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African press review 6 January 2012

The row over the fuel subsidy in Nigeria continues to dominate the African media as well as the upcoming events to celebrate the100 anniversary of South Africa's ANC movement.

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In Nigeria, the row over the removal of a fuel subsidy and the murderous activities of Islamist militants known as Boko Haram - continue to dominate the news.

The Daily Sun reports a warning from the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Prince Bola Ajibola  that the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government was a time bomb which might explode anytime.

His warning came just as the Catholic Bishop Alfred Adewale Martins concluded that - with the removal of fuel subsidy and the Boko Haram menace - the very existence of Nigeria is threatened.

In another story, the paper quotes one furious member of the House of Representatives - Monsur Alao Owolabi - who charges that the removal of the fuel subsidy by President Goodluck Jonathan was illegal and an impeachable offence. "The way this man - Jonathan - is going - I think he wants to cause anarchy in the country," says the lawmaker.

An opinion piece Business News sees things differently, supporting the removal of the subsidy "so that some fat cats don’t keep enjoying what everyone is working for." However for it to work, says Business News, "Mr. President and his team need to let Nigerians see and feel that their lives are improving. If not, the country will slowly grind to a halt."

The Guardian tells readers that in the north of the country in Kano City, the second most populous city after Lagos, students protesting against the removal of fuel subsidies at the Jubilee Roundabout have renamed it “Tahrir Square.” The Cairo square of that name was the scene of mass protests that led to the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and - more recently - against military rule.

Quite how events will unfold in Nigeria remains to be seen. But the re-naming does show the long-distance resonance of what's become known as the 'Arab Spring.'

In South Africa, the Mail and Guardian reflects on this weekend's centenary of the African National Congress. The paper recalls in an editorial how, on 8 January 1912, a group of South Africans gathered in a small Methodist church in Bloemfontein and pledged to resist colonialism, the reign of terror against natives, land dispossession and to chart a future for their children's children.

On Sunday, at least 100 000 South Africans and freedom-loving people from around the world will descend on the town to join the ANC in retracing their footsteps.

So, how are their children's children doing ? Not well enough, suggests the Mail and Guardian.

The paper reminds readers that over the years since the attainment of our independence in 1994, the ANC has been unable to deliver on the promises made by former president Nelson Mandela - such as basic services, decent housing, quality health care and education, decent jobs, the reduction of inequality, development of the rural poor, and so on.

Close to 15 million South Africans survive on social grants from the ANC-led government and 90 per cent of the black population still own less than 20 per cent of the land. Unemployment is still on the increase and the majority of people remain excluded and disenchanted."

"Many of its leaders deployed in government to counter these challenges have instead used state apparatus to enrich themselves. They contradict all the values espoused by the class of 1912," the paper says.

The Mail and Guardian concludes that the ANC needs to do a lot of soul-searching as it tries for another 100 years of existence.

Finally, a heart warming tale from in Kenya. The Daily Nation celebrates the rescue of a mother hippopotamus and her cub who almost ended up as lunch for villagers near Kisumu, the port city on Lake Victoria. Locals spotted the baby hippo stuck in the mud near a golf course and a crowd - armed with pangas and knives - gathered to slaughter the pair.

“This is a New Year gift for us from above. The prices of food are high because of inflation and no we have free meat here,” said one resident.

Naturally, the mother hippo had other ideas and kept the crowd at bay. Happily, the Kenyan Wildlife Service came to the rescue using an excavator to dislodge the young hippo and release it into the Lake. Her maternal duties done, the mother followed.

Further confirmation, if needed, that there no such thing as a free lunch.

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