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African press review 25 March 2014

The mass death sentences given to 529 Muslim Brotherhood members in Egypt, Jacob Zuma's luxury farm retreat and the search for bodies in Lake Albert on the Uganda-DRC border are all covered in today's papers ....

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An Egyptian court yesterday sentenced 529 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death for murder and other offences. According to the Cairo-based Egypt Independent, this is a sharp escalation of a crackdown against the movement, and is likely to fuel instability.

Family members stood outside the courthouse screaming after the announcement of the biggest mass death sentence in Egypt's modern history.

Turmoil has deepened since the army overthrew Egypt's first freely-elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, last July. Security forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood members and arrested thousands.

Human rights groups said Monday's verdict suggested the authorities intended to tighten their squeeze on the opposition.

Most of the defendants were charged with carrying out attacks during clashes which erupted in the southern province of Minya after the forced dispersal of two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo on 14 August.

The condemned men have the right to appeal against the sentence.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

Later today, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and 682 others will face trial on charges of incitement to kill.

Nkandla, South African president Jacob Zuma's private home in Kwa-Zulu Natal, continues to dominate the front page of Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay.

The main story reports that there are indications of how the government intends to deal with the fallout from last week's report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela into the use of public funds to finance the multi-million rand upgrades to a privately-owned farm.

Yesterday, the Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the Public Protector's report contained "inaccuracies".

The ruling African National Congress and the government’s initial response to the report relied heavily on the interministerial task team report into the Nkandla upgrades, which exonerated Zuma.

Opposition parties also continued to hammer away at the ruling party. Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said she would be writing to both Zuma and National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu, calling for a full repayment plan to be tabled in Parliament.

The DA has called on Zuma to dismiss implicated ministers from the Cabinet.

On its opinion pages, BusinessDay carries an article by Paul Hoffman of the independent Institute of Accountability. Hoffman ends by saying "No functioning, successful constitutional democracy can afford to have a crook, or even a suspected crook, for its president."

On the front page of the Kenyan Daily Nation, a report that the death toll from the weekend boat accident on Lake Albert has risen to 108 after 82 more bodies were recovered.

Ugandan police said the boat was carrying more than 150 Congolese refugees, who were escaping from Kyangwali refugee camp in western Uganda. They were returning to DRC after a recent improvement in the security situation there. It is understood the boat capsized.

On Saturday, local fishermen rescued 45 passengers from the lake on the border between Uganda and DRC, but hopes of finding more survivors were running low, even as Uganda police, marine officials and army joined in the search.

Survivors said they had clung onto the edges of the boat until they were rescued. Others held onto floating cargo.

As the search for survivors and bodies continues, Ugandan authorities are investigating the circumstances under which the refugees sneaked out of their camp and travelled to the lake without permission or detection.

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