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African press review 21 August 2014

In African headlines, Nigeria denies a mutiny in the army, Liberia's government comes under fire for its curfew, Uganda passes a controversial anti-HIV bill and South African TV actors hog the headlines.


In Nigeria, as you've heard earlier in our programme, soldiers in the North told the press they refused to deploy because they weren't adequately armed to fight Boko Haram.

Nigeria's Tribune reports that the government has denied the mutiny. The headline of the article reads "Fake soldier speaks to BBC." The Defence Ministry said whoever was interviewed was in fact an imposter. They claimed the move was actually orchestrated by Boko Haram, in an attempt to make the Nigerian government look bad. Self-declared soldiers have also been talking to news wire agencies as well as the BBC, so the government's denials may end up making them look much worse.

Liberia's New Dawn says the curfew imposed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is unnecessary. This after violence broke out in West Point, a Monrovian slum, yesterday.

The head of opposition Cyril Allen told New Dawn that the curfew is an extreme measure and deploying armed soldiers in the street will not fight Ebola.

It's interesting to note how the language used by the press puts the virus on par with a human crime. We hear about fighting Ebola, and patients referred to as 'suspects' who 'turn themselves in.' This is a little disconcerting. The opposition leader thinks so too. He warned against the outbreak being treated like a civil war. He said the President was being misled by her security officials and militarizing the response to the virus was dangerous, as Liberia's own history of military violence is fresh.

And in more Liberian news... Front Page Africa reports that the Liberian Gender Minister wants to crackdown on sex offenders. The headline reads: "Castrate Rapists: Gender Minister wants harsh punishment." The Minister Julia Cassel is reported to have said that if men are found raping, they should be castrated as deterrence for other potential offenders. According to Front Page Africa, many Liberians are disappointed with the current legislation, which they believe is not strong enough.

The Minister says progress has been made in reporting rape cases, but admitted to loopholes in the law. She also said that her ministry has conducted a survey, asking men what should be done if one of them was caught raping. According to the daily, school boys said men should definitely be castrated if they are found sexually abusing underage girls. I'm not sure how wise it is for the government to take legal guidance from pre-teens, but they certainly are raising an important issue, that the Minister says was not talked about nearly enough when she was growing up.

In Uganda, the Daily Monitor reports on a bill on HIV control that was voted into law yesterday.

The law criminalises intentional transmission of the virus and makes disclosure compulsory. Similar legislation exists all over the world, and has drawn criticism from human rights defenders, who see a "law & order" approach to the virus as misguided.

Uganda's bill was drafted in 2008 and metes out up to 10 years in prison for anyone who wilfully and intentionally" transmits HIV. There's also another 5 years sentence for anyone who attempts transmission. The law has been widely criticized by national civil rights group, as well as health officials and the Uganda AIDS Commission. The daily says detractors called it 'nonsensical' and a 'big step backward' in the HIV response.

And finally, in South Africa: a soap opera is hogging the headlines.

A popular TV series called Generations - which sounds like the South African version of Madmen - sacked many of its lead actors on Monday after they went on strike. The performers were battling for a raise and renewed contracts that had been promised but not delivered. The Sowetan says they were fired after refusing to stop striking. The incident caused such an uproar with the public that the Culture Minister was forced to react. He said yesterday that he was willing to help find a solution - an example of how drama off-screen can be just as moving as prime time TV.


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