few media, virtually all controlled or close to power. Those in Cameroon have excluded several very popular critical private media from government communications. And in Madagascar, live televised colloquia where the audience can intervene and express their opinion on the pandemic have been banned.
Medical personnel have not escaped violence. The news page on Facebook Faso MAG has reported the assault perpetrated on the street against an ambulance driver from the Houndé town hall, some 250 km west of Ouagadougou.
The news website Sibassor.net reports on comments posted by Professor Alain Khassim Ndoye of the Aristides le Dantec Hospital in Dakar on his Facebook page. According to the professor, several members of the hospital staff have been mistreated by the security forces:
Ils ont passé leur journée au bloc opératoire. Ils ont eté surpris par l’absence de transports en commun quand ils sont sortis à 17h. Certains ont marché jusqu’au “garage Petersen” où ils disent avoir subi la violence des policiers.
They spent their day in the surgical block, and were surprised by the absence of public transport when they left at 5:00 p.m. Some walked to the Petersen garage, where they say they have suffered police violence.
In Guinea the tension increases
In Guinea, President Alpha Condé decreed on March 26, 2020 a series of measures that include limiting the number of passengers in each car or motorcycle, closing places of worship and recreation, as well as air and land borders. A curfew was also established between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. that prohibits movements from one city to another. After the increase in cases on April 2, the country already has more than 50 cases of COVID-19.
It is perhaps the country least prepared to face a serious crisis of this disease. Proof of this misfortune, which has seen how high personalities have been hospitalized in Donka, one of the public hospitals in the capital Conakry, are the living conditions of the sick, which journalist Youssouf Boundou Sylla describes on the website Guinee News:
… The personnalites elles-mêmes sont dans des mauvaises conditions; imaginez nous autres populations? Because of ce mépris, Hadja Rabiatou Diallo (une celèbre leader syndicaliste) left badly to entamé une grève de la faim, he was left gravely ill and received the remarks that they were 10h comme nous autres; elle dit avoir peur pour le subte de la population.
(…) The personalities themselves are in sad conditions; Can other people imagine? Because of this contempt, Hadja Rabiatou Diallo (a famous trade union leader), already ill, has started a hunger strike. She is seriously ill and received no food except at 10:00 am like everyone else. He said he feared for the rest of the population.
Furthermore, journalist Oumar Bady Diallo of the website Africa Guinee, obtained testimonies of violent confrontations between youth and police because of the looting. Quoting an eyewitness, he writes:
At the moment the jeunes et les policiers échangent des jets de pierres et du gaz lacrymogène. Certains policiers rentrent même dans les quartiers pour chasser les jeunes mais ces derniers ripostent toujours
At this time, the youth and the police exchange stone throws and tear gas. Some policemen even enter the neighborhoods to persecute the youth, but they always respond.
In countries where the majority of the population lives daily, it is difficult to combine the need to find food every day and the strict application of social distancing and the other requirements of confinement. Therefore, these human rights violations are likely to be only the beginning of a long series.