With a neo- colonialist tone, Belgian Journalist Peter Verlinden wrote an article in entitled ‘The coronization of Africa’. In this propaganda piece of article, he questions measures adopted by African governments to contain the spread of COVID-19. Yet, if African governments weren’t proactive enough, they would have not been able to deal with the pandemic and its devastating effects on African populations as well as their social and economic welfare. In his non- informed article, much emphasis was on the ‘lock down’ (i.e confinement) measures, suggesting that they were not really needed for the only reason that Africa has not as many cases as Europe.
He did not forget to mention Rwanda, a country that he is obsessed with and whose leaders are frequent subjects of his endless abuses. In his hollow article, he only mocks them African models of dealing with covid-19, without considering the positive impacts they have been yielding for African populations. Indeed, Peter Verlinden seems to ignore that lack of proactive action in Europe is the major (if not only) cause to endless loss of lives in Europe.
That being said, one just wonders whether Peter Verlinden is really a specialist of the Central African region because he is out of step with the reality on the ground. For newcomers, here is why what he calls ‘draconian measures’ were worth it in many African countries:
Strict measures were the best option for developing economies
On 06 March 20, the US congress enacted ‘The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020’ that authorized the disbursement of $8.3 billion to support emergency measures aimed at combatting the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the United states.
In mid-April, the French government availed 110 billion Euros to support the economy through the coronavirus crisis. Yet, the United States remains the epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 85,000 deaths and close to 1,5 million of total infections.
France, which is one of the European economic heavy weights, is not doing well either. More than 27,000 deaths have been registered in 178,000 total cases. I deliberately don’t want to mention Belgium, Verlinden’s own country. But the truth is that it is not doing well too.
Therefore, if countries with generous economic and financial resources, stable and developed heath care systems hardly struggle to contain the Corona virus pandemic; one wonders what it could have looked like if developing countries had not reacted proactively and severely. Yet, Peter Verlinden is busy mocking successful African systems.
It is good to remind readers what some African countries’ national budgets in 2020 amount to. The table below will help you to have an idea:
|Country||Budget for 2020||Equivalence in USD|
|Rwanda||2,876 billions in RwF||3 billions|
|Burundi||1,905 billions in FBU||Around 1 billion|
|Cote d’Ivoire||8, 061 billions in FCFA||Around 13 billions|
|Kenya||3,08 trillions in Ksh||Around 30 billion|
With such national budgets, one wonders where gigantic additional budgets to deal with covid-19 would have come from for countries with limited economic resources. As we said earlier, the only solution possible was to react severely and proactively.
Rwanda as one of the countries targeted by Verlinden
In the case of Rwanda, one of the success stories that we have on the African continent so far, proactive measures have helped so much in dealing with the speed of the pandemic. First of all, when information about Covid-19 in China started to circulate in December 2019, Rwanda put the pandemic under constant surveillance mechanisms. As early as 14th March this year, the first case was recorded in Rwanda, on a gentleman who had entered the country a week before from India. In a span of a week, infected people had reached 11, which resulted into a countrywide lockdown on 21 March. Numbers kept rising but on a small pace, thanks to the mechanisms of testing and contact tracing in place.
In Rwanda, the testing, hospitalization and expenditures related to Covid-19 are fully covered by the government, for both nationals and foreigners. In hospitals and other isolation centers, patients live in decent rooms, with nice meals, access to information via TV sets and free WiFi in order to keep up with the outside world, current affairs and leisure. https://twitter.com/Baker_Reports/status/1244220891694759936?s=08
As a result of these mechanisms, Rwanda has so far a total number of 287 cases. No death case has been reported, while active cases have lowered to 123.
Citizen compliance as a sign of trusted governance
When lockdown was declared by different countries around the world, citizens responded differently. Largely, the kind of response from the population was reflective enough of how much citizens trusted their governments. In many countries, there were repetitive ugly images of security men violently forcing people out of streets. The people were mostly protesting against lockdown measures that obliged them to stay home with nothing to eat. To some extent, lockdown helped governments to measure the kind of relationship they have with citizens.
In Rwanda, the situation was totally different. After only a week in lockdown, on national TV and radio, President Paul Kagame directed his government to start giving relief aid to people who were most affected by lockdown measures, a directive that took effect the following day. When government decided to ease lockdown measures on 10 days ago, the population was always cooperating and trusted the direction adopted by their leadership.
Verlinden’s neo- colonialist thinking says it all
When Peter Verlinden questions measures put in place by African governments, with a special emphasis on Rwanda, it is not just that he wants contribute to the scientific debate on better ways to defeat Covid-19 pandemic. Not at all! He does so because he is a man who always believes in white supremacy and who thinks Europe or his country Belgium should be the standard for former colonies, forgetting that this is the 21st century.
He also does this as an attempt to discredit efforts by African governments, the only sin being not following the European model, which mainly consisted of sitting idle when the pandemic was knocking on the door. African governments deserve respect for whatever has been achieved up to date. They have been anticipating events and taking decisions that have saved the continent from going mad. Cognizant those African governments have limited health care infrastructure, financial and human resources, our governments decided to take severe measures before the devil’s sneaking into the house.
To sum up, Peter Verlinden is one of the most famous deniers of the Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda. He has written so many articles and books trivializing that same genocide. I deliberately don’t want to name any of his writings, in order to limit their publicity. He and his wife Bamutese are also known for the fake testimonies in the controversial BBC2 documentary named ‘Rwanda’s Untold Story’, which attempts to rewrite the history of the Genocide against the Tutsi. His writings have no scientific basis and amount to cheap propaganda.
The writer is an independent contributor, pursuing his Master’s Degree in Social work at one of the Belgian Universities.