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African press review 2 April 2012

Events in Mali and comparable conflicts elsewhere are given wide coverage this morning.

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In South Africa, the Mail and Guardian reports that "Residents and rebels say separatist insurgents are besieging the ancient town of Timbuktu as they take their fight for a homeland for the nomadic Tuareg people to one of the last government holdouts in northern Mali."

The alliance of Tuareg and Islamist rebels already claim control of the garrison town of Gao on Saturday, a day after seizing another regional centre, Kidal. The ancient trading town of Timbuktu - a Unesco World Heritage site - is the third and last major centre in their sights.

If they manage to seize Timbuktu - the paper notes - the rebels will have gained effective control of the northern half of Mali, a sparsely populated desert territory bigger than France. One sometimes forgets the vastness of many countries on the African continent.

The papers says the conflict has been fuelled - in part at least - by fighters and weapons spilling out of Libya. What's more, the recent coup d'etat by middle ranking officers of the Malian army - who complained that the government was not giving them adequate means to fight off the uprising - has provoked chaos and emboldened the rebels. Spot the irony there, if you wish.

The Mail and Guardian reports that initial popular enthusiasm for the coup d'etat is diminished, with signs that the leaders of the military Junta may be persuaded to return power to civilians. Though not - one imagines - in ancient Timbuktu.

It reports also that the leader of the coup d'etat - one Captain Amadou Sanogo - is US trained. It offers no details, alas. Though, it appears that democracy and the rule of law were not on the syllabus.

In Ghana, the Statesman says that Mali's army is reported to have deserted Timbuktu - the last town in the north under government control - as Tuareg separatists pounded it with heavy weapons.

The paper adds weight to suggestions that coup leaders in Bamako may be having second thoughts about the wisdom of their seizing power - noting that they have reinstated the constitution after pressure from neighbouring countries.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

Nigeria has its own insurgency headache - of course - albeit at a lower level. The Nation reports the latest. What it calls "An alleged plot by suspected members of the Islamic sect Boko Haram, to unleash terror on Kogi State, came crashing down at the weekend after the army and operatives of the State Security Service uncovered the plan and engaged them in a shoot-out.

Nine of the suspected insurgents were killed while the army lost two of its men including an officer in the exchange of fire. Two other SSS operatives were wounded.

Asked if the suspects were members of Boko Haram - the local commander said : "We have gone beyond calling these people Boko Haram. These are terrorists".

"Red alert over terror" declares The Standard in Kenya - noting that al-Shabaab rebels in neighbouring Somalia have warned of impending terror attacks on Kenyan cities, as the Kenyan government issued a high security alert ahead of Easter celebrations starting on Friday.

This follows a bombing in Mombasa at the weekend which left one person dead and thirty wounded.

In a press statement issued in Mogadishu, the terror group warned: "The Kenyan public must be aware that the more Kenyan troops continue to persecute innocent Moslems of Somalia, the less secure Kenyan cities will be."

Al-Shabaab warned its attacks would continue until the Kenya Defence Forces pull out of Somalia.

Finally, if you think Zimbabwe is a haven of peace and tranquillity compared with countries further north - think again. The Herald carries the shocking story of a man who gunned down his brother in a row over a parking space.

In Tafara, to the east of the capital Harare, Tendai Mungororo returned home from a funeral and found his 33-year-old brother Tichafunga’s car sitting in his parking space.

An altercation ensued - the paper reports - and Tendai allegedly hit his younger brother with an assortment of household utensils.

When Tichafunga realised the attack was escalating, he tried to escape, whereupon Tendai rushed to his car, pulled a gun and shot him in the chest.

Realising what he had done, Tendai bundled his brother into his car and drove him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Tendai is alleged to have handed himself over to the police, says The Herald.

Like the latest news from Mali, this sounds like too little, too late.

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