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African press review 8 July 2016

A Ugandan judge visits the prison where opposition leader Kizza Besigye is currently being held. Both sides in the South Sudan conflict criiticise the International Crisis Group for saying that the Juba peace agreement is close to collapse. And just how bad are prospects for South African economic growth?

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The main story in regional newspaper the East African reports that there was drama yesterday morning when a court magistrate, James Ereemye, visited the Luzira Maximum Security Prison where Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye is currently being held.

The court official had earlier announced that he would visit the facility following repeated complaints from Besigye about poor conditions at the prison.

Top Besigye allies were, however, annoyed that the magistrate appeared to be on a routine general inspection under the Justice Law and Order Sector District Coordinating Committee.

Besigye, a four-time presidential candidate and runner-up in the last election held in February, faces charges of treason as well as an array of other offences.

Journalists were blocked from covering the magistrate's visit.

International Crisis Group report on South Sudan slated

South Sudan has criticised the Belgian-based non-governmental body, the International Crisis Group, for what the authorities in Juba consider to be biased documentation and reporting on the country’s implementation of the peace agreement that ended the civil war in August last year.

The lobby group released a report recently claiming that the agreement by the warring factions was in danger of collapse.

The report says the implementation had already stalled and military confrontation was spreading across the country, refering to the recent fighting around the town of Wau.

It further adds that conflicts were on the rise in some regions such Upper Nile and Central Equatoria, and were likely to spread further.

The ICG report warned that the collapse of the peace agreement could seriously impact on the stability of East African Community and the Igad regional bloc. The group called on the main partners to the peace deal to renew their push for its full implementation.

South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth described the report as “bad and biased”.

“Those who write such reports wish South Sudan every failure,” the minister was quoted as saying by the media in Juba.

The main opposition armed group under Riek Machar also issued a statement dismissing the International Crisis Group report, saying it was too early to judge the progress of the implementation of the peace agreement.

South African economic prospects

The South African Treasury and the International Monetary Fund don't see eye-to-eye on the prospects of the South African economy . . .

On the front page of this morning's Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay, we read that domestic politics and policies, along with heightened global financial volatility and weak Chinese demand, are weighing down South Africa’s growth potential, according to the IMF, which yesterday slashed growth outlook for 2016 to a dismal 0.1 percent.

The main consequences of such low growth are that the per capita income of South Africans will fall and unemployment will rise, suggesting that more people will be plunged into poverty, according to the financial daily's analysis.

Twenty-seven percent of South Africans are currently out of work.

But BusinessDay's main story is headlined "Treasury says state of economy not as dire as IMF suggests".

Responding to the pessimistic picture painted by the IMF, the national economic control body said its forecast was more positive than that of the international lender. In the medium term, the South African Treasury expects growth and employment to be supported by structural reforms and targeted government interventions.

The Treasury points to the Department of Energy’s partnership with independent power producers to bring more power onto the electricity grid and ongoing discussions between the government, labour and business on labour reforms including the introduction of secret ballots and a national minimum wage as steps in the right direction.

Commercial war between Egypt and Italy

The front page of the Cairo-based Egypt Independent says Egypt is considering retaliation against Italy for the halting of military supplies in protest at the murder of an Italian student earlier this year.

Italy's Senate voted last week to halt supplies to Egypt of spare parts for F16 warplanes, the first commercial steps taken against Cairo since the death of Giulio Regeni.

Regeni, who was doing postgraduate research on Egyptian trade unions, was last seen by his friends on 25 January. His body, which showed signs of torture, was found in a roadside ditch on the outskirts of Cairo on 3 February.

Italy has repeatedly complained that Egyptian authorities had not made a serious effort to find those responsible for the 28-year-old student's death. In April, Rome withdrew its ambassador to Egypt for consultations.

Egypt's foreign ministry said the senate vote would hurt cooperation between the two countries.

Italy was Egypt's fourth-largest trade partner in terms of both imports and exports in 2015.

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