When I look at the measures that many countries have put in place to combat Covid-19, I can’t stop asking some thorny questions. For example, are those measures right for battling the plague? Are the ways we interact with and treat each other appropriate to thwart the pandemic? Are we prepared to resolve the conflict originating from our different approaches in dealing with the pandemic? How long will Covid-19 torment us? How long will it take for us to be out of the woods? What will be Covid-19’s toll on our economies?
Our attention has been fixed on humans and how to survive the pandemic but not measures and systems crucial for our survival such as trade among ourselves, peaceful coexistence and cooperation.
Recently, two East African countries, Kenya and Tanzania, banned each other from using their respective airports. Such a tiff lays bare another soft underbelly as far as Africa is concerned, disunity. We need to unite as people, countries and the continent to successfully win the war against this pandemic. Kenya and Tanzania found themselves in a very stroppy situation after taking two opposing stances on how to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenya issued a list of airplanes that are allowed to land on its land. This list excluded Tanzania which retaliated by barring Kenyan planes from landing on its land. Essentially, banishing each other is likely to weigh heavily on the already tanking economies of two countries because of COVID-19. Actually, there won’t be any winner in this melee.
This tit for tat is but a typical replica of what’s been ongoing in postcolonial Africa wherein neighbouring countries pointlessly live in an acrimonious netherworld at their peril. Refusal to unite is postcolonial Africa’s coloniality that makes the continent’s independence meaningless. Africa’s freedom should mean free movements for Africans in their continent; the reunification of Africa; and decolonising Africa.
If unity was truly among East African Community (EAC) members, the Kenya-Tanzania shame would not have occurred. Similarly, if Africa were united, Ethiopia and Egypt would not have been wasting their precious time and money on squabbling about the right to the Nile waters, a resource that’s supposed to be theirs equally if they’re united.
The models we have in place for combating the pandemic are the results of fear and vulnerability as a human race. We seem to have either got it wrong or ignored some other pertinent elements. We need to think out; and without the box together and protect each other.
Are the animals we consume free of Covid-19? Do we close our borders for them not to contaminate us? Ironically, thanks to the action the authorities once took in Tanzania where animals and even fruits were found to be Covid-19 positive. If this is true, are we safe? Where are the right answers about this?
The independent (May 6th, 2020) cited Tanzania’s President Dr John Pombe Magufuli as saying that “there is something happening. I said before we should not accept that every aid is meant to be good for this nation.” Essentially, Magufuli raised very crucial questions on what should be done to address the problem. Was he taken seriously or politicised? Neither the WHO nor any scientific society responded to such suspicion concerning this unfolding ‘reality.’
We need to dig deeper to see if we’re braced for yet a bigger problem so that we can take adequate actions, quickly and timely. Some countries have decided to go solo in fighting the pandemic. I don’t see the so-called developed and wealthy countries playing their roles as world leaders––the role many like to play in political and social matters but not in this foreboding pandemic! Where are the EU and the US in this war? Countries are locked in their jurisdiction as if the pandemic does reciprocate equally and similarly. If wealthy countries are going to maintain their silence in helping poor and more vulnerable countries, their success in cutting down the spread; and thereby eradicating the pandemic in their jurisdictions won’t help anything.
Rich countries need to assume their responsibility accountably. They did the same when Ebola broke in Africa. They need to globalize the strategies of combating the pandemic. People with poor health infrastructure need to be helped out because all humans are members of one village known as earth. This includes even animals and plants. This needs a very cyclic approach that traditional societies apply in responsibly living on this planet.
In sum, on a country level, authorities need to get act together and tax wealthy citizens in order to raise funds for helping the poor out of the danger. If we fail to think out or without a box, we’ll collectively perish. Is the world going to embark on aut vincere aut mori, namely either to conquer or to die? No doubt about this. If anything, Covid-19 provides an opportunity for the world to come together and fight together in order to survive together instead of foolishly and irresponsibly perishing together. Instead of socially distancing ourselves, we need to financially, socially and strategically come together to take on the pandemic collectively.
By Nkwazi Mhango
Mhango is a lifetime member of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL) and author of over 20 books among which are Africa Reunite or Perish, 'Is It Global War on Terrorism' or Global War over Terra Africana? How Africa Developed Europe and contributed many chapters in scholarly works.