Africa’s top leaders, musicians, executives hardest hit by virus

Monday June 22 2020

A health officer takes samples for testing the Covid-19 coronavirus. PHOTO | AFP


Kenya’s seat of power, the State House, last week reported that several workers at the principal presidential office and residence had tested positive for Covid-19. This adds to a growing trend that has seen Africa’s elite suffer a high infection rate of the deadly virus.

The announcement by State House spokesperson Kanze Dena came about a week after South Sudan reported that at least 10 of its cabinet members had tested positive for the virus, while famous musicians Manu Dibango of Cameroon and Aurlus Mabele of DR Congo succumbed to the disease.

Top politicians, musicians and business executives have tested positive for the virus in Algeria, South Africa, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Burundi, Rwanda, Cameroon and Kenya.

The virus, which originated from China before spreading rapidly in Europe, the US and then all corners of the world, had by June 19 infected more than 275,300 people in Africa and killed over 7,400 people.

Globally, Covid-19 has infected more than 9 million people and caused nearly half a million deaths.

The World Health Organisation said the pandemic “is accelerating” in Africa, noting that while it took 98 days for the continent to report 100,000 cases it took just 18 days to get to 200,000 cases.


The virus is also now spreading to the rural areas, where majority of the most vulnerable Africans live.

The South Sudan Minister of Information, Michael Makuei, confirmed that more than 10 cabinet ministers tested positive for the coronavirus, including himself.

The country’s vice President, James Wani Igga, on June 13 told the media that he too had been infected.

First Vice President Riek Machar, his wife and Defence Minister Angelina Teny were the first to be confirmed as Covid-19 positive.

Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi also tested positive, while East African Affairs Minister John Luk Jok, who died from cardiac arrest, is suspected to have been suffering from Covid-19.

In Kenya, four State House officials have tested positive for the virus, while a former MP Margaret Wanjiru was taken ill but has since fully recovered.

The State House spokesperson declined to reveal the identities of the four workers who were infected, but said President Uhuru Kenyatta and the first family are "safe and free from Covid-19."

"State House would also like to remind Kenyans that every person is at risk of contracting Covid-19. No one is immune to the disease," Ms Dena said.

In Uganda, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda recently said that he was self-isolating despite testing negative for the virus.

“I have gone into self-isolation after some of my contacts tested positive for Covid-19. My own test result is negative. However, I have taken this decision as a health-recommended measure,” said Dr Rugunda.

The outgoing president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, whose death was described as a heart attack in a government statement, is suspected to have also suffered Covid-19. Speculation about the cause of his death has been fuelled by the fact his wife was flown to Nairobi three weeks ago, after reportedly contracting Covid-19.

Top Jazz legend and 86-year old Manu Dibango — who fused jazz and funk music with traditional sounds from his home country Cameroon — died on March 23 after contracting the virus.

Aurlus Mabele, the 66-year old Congolese singer, who was known as the “king of soukous,” — the energetic dance hall music that blends traditional African and Caribbean rhythms with pop and soul — died on June 18 in Paris from the virus.

“It is not only in Africa, but also in India, Brazil, and Latin America and in 18 states in the USA, where the virus is going up,” said Alfred Odhiambo Otieno, a consultant radiologist at the University of Nairobi.

Dr Odhiambo attributed the rise to a number of factors including less-equipped medical facilities in Africa.

“The virus is highly infectious because it has an efficient mechanism of transmission, characterised by a long incubation period of 14 days.”

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has warned that cases could spike across the continent as testing is stepped up in the coming weeks.