On May 1, Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina announced with photos on his social accounts that he had held a conference call with fellow African leaders.
Among them was Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Gabon’s Ali Bongo Ondimba, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Egyptian Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari. All regions were significantly represented.
President Rajoelina announced that his country would offer free Tambavy CVO medicine to all hospitals in Africa. He was referring to a supposed miracle treatment for the COVID-19 virus, which has attracted praise, excitement, silence and rebuke from every corner.
Photos have circulated of thousands of people lining up to drink bottles of the said medication in Madagascar. Launched as Covid-Organics, it is produced from the artemisia plant – the source of an ingredient used in a malaria treatment – and other Malagasy plants.
“Tests have been carried out – two people have now been cured by this treatment,” Mr Rajoelina said at the launch of Covid-Organics at the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (Imra), which developed the tonic, April 21.
“This herbal tea gives results in seven days,” said the 45-year-old president, who also urged people to use it as a preventative measure.
“Schoolchildren should be given this to drink… little by little throughout the day,” he told the diplomats and other dignitaries gathered for the launch.
The medicine was being marketed in a bottle and as a herbal tea after being tested on fewer than 20 people over a period of three weeks.
As of May 4, Madagascar had recorded total of 149 cases of the virus. However, 99 of them have cured, a 66.4% rate – a rare feat globally. All these cures have been attributed to the Tambavy CVO medication.
Various African countries including DR Congo have sent government-chartered planes to pick the bottled medication from Madagascar. On Sunday, Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli cast doubt over the virus and test kits, most of which are coming from China, and revealing pawpaw, goat, car oil and sheep samples had tested positive. He announced that he’d sent a plane to bring the Madagascar cure.
One key voice missing from this chorus of African excitement over the Madagascar initiative, has been President Paul Kagame.
All President Kagame’s official engagements like local and foreign meetings are announced by his official Twitter and Facebook accounts. The conference call on May 1 which the Madagascar President held, was not announced in Rwanda.
The explanation for this quiet, though not said publicly, came from a press conference Kagame had with local and foreign media in Rwanda earlier on April 27. He spoke about a range of issues, but largely on Rwanda’s battle against the global pandemic.
Asked about the miracle cures for the virus that are emerging, including that of Madagascar, Kagame’s answer shocked many, but was received with relief in the scientific community. There was evidence of that on social media, people with science backgrounds praised his stance.
“For me and other leaders in this country, we give precedence to science,” responded Kagame. “There is still much to understand about this virus and how to respond. We have Rwandans working on ventilators….There are international efforts, be it on getting the cure, immunisation and anything else, there are local efforts and we are also working with international partners.”
With this statement, the scientific community had their man. “Thank you Mr. President!” wrote on Twitter, Nathalie Munya, the Managing Director of the Next Einstein Forum, as well as Global Communications Director for the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS).
In Kagame keeping the distance away from the Madagascar medicine, is no indication of inexistent relations with President Rajoelina. Actually, they enjoy a very cordial relationship. In June last year, during Madagascar’s independence celebrations Kagame was biggest guest in town. The two leaders even held a joint press conference and state banquet was prepared for Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame.
On Madagascar’s cure, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said in a statement that the global organisation did not recommend “self-medication with any medicines… as a prevention or cure for Covid-19”.
It reiterated earlier comments by WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that there were “no short-cuts” to finding effective mediation to fight coronarvirus.
International trials were under way to find an effective treatment, the WHO added.
Understandably, the west and international organizations have dismissed the Madagascar medicine, despite the widespread songs of praise in Africa. On social media, voices of support do not blame the WHO for its reluctance to back the Madagascar cure, but instead accuse it of advancing western agenda and multinational drug companies.
Meanwhile in Rwanda, the partial lockdown and 8pm to morning curfew, came into force on Monday. There were chaotic scenes at bus stops in the morning as people came out of the total lockdown imposed on March 14.
The easing of the measures are ever more strictest. Public vehicles to carry less than half the capacity. Transport fares were increased by the utilities regulator RURA by up to 46% and a doubling in some routes. However, on the positive side at the same time, fuel prices dropped by 12%.
Markets to have less than half the previous traders, and buyers enter them in a controlled manner – not a full influx as they used to. Schools remain closed until September, the most radical decision globally so far.
As of May 4, the cases had reached 261, with 2 recorded yesterday. For past two weeks, the new cases were said to have been caused by the cargo transport industry, as cases come in from Tanzania where over 90% of Rwanda’s imports pass.
128 people have recovered and gone home, and no deaths so far.
The country has tested over 35,000 samples, the second biggest after Uganda.