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African press review 8 June 2018

Is Pierre Nkurunziza's announcement that he will step down as president of Burundi in 2020 a clever trick? Will the South Sudan peace negotiations work better in Sudan? How poor is South African former president Jacob Zuma?


Regional daily the East African describes yesterday's announcement by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza that he will step down in 2020 as "a surprise move".

Nkurunziza made his statement shortly after he signed into law Burundi's new constitution, passed in a referendum last month, that would have allowed him to seek a further two seven-year terms in office.

"Our mandate ends in 2020," Nkurunziza said in a speech to supporters and diplomats in the central city of Gitega.

Describing himself as "guide" of the ruling CNDD-FDD party and referring to himself in the third person, the 54-year-old president said he would not seek reelection at the end of his current third term.

Nkurunziza's decision to run for reelection in 2015 plunged Burundi into political crisis, with opponents saying his candidacy went against a peace deal that had ended more than a decade of civil war.

Turmoil since then has killed 1,200 people, forced 400,000 to flee their homes and triggered an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Nkurunziza's third term has been characterised by growing authoritarianism, intimidation and abuse, according to human rights groups.

The East African quotes an unnamed diplomat based in Burundi who describes the announcement as a "nice political move".

"It remains to be seen how sincere he is because he is the one who launched the revision of the constitution and said he would be willing to run again if the people demanded it," the same diplomat continues.

He goes on to say that, after three years of crisis that have hit the economy hard, Nkurunziza "needed to give something to the international community to try and bring back financing".

Pancrace Cimpaye, spokesman for an exiled opposition group which supports the Arusha deal which ended Burundi's civil war, said "the word of Pierre Nkurunziza, a man who buried the Arusha Accords and the 2005 constitution, means nothing."

South Sudan peace talks to move north

Sudan is to host South Sudanese peace talks.

According to the East African, Khartoum has convinced South Sudan President Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader Riek Machar to attend peace talks in the neighbouring state.

The same story dominates the front page of the Sudan Tribune where we are assured that Kiir and Machar will meet in Khartoum in the third week of June, in the presence of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who is also chairman of the regional Intergovernmental Devleopment Authority, Igad, which has been leading moves for peace.

The Sudan Tribune says the meeting will take place on 17 June.

A second encounter between the South Sudan rivals is already planned for the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on the sidelines of the African Union summit in early July.

Heads roll in Ethiopian military and ministerial ranks

Long-serving Ethiopian military chief General Samora Yenus has been sacked.

Samora has been replaced by his deputy.

Ethiopian state TV also announced the replacement of the National Intelligence and Security Services minister, Getachew Assafa, by General Adem Mohamed, former head of the air-force.

Getachew has been accused of gross human rights abuses, including the inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Regional commentators say Ethiopia is undergoing fast-paced political and economic reforms under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office two months ago following the surprise resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn.

Buddy, can you spare a rand?

South Africa's former president, Jacob Zuma, is prominent on the front page of Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay.

Zuma has suggested that his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, was wrong not to appeal judgments in the "state capture" case, which ordered Zuma to personally pay the estimated 10 million rand in legal fees. That's getting on for three-quarters of a million euros.

Zuma says he believes the High Court in Pretoria is unfairly punishing him for seeking to challenge former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on his handling of the case, despite his continued belief that he was correct in doing so.

He says paying the fees will cause him personal hardship.

Zuma has denied that his legal challenges to the report were driven by personal interests, because Madonsela implicated him, his son Duduzane Zuma and his friends the Gupta family in wrongdoing.

An opinion page article in the same BusinessDay says Zuma is pleading poverty and once again trying to whip up support with threats against enemies and warnings of a split in the ruling African National Congress.

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