Thursday, December 10, 2020

Truest statement of the week II

Whatever the scientific truths about coronavirus, state measures to control it undoubtedly have great potential for justifying state repression and surveillance. A friend of mine remarked that “it’s beyond the Patriot Act authors’ wildest dreams." In Africa, it’s been crudely weaponized to suppress elections, as witnessed in Uganda and Ethiopia. 

During the third week of November, Ugandan military police arrested pop star and presidential challenger Bobi Wine, alleging that his campaign rallies of more than 200 people violated state protocols for stopping the spread of coronavirus. They then shot dead 56 people protesting his arrest and arrested 836 with seeming unconcern that the virus might spread among them in jail.

This week police and military opened fire on Bobi Wine's campaign convoy in the Ugandan countryside. They struck and disabled the vehicle he was traveling in and injured several of his campaign colleagues. In a Ghetto TV video , shot by his campaign team, he could be heard shouting at police, as munitions exploded around him, “Why are you trying to murder me?”

Aljazeera then reported that Bobi Wine had suspended his campaign  because of the state violence, but shortly thereafter, he reappeared campaigning in a helmet and bulletproof vest. In another campaign video, he reported that police had ordered hotels not to admit his team and that they had therefore slept in their vehicles on the streets.

Earlier this year, in Ethiopia, the central government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed postponed this year’s elections  until 2021 because of the coronavirus, he said. Dissidents said, however, that he had used the virus as an excuse to buy time to consolidate power. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) , which lost its brutal, minority grip on power in 2018, held regional elections anyway and then attacked an Ethiopian army base in the Tigrayan region, drawing an Ethiopian military response and sending refugees fleeing into South Sudan, where they risk contracting COVID-19 in crowded, makeshift camps.

As of December 8, Coronovirus Worldometer   reported that 207 people have died of COVID-19 in Uganda, four per million people, and that 1,766 people, fifteen per million, have died of the disease in Ethiopia .

In both African countries, these coronavirus mortality statistics are far lower than those caused by malaria and/or lack of health care. In Uganda, roughly 10,000 die annually of malaria; in Ethiopia, 883 died of malaria in 2016. Uganda has some of the world’s most shocking maternal death statistics , with 440 deaths per 100,000 live births. Both country’s electoral and social justice movements have far greater potential to lengthen and qualitatively enhance their citizens’ lives than their leaders’ crudely repressive coronavirus restrictions.

-- Ann Garrison, "Coronavirus Protocols as Tools of Repression" (BLACK AGENDA REPORTS).

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