The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic across Africa is heading is gone past the 1,000 mark as of April 18, 2020. The casualties cut across age groups. From the death of a 6 year-old in Kenya, older patients in most instances and persons in the youth bracket.
Whiles each death is reported with a sombre mood and with condolences to affected families, some of the casualties have united a country in grief, in other cases united the continent and people beyond Africa’s borders.
From top politicians – former presidents, prime ministers and lawmakers, to entertainment icons and top sportsmen, the virus has left in its wake prominent casualties who could hardly get the send-off they would have been accorded in “normal times.”
This article briefly profiles as many casualties as possible:
June 21: Veteran AP video, photo-journalist in Congo dies of COVID-19
John Bompengo, who covered Congo’s political turmoil as a freelance photographer and video journalist for The Associated Press over the course of 16 years has died, relatives said Sunday. He was 52.
The cause of death was complications due to the coronavirus. Bompengo had been hospitalized for about a week but his condition rapidly deteriorated Friday and he died the following day.
Bompengo had contributed to AP since 2004, including coverage of the Ebola outbreak in northern Congo, in 2018. He also worked for the U.N.-backed news service, Radio Okapi.
Andrew Drake, the AP’s Africa news director remembered Bompengo as a “stalwart colleague and an impressive storyteller.” “John could talk his way in and out of places where others couldn’t to get striking images,” Drake said.
“He had great contacts and friends across the entire country. Whether news was breaking in Kinshasa or across the river in Brazzaville, John was always on top of things, fast to arrive on the scene and with a plan to get the best pictures.
“He was committed to covering the flow of Congo’s sometime violent politics, always to be found at the heart of the action on the streets taking photos and video, but soon after he would be back in his suit covering the president.”
Among his memorable assignments was covering Congo’s 2006 election, the country’s first multiparty vote in more than 40 years — held nine years after the death of Mobutu Sese Seko.
When dangerous clashes broke out after one opposition party decided to boycott, Bompengo went out into the streets to film them even when other journalists stayed back.
“There were angry protesters throwing stones at cars, clashing with police and attacking journalists,” recalled Khaled Kazziha, now AP’s senior producer for East Africa. “That afternoon John arrived with incredible video of the clashes.”
“He had an incredible knack at navigating around the often chaotic streets of Kinshasa at the worst of times, and to pacify the most angry crowds, ensuring our safety.”
Jerome Delay, AP Chief Africa photographer, said Bompengo was a valued colleague. “I have known and worked with John for the past 15 years.
“I have rarely seen such a dedicated field journalist. … John was a one man band international multi-format news agency — TV, radio, print and photos — he would excel in all fields. We have lost a brother.” The deceased is survived by his wife and nine children.
May 13: Eritrean freedom fighter, ex-diplomat dies in UK
Former Eritrean diplomat and freedom fighter has died in the UK after contracting coronavirus. The family of Afwerki Abraha confirmed his demise to the BBC. He had been in intensive care in London for a month, and did not have any underlying health issues.
“Afwerki Abraha was a man who easily made the transition from a fighter to a professional and a loyal person,” his colleague and senior diplomat Haile Menkerios told the BBC.
According to the BBC, after Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia, Abraha became the first Eritrean diplomat to be posted to Ethiopia. He was a chemist by profession having received training in Russia.
From his ambassadorial role, he moved on to London, where he was officially based from 1996 until 2001. Along with his ailing wife Fatina Ahmedin, herself a former fighter, the couple opted to stay in the UK.
A relative told the BBC that the deceased was devoted to his wife’s care for 20 years “never leaving her alone.”
Photo credit BBC
May 10: Somali envoy to Egypt, Arab League dies
The Somali government on Monday confirmed the death of its ambassador to Egypt, Abdikani Mohamed Wa’ays. The Prime Minister and Ministry of Foreign Affairs celebrated the diplomat for his service to the nation. The confirmation was mute on cause of death.
A privately-owned portal, Garowe Online, disclosed that the ambassador had succumbed to COVID-19 in Kuwait after he was admitted to a health facility for a week. He tested positive for the virus at the facility, Garowe’s sources confirmed.
He doubled as Somalia’s envoy to the Arab League which is based in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. He had served in different portfolios before his last deployment. The diplomat is said to have been suffering from diabetes.
He joins a list of Somalis who have been lost to the virus; among them are Khalif Mumin Tohow, a regional state official who died in Mogadishu; ex-Prime Minister Nur Adde and music icon Ahmed Ismail Hussein – both of whom died in the UK.
Somalia COVID-19 stats: May 11 at 7:00 GMT:
- Confirmed cases = 1054
- Number of deaths = 51
- Recoveries = 118
May 2: Nigerien minister succumbs to virus
Coronavirus caused the death of Niger’s minister of employment and labour, Mohamed Ben Omar, public television announced Monday after several media outlets had linked his death to the virus.
The Social Democratic Party (PSD) which he belonged to confirmed that Ben Omar, 55, had died on Sunday at the main hospital in the capital Niamey but did not list the cause.
“Alas, it is this terrible disease which took the life of minister Mohamed Ben Omar,” public television Tele Sahel reported. Before announcing the news, the channel broadcast a recent message from the minister urging workers to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
“COVID-19 is a reality, it’s not a state of mind. It’s deadly. It kills. It spreads at the speed of light,” Mohamed Ben Omar told the station.
“We must get a grip of ourselves in order to say ‘stop this virus.’ It is discipline alone that will be the weapon to destroy this virus,” he said.
April 28: Revered Kenyan Bishop dies in Italy
Media in Kenya earlier this week reported the death of a former Catholic Bishop who died of COVID-19 in the Italian city of Turin.
According to reports Bishop Silas Njiru succumbed to the disease while undergoing treatment at the Rivoli Hospital. He was 92 years old.
Njiru was bishop of Meru county in central Kenya over a period of 28 years (from 1976 until 2004).
Bishop Salesius Mugambi, who took over from him told a local newspaper that Njiru lived in an retirement home where two other elderly priests had contracted the virus.
Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto in paying tribute to the retired Bishop referred to him as a “tender-hearted and gracious man with steadfast religious credence, which he instilled to many.”
Kenya’s COVID-19 file as of May 1 is as follows: 396 cases, 17 deaths and 144 recoveries.
Major African stats: May 1 at 7:00 GMT:
- Confirmed cases = 38,825
- Number of deaths = 1,634
- Recoveries = 12,543
- Infected countries = 51
- Virus-free countries = 1 (Lesotho)
April 18: Sékou Kourouma: Guinea’s chief of staff succumbs
Guinea recorded a second high-profile death from COVID-19 within a 24-hour period after that of elections body head Amadou Salif Kebe was announced on Friday, April 17.
The new death was of Sékou Kourouma, the secretary general of the government and a relative of President Alpha Condé. He died on Saturday after contracting the COVID-19 disease, the Guinean government announced on Sunday (April 19) in a statement.
“Several senior state officials (have died) from complications from Covid-19,” the government statement confirmed. Before Kourouma and Kebe, Victor Traoré, a former director of Interpol in Guinea had also succumbed to the pandemic.
As of April 20, Guinea has officially reported 579 cases of coronavirus. Five people died whiles 87 others have recovered from the disease, according to the National Agency for Health Security, the official body managing the pandemic.
A presidential order that made face masks mandatory in the West African country came into effect from April 18 as part of measures to help curb the progression of the virus.
This measure is in addition to others already taken, such as the establishment of a night curfew, the closing of schools, borders and places of worship as well as restrictions on gatherings.
April 17: Nigeria president’s top aide succumbs
Chief of Staff to Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari died on Friday April 17, the presidency confirmed in a statement posted by Buhari’s spokespersons on early Saturday.
Spokesman Garba Shehu posted on social media: “The Presidency regrets to announce the passage of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari. The deceased had tested positive to the ravaging COVID-19, and had been receiving treatment. But he died on Friday, April 17, 2020.”
Kyari who was in his 70s was an influential figure in the Buhari administration. It was reported that the running of government business largely revolved around him. He has been in the role for as long as Buhari has been president, since 2015.
He had been diagnosed with coronavirus which he is believed to have contracted whiles on official duty in Germany. He was transferred from the capital Abuja to Lagos for medical care.
Reports indicate that Kyari had a history of medical complications, including diabetes. He is tagged as the gatekeeper to the president. Many who wish to deal with Buhari must go through Kyari, including Nigeria’s top politicians and business owners.
April 17: Amadou Salif Kebe: Guinea elections boss dies
Amadou Salif Kebe chairperson of Guinea’s elections body has died of the coronavirus according to French online news portal, Jeune Afrique.
The Independent Electoral Commission, CENI, in a statement confirmed that Kebe had died on Friday April 17, 2020; it did not mention the cause of death.
The Jeune Afrique report, however, cites persons close to the deceased confirming that he died on the virus which he is believed to have contracted during the last elections held in the West African country.
The polls of March 22 involved a controversial referendum staunchly resisted by the oppostion and a partial parliamentary election. It was met with violence that resulted in the loss of lives. As of April 18, Guinea’s file had 477 confirmed cases with 59 recoveries and three deaths.
Benedict Somi Vilakazi: South Africa mourns celebrant of history
Benedict Somi Vilakazi had been surrounded by history. His grandfather was South Africa’s first black lecturer at Witswatersrand University and produced an English/Zulu dictionary, enormous achievements in a country then divided sharply by race.
The most famous street in Soweto shares his name, and two Nobel Peace Prize winners — Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu — lived along it.
Vilakazi was proud of that past and put a mural about his grandfather in his coffee shop that was popular with tourists and locals alike.
Some of them gathered, carefully, keeping a distance and many wearing facemasks, on Thursday to mourn the 57-year-old Vilakazi, who died of COVID-19. The pallbearers wore full protective suits.
Emeka Chugbo: Nigerian doctor infected on duty, dies
A Nigerian doctor, Emeka Chugbo, succumbed to COVID-19 after contracting the virus while managing an infected patient at his private clinic.
The doctor was admitted to Lagos University Teaching Hospital on Monday, April 13 and died on Wednesday, according to the hospital’s director Chris Bode.
Mr Bode said the doctor was brought to the hospital with severe symptoms. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said the deceased was exposed while managing a patient who died last Friday.
The association is quoted by the Vanguard newspaper as saying that the 51-year-old doctor was asthmatic. The NMA has in the past urged the state governments to provide enough protective gear to all health workers.
The association urged patients to be honest about their medical, travel and contact history to help doctors quickly identify a potential coronavirus case.
Words cannot express man. This was sudden, this feels illegal. Known you since I was a kid. You were the 1st person ever to express and give me confidence in my intellectual abilities. One of the smartest people I ever knew. Dr. Emeka Chugbo RIP Unc! I love u die!
April 12: Khalif Mumin: Top Somalia regional official
Somalia lost a regional official to COVID-19 on Sunday, April 12. The death of Khalif Mumin was the second in the Horn of Africa nation. He died at a hospital in the capital Mogadishu. The Maritini Hospital is Somalia’s only coronavirus treatment center.
The deceased was a top official of the Hirshabelle region of Somalia. He served as Minister of State for Justice. News of his infection was reported two days earlier. He is the first serving Somali minister to succumb to the disease.
Earlier this month, a former Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein also known as “Nur Adde” died of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. Somalia also lost an iconic of its modern music, Ahmed Ismail Hussein Hudeydi, who also died in the UK.
The coronavirus file for Somalia as of April 12 stood at 21 cases, 2 deaths and 2 recoveries. The country only recently achieved testing capacity given that samples used to be sent to Nairobi, Kenya.Somalia Latest News@NaziifAbdullahi
BREAKING: Khalif Mumin Tohow, #Hirshabelle‘s justice Minister who was also a regional MP dies of Coronavirus at Martini Hospital in the capital #Mogadishu. This is the second confirmed #Covid19 death in the country.
April 10: Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule: Ghana loses renowned physician
A renowned Ghanaian physician has been lost to COVID-19, local media portals reported on Saturday. The death of Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule, occurred in the early hours of Friday (April 10) in the capital Accra specifically at the University of Ghana Medical Centre, where he had been on a brief admission.
He was the Rector of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, despite succumbing to COVID-19 a senior member of the Ghana Medical Association, (GMA) who confirmed the death stressed that Prof Plange-Rhule had an underlying medical condition.
Justice Blankson, GMA General-Secretary, said it was too early to tell whether the deceased got infected in the line of duty or not. For a man who dedicated the better part of his life to curing the sick, his death has been described as an incalculable loss by persons within and outside the medical fraternity.
Prof. Plange-Rhule was a former President of the GMA as well as the Ghana Kidney Association. He recently served as Head of the Department of Physiology of the School of Medical Sciences, Kumasi and a Consultant Physician in the Department of Medicine, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) where he started the Hypertension and Renal Clinic and oversaw its operations for the past 20 years, local news portal Myjoyonline said in a report
Photo credit: LM Photography, Facebook
Ahmed Ismail Hussein Hudeydi: Father of modern Somali music
The second Somali in days to die of the COVID-19 pandemic is Ahmed Ismail Hussein Hudeydi, reputed as one of the founders of modern Somali music. He died in London at the age of 92, reports noted.
Known as “the King of Oud” – the instrument that he played – Hudeydi became a key figure “during the anti-colonial movement and decolonisation period” in Somalia, according to Hanna Ali, director of the London-based Kayd Somali arts organisation.
“In short, his music embodied the sound of the long struggle to freedom and independence,” she added in a statement.
He was born in the port city of Berbera in 1928, grew up in Yemen but returned to Somalia as a young adult, Ms Ali said. Apparently he discovered the Oud as a boy growing up in Yemen. He moved to London in the 1990s during the civil war in Somalia.
Somalis took to social media platform Twitter to send their condolence to family and friends and to celebrate the memory of the late musician.
Ex-Libyan PM who served after Gaddafi ouster
Mahmud Jibril was a former head of the rebel government that overthrew Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. He died of the coronavirus in an Egyptian hospital, his party confirmed on April 5.
The 68-year-old former Prime Minister was in Cairo where he had been hospitalised for two weeks, said Khaled al-Mrimi, secretary of the Alliance of National Forces party founded by Jibril in 2012.
Reports indicate he was admitted to the hospital on March 21 after suffering a heart attack, before testing positive for the new coronavirus and being quarantined. He served as head of the interim government in March 2011, a few weeks after the outbreak of the Arab Spring uprising in Libya.
Ex-Somali Prime Minister “Nur Adde”
Last week, Somalis united on Twitter to pay tribute to a former Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, also known as “Nur Adde,” who died of coronavirus in London.
The 82-year-old, was prime minister between November 2007 and February 2009. He was a one-time attorney general under the tenure of President Siad Barre who was overthrown in 1991.
He was a police officer who trained as a lawyer, acquaintances hailed him for his hands-on leadership.
“We extend our most profound condolences to the Somali people, friends and bereaved family of Somalia’s former Prime Minister, HE Nur Hassan Hussein who passed away in London, UK,” Somali PM posted on Twitter.Harun Maruf✔@HarunMaruf
BREAKING: Former Somali Prime Minister, Nur Hassan Hussein “Nur Adde” has passed away in London after recently contracting the #CoronaVirus, sources. Nur Adde was PM between Nov 2007 and Feb 2009. He was also the President of Somali Red Crescent for many years. He was 82.
Senegalese journalist, sports administrator – Pape Diouf
Senegal mourned its first coronavirus death which came with extra pain because it involved an illustrious son of the land, journalist and sports administrator, Pape Diouf. The 68-year-old was a former president of French soccer club Marseille between 2005-09.
Authorities confirmed that he had been in intensive care in Dakar. Senegal President Macky Sall wrote on his official Twitter account that he had followed Diouf’s health closely after he was admitted for treatment.
“I pay tribute to this great figure in sport,” Sall wrote. “I pay tribute to the medical staff at Fann Hospital who spared no effort to save him.” Relatives said Diouf was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the West Africa region.
Diouf was a charismatic and popular leader who was close to the fans and players at Marseille, the only French team to win the European club title. “Pape will forever remain in the hearts of Marseille people and (is) one of the great architects of the club,” Marseille wrote under a photo of Diouf.
Top Zimbabwean broadcaster becomes first COVID-19 casualty
A prominent broadcaster Zororo Makamba (30 years) became the first person to die of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. The deceased was the son of business mogul and ruling Zanu PF politician James Makamba and had been admitted to hospital after his condition deteriorated.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care via Twitter confirmed the death of Zororo Makamba, the second person to test positive in Zimbabwe. He had underlying medical conditions, making him more vulnerable to complications arising from the virus.
He had travelled to New York in February 2020 and returned home on March 9, transiting through Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa. Government said he begun showing mild flu-like symptoms on March 12 that progressively worsened. He consulted a doctor and was instructed to self-quarantine.
He launched his media career at local radio station ZiFM Stereo, where he hosted current affairs programmes. He moved to television where one of his most popular shows was “Tonight with Zororo”, which aired on MNet’s Zambezi Magic.
He won several accolades including a National Arts and Merit Award and Best Male Achiever at the Zimbabwe Youth Achievers Awards.
Aurlus Mabele – Congolese ‘King of Soukous’
Over in Central Africa, coronavirus claimed a music star from Congo reputed by his fans as ‘King of soukous’ – a high tempo dance music enjoyed across the continent.
Aurlus Mabélé real name is Aurélien Miatsonama, was from Congo-Brazzaville and moved to France in the 1980s. He died in a Parisian hospital, aged 67. The announcement of his death according to Congolese local news site IciBrazza was first posted by his compatriot Mav Cacharel on Facebook.
“Good evening everyone, I have sad news to announce the death of my famous friend, brother and collaborator Aurlus Mabélé, which happened this Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 14 pm, in the Paris region, from the follow-up of (a) coronavirus (case),” Cacharel’s post read in part.
The deceased’s daughter, singer Liza Monet, also tweeted on Thursday that her father had died of coronavirus. “Thank you for honoring his memory. It is a great legend of the Soukouss that the Congolese people have lost today. I am inconsolable and collapsed,” a translation of her tweet read.
Ex-Congolese president Yhombi-Opango
In late March, a former president of the Republic of Congo died after contracting coronavirus. Jacques Joaquim Yhombi-Opango breathed his last at the age of 81 in a Paris hospital.
His family confirmed that he had underlying health conditions before contracting the virus. Yhombi-Opango was president of Congo-Brazzaville from April 1977 until he was toppled in February 1979 by the current president Denis Sassou Nguesso.
He spent years in prison till the country introduced multi-party democracy in 1991. He served as Prime Minister under the government of Pascal Lissouba between 1992 and 1997, until a civil war broke out in 1997. He went into exile in France, before being allowed to return home 10 years later.ICIBRAZZA✔@ICIBrazza
#Congo – Ancien Président de la République (4 avril 1977- 5 Février 1979), ancien Premier Ministre (juin 1993 – aout 1996) sous le régime du Président Pascal Lissouba (1992-1997), Jacques Joachim Yhomby-Opango, est décédé ce jour 30/03/2020 en région parisienne (#France)
African music icon, Cameroon’s Manu Dibango
Cameroonian Afro-jazz legend, Manu Dibango’s death is one that hit the continent and beyond. The ‘Soul Makossa’ author died at the age of 86. His family disclosed in a Facebook post that the singer and celebrated saxophonist’s death was as a result of the new coronavirus.
Dibango is celebrated for one of the biggest planetary hits in world music, “Soul Makossa” (released in 1972). he was said to be the first global celebrity to die from the virus. He died in a Parisian hospital, manager of his music publishing business, Thierry Durepaire told AFP.
A statement released by the family read: “It is with deep sadness that we announce to you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove, who passed away on 24th of March 2020, at 86 years old, due to covid-19.”
- Born in 1933 in the city of Douala, he attended church from where he honed his music skills.
- Celebrated for a unique blend of jazz, funk and traditional Cameroonian music.
- Influenced bands from Kool and the Gang in the 1970s to hip-hop in the 1990s.
- Best known for his hit Soul Makossa.
- He served as the pioneer chairman of the Cameroon Music Corporation.
- UNESCO appointed him Artist for Peace in 2004
- Collaborated with several artists including Nigeria’s Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and US pianist Herbie Hancock.
- On record to have sued Michael Jackson and Rihanna in 2009, accusing the duo of unlawfully adopting some of his lyrics. He eventually settled out of court.
Mukendi wa Mulumba – top legal aide to DRC president
Still in Central Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Felix Tshisekedi lost a top legal aide to the virus. Jean-Joseph Mukendi wa Mulumba was the acting head of the president’s legal advisory council. He is believed to have contracted the coronavirus whiles in France for a medical check-up.
Mr Mulumba was a celebrated personality in the country’s harsh opposition terrain. As a reputed lawyer he also championed numerous human rights causes. He was an aide to the president’s father and veteran opposition figure, the late Etienne Tshisekedi.
He also represented opposition politician Moïse Katumbi and others who opposed former President Joseph Kabila’s attempt to extend his term in office. Katumbi in a statement said he was inconsolable at the loss of a more than a lawyer and friend; a big brother and father.
Many in DR Congo have described Mr Mukendi wa Mulumba’s death as a huge loss. Rights activist Anneke Van Woudenberg wrote on Twitter: “He was one of the greats. His country, and the human rights movement, will miss him.”Moise Katumbi✔@moise_katumbi
Notre grand frère le Bâtonnier Mukendi, défenseur infatigable de la justice en #RDC, vient de nous quitter. Paix à son âme.
Mon message de condoléance :
Ms Rose Marie Compaore: Top lawmaker becomes Burkina Faso’s first COVID-19 casualty
On March 17 March Burkina Faso recorded its first coronavirus death. The authorities confirmed that the patient was Ms Rose Marie Compaore, who was the first-vice president of the parliament. She died aged 62 and was said to have diabetes, an underlying health condition.
President Marc Roch Kabore and Speaker of the National Assembly, Alassane Bala Sakande, were among those that sent condolences to the family via social media platform Twitter.
“This tragic event calls us all to recognise the scale and seriousness of the problem which confronts us all,” said Martial Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso’s COVID-19 response coordinator. “This is a very contagious illness that is potentially fatal and that for now has no treatment aside from prevention,” he stressed.