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African press review 8 July 2014

Kenya's opposition rally, Tony Blair and Egypt, the Renaissance Dam and South Sudan's third birthday - all in today's African papers ....


The Kenyan dailies all give front page prominence to yesterday's opposition rally in Nairobi.

According to The Standard, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leaders have abandoned their demand for national dialogue and now want a referendum on issues the opposition say are afflicting the country and which they claim the Government is unable to tackle.

The coalition’s leaders, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula launched their agenda while addressing yesterday's rally at Uhuru Park.

The Standard reports that yesterday's rally did not draw the huge crowds that have characterised events previously organised by Raila Odinga. Several speakers yesterday claimed that the State had intimidated their supporters with road blocks preventing them from reaching Uhuru Park.

Apart from its inability to reduce the high cost of living and tackle corruption, the current government is criticised by CORD for the continued presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia which, the opposition says, has made Kenya a terrorism target, incidentally destroying the national tourism industry. The opposition also wants to see the electoral commission disbanded.

On the security issue, The Standard also reports that thousands of residents have fled their homes in the coastal towns of Hindi and Gamba, following the killing of 21 people on Saturday night.

The Egypt Independent in Cairo carries a story from last week's Guardian newspaper, published in London, reporting that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has agreed to provide advice to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on economic reform as part of a program funded by the United Arab Emirates.

The London daily added that Blair supported the 2013 coup against Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsy, a coup that lead to the deaths of more than 2,500 demonstrators and saw more than 20,000 people imprisoned.

Critics say Blair should not support a regime that imprisons journalists.

The former prime minister has made it clear that he is not getting paid for his advice, nor is he seeking the support of the international community to achieve any personal gain.

The Independent also reports that Cairo Criminal Court yesterday postponed the trial of former president Mohamed Morsy and 130 others to 13 July.

All are charged with escaping from prison during the 2011 uprising which ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Defendants include a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, most notably Mohamed Badie and Khairat al-Shater, as well as members of Hamas and Hezbollah, most of whom are at large.

The charges include the killing of policemen and prisoners at Wadi al-Natrun and Abu Zaabal prisons.

On its regional news pages, the Independent says the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has said that negotiations with Egypt over the Renaissance Dam will not be easy. He expects Egypt to offer difficult proposals.

In a speech yesterday at the Ethiopian Parliament, Desalegn said that Ethiopia will continue working on the dam while keeping in mind the interests of the downstream countries.

Relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa deteriorated after Ethiopia started constructing the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile in 2011.

Egypt fears the dam would affect its historic share of the Nile water.

Ethiopia, however, insists that the dam will not harm Egyptian interests.

The main story in the Kenyan Daily Nation looks to South Sudan, which marks its third birthday this week in a state of civil war, carved up along ethnic lines, locked in a cycle of atrocities and on the brink of famine.

Despite vast oil reserves and billions in foreign aid, the world's youngest nation has been classed as a failure -- most recently by the Fund For Peace which put South Sudan in the top spot on its Fragile States Index, ahead of Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The capital, Juba, has been a divided city since mid-December, when presidential guards loyal to President Salva Kiir clashed with troops supporting ousted vice-president Riek Machar, that event triggering the now seven-month-old civil war.

Relief agencies say famine will break out within weeks unless there is massive funding for food aid for an estimated four million people - nearly half the population - now dependent on handouts.

Peace talks have been in progress since the start of the year in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

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