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Africa 54 – February 22, 2021

You are watching Africa 54, your daily news and feature magazine-style program, from the Voice of America. Host Esther Githui-Ewart and a team of correspondents zero in on the big stories making news on the continent and around the world with context and analysis.

Top Stories:
A small Nigerian Air Force passenger plane crashed just outside Abuja airport after reporting engine failure on Sunday, killing all seven people on board, according to the Air Force. The plane was on its way to the city of Minna, 68 miles northwest of the capital. The chief of the air force has ordered an investigation into the accident. President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement sent his condolences to the air force and families of the victims, saying he was “deeply saddened by the fatal crash”.

The Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and a military policeman traveling with him have been killed in an attack on a United Nations convoy in eastern Congo, according to a statement by the Italian foreign ministry on Monday. The convoy was attacked near the town of Kanyamahoro at around 10:15 a.m. local time and was part of a kidnap attempt, the Virunga National Park told Reuters. Many armed groups operate in and around Virunga, which lies along Congo’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda, and they have repeatedly attacked Virunga rangers.

Niger began counting the votes on Sunday night in the presidential run-off that will usher in the first democratic handover of power in the country’s history. According to an election official, the electoral process was marred by the death of seven poll workers, who were killed on Sunday when their vehicle struck a landmine. The poll workers were being driven to their polling stations in the rural commune southwest of the country.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has started vaccination program against the Ebola Virus Disease in North Kivu Province, hit by a new round of Ebola outbreak. The vaccination program that started on Monday has inoculated 92 people, but the number of infections and close contacts is still rising quickly. Up to date, a total of 551 high-risk contacts have been detected. So far, the DRC still has eight thousand doses of Ebola vaccine in storage, which were preserved during the last outbreak in 2020. The province has identified four confirmed cases, two of whom have succumbed to the disease from February 7th, according to the local health authority. The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated 15 million U.S. dollars to support the epidemic response in Guinea and DR Congo as well as preparedness in neighboring countries.

The start of a vaccination campaign against Ebola in southeastern Guinea has been delayed by a day after the vaccines did not arrive in the country on Sunday due to bad weather, according to health authorities. The start of inoculations in the Nzérékoré region, where an outbreak of the deadly virus was declared last weekend, is now expected on Tuesday, rather than on Monday, according to the National Agency of Health Safety. A flight carrying the eleven thousand vaccine doses was due to arrive on Sunday from Europe, but was unable to land in the capital Conakry, which is experiencing heavy dust brought by winds from the Sahara Desert. Guinea has recorded four confirmed and four probable cases, including five deaths, in the first resurgence of Ebola since the 2013-2016 outbreak.

The head of the World Health Organization urged Tanzania on Sunday to share information on its measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, saying the authorities there had repeatedly ignored his requests. President John Magufuli’s sceptical approach towards COVID-19 has caused alarm among W-H-O officials. A government spokesman told Reuters on February 12 that Tanzania had “controlled” the outbreak, but it stopped reporting new coronavirus infections and deaths in May last year. At the time it had registered 509 cases and 21 deaths. W-H-O Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Sunday that Tanzanians testing positive for COVID-19 abroad underscored “the need for Tanzania to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect populations in these countries and beyond.” Tanzania government spokesman Hassan Abbasi did not respond to a Reuters message seeking comment on Tedros’ remarks.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is getting to work on Mars after Thursday’s successful – and suspenseful – landing on the red planet. Like millions around the world, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh watched event live, but from a Chicago planetarium otherwise closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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