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African press review 17 September 2015

The troubled situation in Burkina Faso is attracting editorial attention across Africa, even if the papers all seem to be sharing the same morsels of reliable information. One news website in Ouagadougou describes the soldiers who arrested the interim president as "mutineers". But their objectives remain unclear. In Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe gives the wrong speech.

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What's happening in Burkina Faso?

According to French daily Le Monde, it appears that members of the military unit known as the RSP, responsible for presidential security, yesterday interrupted a cabinet meeting in the capital Ouagadougou, arresting the head of government and interim president Michel Kafando, along with his prime minister and at least three other members of the ministerial council.

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Le Monde reports that no demands nor statement had been made by the soldiers as the Paris paper went to press at lunchtime yesterday. As far as we know, there's been nothing since.

This is not the first time the 1,300 members of the RSP have been in the news. There have been several public clashes over policy between the unit's commanders and Prime Minister Isaac Zida, himself a former soldier.

Regarded as an army within the army, the presidential protection group was identified as a danger by the National Commission for Reform and Reconciliation in a report published earlier this week. The commission recommended that the RSP be disbanded and the members integrated into other army units.

Cherrif Sy, the president of the Burkinabé National Transitional Council, says negotiations were yesterday ongoing between the military hierarchy and those commanding the RSP. Sy says he believes the country is in danger.

Presidential elections, to choose a replacement for Blaise Campaoré, deposed by a popular revolution 11 months ago after 27 years in power, are due to be held in Burkina Faso next month.

There are reports that shots were fired late yesterday to disperse hundreds of protesters in Ouagadougou.

No injuries have been reported but there was said to be an air of panic in the capital with shops shutting early and many people heading home.

The local news website LeFaso.net says there was no news from the military meeting with the RSP soldiers, described as "mutineers", holding the president, the prime minister and just two ministers, not three as widely reported elsewhere.

The site also carries calls for courage and vigilance from opposition presidential candidate Bénéwendé Stanislas Sankara. He asks opposition activists to stand ready for action.

The European Union has called for the immediate release of those held and trade unions in Burkina Faso have declared a general strike.

Elsewhere in the African papers, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday that the Nigerian authorities were talking to Boko Haram prisoners in their custody and could offer them amnesty if the armed Islamist group hands over the schoolgirls abducted last year.

Boko Haram fighters attacked a school in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Chibok on 14 April last year, seizing 276 girls who were preparing for end-of-year exams.

Buhari added that he was confident "conventional" attacks by the group would be a thing of the past by November but cautioned that suicide attacks would probably continue.

Zimbabwe will make its black empowerment laws more flexible and set up a "one-stop" office to cut the time it takes to invest in the country, according to a presidential speech tabled before parliament yesterday.

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This is the speech President Robert Mugabe didn't give at the opening of parliament on Tuesday, because he mistakenly repeated the state of the nation address made three weeks ago.

Mugabe’s administration is "carrying out a raft of measures to improve the business environment", including easing company and investment procedures and establishing special economic zones that would "boost industrialisation".

Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since 2008 as cash shortages force company closures and the government struggles to meet a wage bill that swallows 83 per cent of the revenue it collects. The economy has shrunk by about half since 2000, while an estimated 1.5-million Zimbabweans face hunger after drought slashed production of maize, the nation’s staple food.

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