Kenya and neighbours in the eastern Africa region have endorsed China’s battle against the coronavirus outbreak amid criticism about national responsibility for citizens trapped in the Asian country.
This week, Kenya’s Ambassador to China Sarah Serem and 12 of her colleagues from the region said China’s efforts to combat the epidemic have been admirable and that their countries are ready to learn from Beijing.
The statement, a result of a February 29 online meeting of the ambassadors because gatherings are where the virus could spread most, could be the public approval Beijing needs to fight misinformation around the virus, especially about the condition of foreigners in China.
The envoys said the statement was out of their responsibility to speak on the welfare of their nationals in China.
“The Eastern Africa Group of Ambassadors in Beijing continues to stand with China during this time of great hardship and supports the measures instituted to contain the virus,” the envoys said in a joint statement.
“The outstanding response to tame the outbreak and resolute actions taken in the interest of the people of China and the world, has won great admiration from across the globe.
“We strongly believe that by borrowing heavily from actions taken by China and lessons learnt, we shall be able to protect, contain and tame the spread of the virus.”
The endorsement was by officials including Rwandan ambassador to Beijing James Kimonyo, who until recently was High Commissioner to Kenya.
Others included Teshome Chanaka (Ethiopia), John Andruga Duku (South Sudan), Mbelwa Kairuki (Tanzania), Mr Philph Kanyoonzi (deputy head of mission of Uganda) and Martin Mbazumutima (Burundi).
Also on board were Tsegay Tesfatsion (Eritrea), Mahmoud Mohamed (Comoros), Awale Kullene (Somalia), Vivianne Fock Tave (Seychelles), Abdallah A. Miguil (Djibouti) and Isamoldien Elmansour (Sudan).
The Coronavirus type Covid-19 first emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei Province, after those infected exhibited pneumonia-like symptoms.
By this week, at least 100,000 people had been infected around the world, with more than 94,000 of them in China.
At least 3,200 people have died across the world, most of them also in China.
China has lately been asking the world to cooperate, rather than criticise it for being the epicenter of the virus.
In Kenya, public anger forced suspension of direct flights to that country as critics demanded evacuation of Kenyans trapped in Wuhan.
Government officials have argued it could be riskier to bring Kenyans back home because Chinese healthcare systems are stronger.
In their statement, the 13 diplomats said they were concerned about their nationals but did acknowledge that the Chinese government was helping them just as much.
“We appreciate the fact that we are going through a difficult time. It is therefore not possible to expect the level of comfort that we enjoy at normal times,” they said.
“We are encouraged by the fact that some universities have already commenced their online tuition, a sign that things will be normalising soon.
“Local departments have kept foreign nationals informed in an open and transparent way via websites, WeChat, Weibo and e-mail, posting updates on the epidemic situation through public letters, releasing information on self-protection and opening 24-hour multilingual hot lines.”
The Chinese government locked down Wuhan and other towns in Hubei where the virus had infected more people.
And though officials in Beijing say the infection rate there has gone down, Kenyans and other nationals there have been barred from leaving their residences, part of the programme to quarantine suspected cases and help tame the spread.
The problem, some Kenyans there complained, was that loneliness was taking its toll and the inability to get supplies.
The envoys said, however, that their nationals have remained disciplined.
They said they have worked closely with their local offices in Wuhan to locate and provide support for students in need.