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African press review 17 February 2017

Kenya may not be able to buy millions of dollars worth of weapons from the United States. Top banks in South Africa may have to pay billions of rand in fines because of the way they rigged the foreign exchange markets against customers. Uganda's Kizza Besigye is tired. And Egypt gets its first-ever female state governor.

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A US Congressman is trying to stop a multi-million dollar Kenya arms deal. That's the top story in regional paper the East African.

Nairobi is hoping to acquire ammunition, machine guns, rocket-launchers and guided missiles mounted on 12 converted agricultural aircraft. The whole lot is intended to bolster the Kenya Defence Forces' campaign against the al-Shebab group in Somalia.

But Congressman Ted Budd says he will block the 418-million-dollar (392-million-euro) sale on the basis of credible allegations of faulty contracting practices, fraud and unfair behaviour.

In urging his colleagues to block and investigate the deal, the North Carolina Republican said a company in his home state would sell Kenya planes better suited for their proposed purpose at less than half the quoted price.

Kenyan military officials are to meet their United States Department of Defence counterparts next month to finalise the purchase. A US State Department official said no deal or actual price had been agreed yet.

Mortar attack welcomes new president to Mogadishu

Also in the East African, a report that Shabaab extremists claimed a mortar strike that left two children dead near the Somali presidential palace in Mogadishu yesterday during a handover ceremony at which new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed officially took office.

Several explosions were heard near the palace during the handover ceremony.

Top banks may pay for foreign currency fraud

Bankers are greedy bastards. That's the not-exactly shocking main headline in this morning's South African financial paper BusinessDay.

The report is a reaction to the decision by the South African Competition Commission to prosecute major local and international banks for manipulating the foreign exchange market.

The 17 banks involved include Barclays, Standard Bank and a host of international institutions, among them Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Crédit Suisse.

The commission found the banks breached the Competition Act by generally agreeing to collude on the prices dealers at these banks quoted to customers to buy the rand or dollar and the prices these dealers paid for these currencies on the market. The dealers also colluded on the difference between the two prices.

In a highly emotive statement the Treasury said yesterday that if proven to be true, “it would confirm the pervasiveness of unbridled greed within ... banks even after evidence that such behaviour has potential to collapse national and global financial systems."

If successfully prosecuted, the guilty banks could lose up to 10 percent of their annual turnover in fines.

Zuma accuses opposition of beer-hall behaviour

President Jacob Zuma is on the front page of the South African Sowetan daily, telling opposition MPs that they traumatised the nation and treated parliament like a beer hall last week.

Responding to the debate on his State of the Nation address‚ which was delayed by a violent protest by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, Zuma appealed to MPs to use “democratic mechanisms” instead of “causing chaos”.

“Some MPs have decided to treat this house like something worse than a beer hall. The conduct we saw here traumatised millions‚” said Zuma‚ against a background of heckling by some opposition MPs.

Members of the Democratic Alliance were heard shouting “like you treat the constitution” after Zuma’s beer hall reference.

Egypt gets first-ever female state governor

Congratulations to Nadia Ahmed Abdo, the new governor of Egypt's Beheira state in the Nile Delta, the first woman in Egyptian history to hold the post of governor.

She was sworn in before President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi yesterday and is at the top of this morning's front page in the Cairo-based Egypt Independent.

Abdo is a chemical engineer and a specialist in sanitation and drinking water. She's a member of the General Assembly of the World Water Council.

Besigye asks court to end obligation to appear

Ugandan opposition figure Kizza Besigye is fed up trekking to court.

According to the Kampala-based Daily Monitor, Besigye yesterday applied to the Ugandan High Court to relieve him of the obligation to make frequent appearances in the lower Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court on treason charges.

The application comes barely three weeks after Besigye vowed not to return to the lower court at Nakawa for mention of his treason case on the basis that he was tired of reporting endlessly without police concluding investigations to enable him to stand trial, eight months after the alleged offence was committed.

The prosecution accuses Besigye of swearing himself in as president of Uganda claiming to have won the February 2016 presidential elections with 52 percent of the vote.

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