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NC Interviews // The United States Elections with MaryAnn Okon and Professor Claudine Moore

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Professor Claudine Moore speaks on tensions in the United States Of America, on D-day with Newscentral’s journalist MaryAnn Okon

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East Africa News

Kenya Looks To China For COVID-19 Vaccine

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President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya has ordered the ministry of health to shop for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine in China, a government official has disclosed.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe, in a statement on Monday, said President Kenyatta gave the order following the increasing cases of the disease in Kenya.

“Covid-19 seems to be making a comeback with a vengeance and for us in Kenya, the cases in the counties seem to be growing,” Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said on Monday.

“While Kemri continues to collaborate with AstraZeneca and Oxford University in the trials for this vaccine, the government remains open to other collaborative opportunities.”

On Monday, 302 people tested positive for the virus, from a sample of 3,038 bringing the total of positives since March 13 to 83,618.

The death rate remains high and yesterday 17 people succumbed to the virus, bringing total fatalities to 1,469.

There are now more than 80,000 people who have been confirmed Covid-19 positive in Kenya. More than 1,400 have died from the disease.

The country’s decision comes in the wake of rich countries in the west buying nearly 3.8 billion doses of vaccines currently in development, according to a study by Duke Global Health Innovation Centre.

China has five home-grown vaccine candidates in phase three trials, usually, the last step before government regulators vet the vaccine for approval.

Chinese President Xi Jinping already promised the successful candidates will be offered to Africa at a discounted price leading to China being accused of ‘vaccine diplomacy.’ However, countries, where the Chinese vaccines are being tested, will receive preference.

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UN Seeks $147M Support For Ethiopians Fleeing Into Sudan

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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has launched an appeal for $147 million to support as many as 100,000 people fleeing Ethiopia’s Tigray region into neighbouring Sudan.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday, said more than 43,000 people have fled across the border to escape fighting in Ethiopia in recent weeks, almost half of them children, the UN said in a statement.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, on Saturday, announced the capture of Mekelle, the Tigray regional capital, by the Ethiopian Defence Forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces.

Violence erupted at the start of November in Tigray involving federal and local forces, following the reported takeover of an army base in Mekelle, which prompted the prime minister to order a military offensive.

Mr. Grandi said in a statement that Sudan’s welcome of the refugees was an example to the international community and called for international support to bolster its effort.

“The Government of Sudan has kept the border open in the best tradition of African and Sudanese hospitality and I want to commend it as an example to the international community. But the government of Sudan needs a lot of help,” he said during a four-day visit to the region.

In its appeal document, UNHCR said its current planning scenario was for an anticipated increase in refugee numbers, with a total of 100,000 by April 2021, but the worst-case scenario was for an influx of 200,000.

UNHCR said on Friday it had begun airlifting aid to the refugees, sending the first of four planeloads of supplies to Khartoum, with a second flight due to bring 100 tonnes from Dubai on Monday, including blankets, solar lamps, mosquito nets, plastic sheets, tents and prefabricated warehouses.

The appeal for $147m aims to fund UNHCR, the UN and humanitarian community to help Sudan manage the crisis over the next six months.

During his trip, Mr. Grandi met Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and other Government officials in Khartoum, and he spoke to refugees at the hot and dusty frontier where they are coming across, many of whom said they wanted to return home as soon as it was safe, according to UNHCR.

Mr. Grandi also said he was worried about the situation facing almost 100,000 refugees from Eritrea who are hosted by Ethiopia in the Tigray region.

“Ethiopia is a very hospitable country for refugees, but now they are caught in this conflict, we don’t have access to them,” he said.

In a separate report, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said lack of funding had forced it to cut rations for refugees in East Africa, and WFP Ethiopia urgently needed $209m to assist 6.2 million beneficiaries from December 2020 to May 2021.

It said the fighting between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation front had displaced more than 100,000 civilians, including those who had fled into eastern Sudan since 4 November.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday that local hospitals and health facilities in the Tigray capital, Mekelle, are running dangerously low on medical supplies to care for the wounded as well as other mounting medical needs and conditions.

Ambulances run by the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) have been transporting the injured and deceased people to Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekelle, it said in a statement.

ICRC staff visited Ayder Referral Hospital on Saturday and found approximately 80 per cent of patients to be suffering from traumatic injuries.

The influx of the wounded forced the hospital to suspend many other medical services so that limited staff and resources could be devoted to emergency medical care, it said.

“The hospital is running dangerously low on sutures, antibiotics, anticoagulants, painkillers, and even gloves,” said Maria Soledad, the head of operations for the ICRC in Ethiopia, who visited Ayder Referral Hospital and is currently in Mekelle. “The influx of injured comes more than three weeks after supply chains were disrupted into Mekelle. We need to ensure that health workers have the supplies and conditions they need to carry out their lifesaving work.”

The hospital is also lacking in body bags for the deceased. Food supplies are also low, affecting particularly those recovering from surgery and requiring specific nutritional needs.

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East Africa Optimistic The U.S. Will Revive Trade Talks

This came to the fore as leaders from the EAC congratulated Biden for his election win, with many expressing hopes that his presidency will boost ties with the regional bloc.

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The East African Community is optimistic that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will revive the negotiations and implementations of the EAC-U.S. Trade and Investment Partnership.

This came to the fore as leaders from the East African Community congratulated Biden for his election win, with many expressing hopes that his presidency will boost ties with the regional bloc.

The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which is a trade pact that establishes a framework for expanding trade and resolving outstanding disputes between countries, was agreed between U.S. and EAC partner states in June 2012, but was never implemented.

TIFA was signed on July 16 2008, as a framework for expanding trade and investment between the U.S. and EAC.

But since United States President Trump took over from his predecessor Barack Obama in 2016, not much has been heard from the arrangement.

Read also: Kenya, UK, Secure Trade Deal

“We all look forward to working with the new US administration and of course hope that America’s trade and investment policies will also advance the interests of East Africa. Reviving TIFA is one of them,” said Prof Manasseh Nshuti, EAC chairperson of the Council of Ministers, who is also Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of the East African Community.

“EAC is better negotiating multilateral trade rather than bilaterally. This is because at the end of the day, what happens in Kenya affects Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania, in terms of trade and investments.”

In April 2016, Ministers from EAC and U.S. signed the EAC-US Co-operation Agreement on Trade Facilitation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) but so far very little has been implemented despite the existence of agreed work plans.

Under the United States-East African Community-Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, partners consult on a wide range of issues related to trade and investment, but under President Donald Trump, this was never implemented.

Related: Kenya to be in breach of EAC, AfCFTA rules in proposed American trade deal

Topics for consultation and possible further cooperation include market access issues, labour, the environment, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, and in appropriate cases, capacity building.

However, since 2016, the negotiations for the regional investment treaty stalled due to lack of consensus on the approach for discussions on the regional investment treaty.

“The U.S. has TIFAs with countries at different levels of development and trade and investment interests but none with the EAC,” said Dr. Peter Mathuki, CEO East African Business Council.

“As the private sector, we are expecting the revival of an up-scaled US-EAC Trade and Investment Partnership under U.S. presidential elect Joe Biden.”

EAC’s Director-General of Customs and Trade Kenneth Bagamuhunda also said he looks forward to a return to a multilateral trading system “where the trade rules will prevail over unilateralism”.

“We look forward to engagement with the US as a bloc at EAC and Continental level.”

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