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African press review 17 May 2016


Is the row over petrol prices going to lead to a nationwide strike in Nigeria? Talks broke down last night and the trade unions are warning people to stockpile food. Is South Africa's finance minister on the brink of a jail term? Rumours to that effect are doing the value of the rand no good at all. And what really happened to Eric Lang, the Frenchman beaten to death in a Cairo jail in 2013?


Nigeria could be headed for a national strike over a 67 percent hike in the price of petrol, according to the front page of this morning's Lagos-based Punch newspaper.

The daily says talks between the Federal Government and organised labour on the increase in the pump price of petrol ended in a deadlock on Monday night.

Talks are to resume this afternoon.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have called for an indefinite strike from tomorrow unless petrol prices are slashed from 145 naira (0.70 euros) to about 0.40 euros per litre.

Government offices, airports, seaports and businesses, including banks, shops and markets, would be shut if talks failed, the unions warned, calling on people to stockpile food.

The government last week increased the price of petrol and deregulated the fuel import market to try to end shortages caused by a foreign exchange crisis. The drastic fall in the price of crude oil has led to a reduction in the amount of foreign exchange available.

Nigeria depends on fuel imports because of a lack of domestic refining capacity.

To jail or not to jail, that is the question

In South Africa, speculation that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is facing arrest has caused the local currency, the rand, to lose more than two percent of its value.

Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay says the rand was already on the back foot at the end of last week, after rating agency Standard & Poor’s criticised South Africa's slow economic growth. Disappointing mining and manufacturing data released on Thursday increased the probability of a recession.

Yesterday the National Prosecuting Authority described claims of the imminent arrest of Gordhan as "reckless and irresponsible" in the current political and economic climate.

The Treasury refused to comment on a report in the Sunday Times that Gordhan and eight others were to be arrested and charged over an alleged "rogue unit" at the South African Revenue Service when Gordhan was the boss there.

Uganda's Asians boost economy

Regional paper the East African looks at the impact of Uganda's Asian population on the national economy.

An estimated 50,000 Asians were forced to leave Uganda in 1972, on the orders of military ruler Idi Amin, who accused them of “milking the economy”. At the time, they ran 90 percent of the country’s businesses and accounted for 90 percent of tax revenues.

When President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986, he encouraged the exiles to return. Today, despite making up less than one percent of the Ugandan population, Asians are estimated to contribute up to 65 percent of the nation’s tax revenues.

Six sentenced for Frenchman's death

The Cairo-based Egypt Independent reports that an Egyptian court sentenced six people to seven years each in prison on Sunday for beating to death a Frenchman in 2013 while they were all being held together in a Cairo police cell.

Eric Lang, a teacher who was living in Cairo, was stopped by police in September 2013 for violating a night-time curfew in place at the time.

Lang was drunk and police detained him when they found that he had no valid residence permit.

The six men convicted on Sunday had been Lang's cellmates and had beaten the teacher to death, according to a prosecution document.

Lang was known to have been held at a central Cairo police station. Following his arrest, the Frenchman was presented to Egyptian prosecutors who decided to deport him, security sources said at the time.

He was being held pending deportation when he was killed by inmates in what the sources said was a dispute over whether to turn off the light.

Besigye behind different bars

According to the Kampala-based Monitor, opposition Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye has been transferred from Moroto government prison to Luzira prison in Kampala.

Last Friday Besigye was charged with treason before being remanded to Moroto prison. The charges relate to the opposition leader's claim that he was the real winner of the recent presidential election which officially saw Yoweri Museveni elected for a fifth term.

Police break up Nairobi protests

The Standard in Nairobi reports that scores of protesters were injured as police broke up opposition demonstrations against the electoral commission in Nairobi, Kisumu and Homa Bay yesterday.

Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leaders yesterday accused police of using live bullets, amid claims that one of the shots shattered the windscreen of Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s car.

Raila was not in the car at the time of the incident. The Orange Democratic Movement leader said that he could not tell whether the vehicle had been hit by a stone or a bullet and would wait for the outcome of investigations. The Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, said claims that the vehicle has been shot at were untrue, insisting only teargas and not live ammunition had been used by security forces.

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