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African press review 20 February 2016


The Ugandan elections continue to bring out the best in the local police who have arrested opposition leader Kissa Besigye for the third time in a week and put a former prime minister under house arrest. South Africa's January maize planting will wither in the ground unless there's rain in the course of the next 10 days.


The top story in the Ugandan Daily Monitor reports that security forces have besieged independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi’s home in Kololo, a suburb of the capital, Kampala.

The paper says two police cars and a military vehicle have closed the road leading to Mbabaazi's home since lunchtime yesterday. All cars using the road have been stopped and checked; all pedestrians are being questioned.

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The main headline in the Nairobi-based Kenyan Daily Nation says Mbabazi is under house arrest.

Mbabazi told a Daily Monitor journalist he was not bothered by the police presence.

Meanwhile, the fate of oppsition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader Kizza Besigye remained uncertain, at least as far as The Monitor is concerned, following his arrest yesterday.

The paper says Besigye and other FDC officials were taken to an unknown place. Police sealed off Entebbe Road where the party's head office is located.

Besigye had already been arrested twice this week. His latest brush with the law followed a refusal by Forum for Democratic Change officials to call off a planned press conference.

Regional paper The East African says Ugandan authorities blocked social media platforms and money transfer networks on Thursday as voting in the general election got underway.

The Uganda Communications Commission said access to social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook via mobile phones, as well as the popular mobile money network had been temporarily blocked because of “national security” concerns.

The East African quotes unidentified "sources" as indicating that the shutdown was ordered by top officials in the ruling party, the National Rainbow Movement, and the military to control the avalanche of negative messages circulating on the platforms campaigning against President Yoweri Museveni.

There's a weather story at the top of the front page of the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay. It's serious. The headline reads "Rain needed in next 10 days to save maize crop".

The story says this year's January planting will fail if there's no significant rain in the next 10 days. Seven hundred thousand hectares of maize plants are at risk.

The southern African drought is also having an impact across the border in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s main hydro-electric dam could stop producing electricity in the next six months if water levels keep falling after the nation’s worst drought in more than two decades.

Water levels at the Kariba dam are at 12 per cent of capacity, a level last recorded in 1992.

Zimbabwe and neighbouring Zambia both rely heavily on the Kariba dam for electricity. Falling water levels raise the threat of power cuts in the two countries, both already faced with electricity shortages.

And The Daily Nation in Kenya reports that the United States has condemned fatal clashes at a United Nations compound sheltering civilians in South Sudan and urged authorities to investigate the incident, which witnesses say involved government troops.

At least 18 people died and more than 70 were wounded in the violence on Wednesday to Thursday at the camp in the town of Malakal, according to the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

Residents, rebels and aid sources claim that South Sudan government troops took part in the attack, which the UN Mission in South Sudan said may constitute a war crime.

The front page of the Cairo-based Egypt Independent is dominated by economic doom and gloom.

The main story reports that there are worrying signs of a decline in the value of the Egyptian pound, currently trading at nine to the US dollar on the black market. Some analysts say a devaluation of the Egyptian currency is inevitable at the end of this month.

Egyptian expatriates' remittances have declined by 12 per cent, nearly four billion euros, over the past three months, a sign that families are profiting from the black-market rate or prefer to keep their savings outside the system completely.

Government officials are quoted as saying there are no plans to devalue the pound in the foreseeable future.


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