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African press review 09 January 2013

SA farmworkers down tools. DRC rebels down weapons - for the moment at least. Ravalomanana appeals against travel restrictions. Violence flares again in Kenya.


According to South African financial paper BusinessDay, the Western Cape is bracing itself for another round of agricultural strikes today amid fears that the protests may turn violent.

Reports say police in the province have been placed on high alert, while its Disaster Risk Management Centre is on standby.

The strikes, which began in November, were suspended twice, with the latest break last month being meant to give farm-by-farm negotiations a chance.

Trade unions described those talks as a failure, saying farmers refused to discuss wage increases with their workers. Far workers are holding out for an increase in their minimum daily wage, from about six euros to 13 euros, along with an improvement in working and living conditions.

A report by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy released yesterday says the farming sector has long been dependent on cheap unskilled labour and that salaries are at starvation level.

The report says the wages, even if increased to 13 euros a day, would not be enough to keep a family fed properly.

However, the report also recognises that most farms would not be able to afford to pay even nine euros a day.

On its international pages, BusinessDay reports that rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo declared a unilateral ceasefire on Tuesday ahead of a second round of peace talks with the government, boosting hopes for a negotiated end to the nine-month war.

The announcement marked a relaxation of the M23 rebels’ demand last week that the DRC government also agree to a truce before negotiations resume.

Foreign powers fear the conflict could trigger another regional war in a borderland zone that has suffered nearly two decades of turmoil.

The M23 insurgents agreed to pull out of DRC’s eastern city of Goma last month under regional pressure. But a first round of negotiations that followed fell apart amid threats and accusations.

UN experts have accused neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the rebel campaign, a charge both countries deny.

M23, named after a 2009 peace deal for eastern Congo signed on 23 March, at first said it had taken up arms because the Kinshasa government failed to honour its side of the bargain, under which rebel fighters were to be integrated into the national army.

It later broadened its goals to include the "liberation" of all of DRC and the removal of President Joseph Kabila.

Also in BusinessDay, a report that ousted Madagascan president Marc Ravalomanana has applied to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg to appeal against restrictions on his movements within and outside South Africa.

Dossier:  DRC elects a president

At issue is whether a South African court can prevent a person from travelling while he is under investigation but has not been questioned, arrested or charged.

The North Gauteng High Court, at the request of eight Malagasy citizens, ordered in November last year that Ravalomanana surrender his passport to the special police division known as the Hawks.

It also ordered that he should not travel outside South Africa unless invited to do so by the Southern African Development Community, and that he surrender his passport to police within 72 hours of his return to South Africa from any foreign jurisdiction.

The Malagasy citizens applied for these orders because they want Ravalomanana to be held criminally liable for the deaths and injuries resulting from the shooting of protesters outside the presidential palace in the capital, Antananarivo, on 7 February 2009.

Ravalomanana fled Madagascar after a coup led by Andry Rajoelina in March 2009 and has lived in South Africa since.

In Kenya the Standard reports that at least seven people died earlier this Wednesday morning in attacks in the Nduru area of Tana River district.

Suspected Pokomo attackers are alleged to have raided an Orma village. Police say five Ormas and two Pokomos were killed but the death toll is expected to rise because there are several serious injuries.

Coast police boss Aggrey Adoli says they are yet to establish what triggered the latest attacks.

Settled Pokomo farmers and seminomadic Orma pastoralists have clashed intermittently for years over access to grazing, farmland and water in the coastal region.

The Standard also reports that the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court says she has additional incriminating evidence sufficient to sustain murder charges against Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and two other Kenyan suspects.

The new evidence is contained in updated documents of charges prepared by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on the crimes against humanity charges facing the four Kenyans.

The new document repeats claims of meetings held at State House, Nairobi, with Uhuru allegedly playing the central role in planning the revenge attacks in Naivasha in the wake of the 2007 presidential election.

As for Ruto, who the prosecutor believes orchestrated the Kiambaa church killings in Eldoret, the new evidence names alleged accomplices he was supposed to have worked with in mobilising, coordinating and commanding the killings in the Rift Valley.

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