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African press review 28 August 2013

The possible Western intervention in Syria makes the headlines of several important African dailies today.


The Ugandan Daily Monitor headlines with "Syria: the chemical weapons mystery" and throws light on the undeniable and unexplained use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Both the Syrian opposition and the Assad government have denied responsibility, so the paper wonders who is behind the chemical attacks?

The Daily Monitor takes a look back over the two and a half year-long conflict in Syria during which, according to UN estimations, over 100,000 people have lost their lives, .

There have been growing calls for America’s military intervention in Syria, it says, and these calls have grown stronger since last week’s chemical attack, the deadliest since Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein dropped poison bombs on Kurds in 1988, killing 5,000.

However, the paper warns that any US military action could "create a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East".

South Africa's BusinessDay also warns against a premature and hasty Western intervention in Syria.

There is undeniable evidence that chemical weapons killed hundreds, possibly thousands, in Damascus last week, reports Business Day, and the question is naturally being asked whether this is the final straw that will draw the West into the Syrian conflict.

The paper says the answer is probably "yes", although direct military action may not - and should not - take place immediately, it adds.

BusinessDay expresses hope that US President Barack Obama will have learned from his predecessor’s experience in Iraq, that unilateral action in the absence of strong evidence is short-sighted.

If there is an intervention in Syria, the paper concludes, then the world needs to know that there is a sound basis for war which is, as things stand, not yet the case, as evidence of the regime’s use of chemical weapons in Damascus is entirely circumstantial.

In other news, the South African Mail & Guardian reports that a change of tactics by the country’s mining unions may prevent a situation similar to the one which led to the bloody mine violence at Marikana.

A year ago, miners affiliated to the the South African Association of Mineworkers and Construction workers Union marched with spears, clubs and knives during often violent wildcat strikes and protests against management.

But, the paper says, in recent months the union has become an emerging force on the South African labour stage and representatives have been sitting down to tough but peaceful wage talks with mining executives.

Although strikes remain inevitable in the struggling mining sector, the Mail & Guardian says there are clear signs the turf war fought last year with the rival the National Union of Mineworkers may have cooled down. But the daily warns that things could still turn frosty during wage talks and none of this can be expected to completely end violence in the mines.

The Mail & Guardian also says that, while not on the scale of last year's carnage, machete attacks on mine guards, shanty-town riots and tit-for-tat killings between the unions still take place.

Kenya's Daily Nation reports on Africa's fast-declining population of giraffes.

The paper says conservation experts raised the alarm earlier this week, warning that the world’s tallest animal will become extinct within the next few decades if the trend is not checked.

Experts on giraffes from from all over the continent, who are attending a conference in Nairobi, say threats to the animals’ survival have been largely ignored, reports the Nation.
There were an estimated 140,000 giraffes in Africa in 1998 but this number has dropped to fewer than 80,000 according to the paper's assessment in 2012.

According to recent data, the remaining giraffes are under increasing pressure from agriculture, settlement and destruction of habitats, which have impacted on their numbers and reproduction in Kenya and elsewhere across the continent.

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