African press review 26 May 2011

Political manoeuvring in Uganda, last week's train crash in Soweto and what's on the agenda at the African Union's Extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government in Ethiopia are making the headlines in Thursday's African newspapers.

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In Uganda, parliament yesterday approved former Speaker Edward Ssekandi as new Vice President and former Security Minister Amama Mbabazi as Prime Minister.

The Daily Monitor says the debate was "stormy" but at least ended with the approval of the eight new ministries announced by president Museveni.

The opposition took issue with Ssekandi’s nomination, but later joined the ruling NRM majority to approve his appointment. Out of 246 MPs in the House, 245 voted for Ssekandi, with one abstention.

Ssekandi is facing a legal battle for the Bukoto Central seat, in Masaka District, where his closest rival is challenging his re-election.

In the vote on the appointment of former Security Minister, Amama Mbabazi, as Prime Minister, of 244 MPs present, 225 voted for him, 18 against, and 2 abstained.

Meanwhile, the House approved President Museveni’s request to Parliament to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers from 21 to 29 and State Ministers from 41 to 47. However the opposition criticised the move as wasteful and uncalled for.

The Daily Monitor also reports that the Ugandan police have warned leaders of opposition political parties of what they say are specific threats by the Somalia-based al-Shabaab terrorists to assassinate them.

The opposition leaders, who held a closed meeting in Kampala yesterday, want the police to provide more information on the warning, which some oppositioàn figures are treating with suspicion.

Several opposition politicians suggested that this could be part of a government ploy to wage a war of fear against them in a bid to limit their right to freedom of association and assembly, especially in conection with the walk-to-work protests against the high cost of living.

A letter communicating the “threat of terrorism against political leaders”, issued on Tuesday, indicates that the police have received believable reports that the terrorists are already in Uganda and are preparing to strike.

A police officer who failed to stop Kizza Besigye from reaching inner Kampala on Monday to launch the drive, ride-and-hoot segment of the demonstration over soaring fuel and food prices, has been suspended, according to officials.

Inspector Collins Mukite, who was until Monday the Office in Charge of Kasangati Police Station, is the most junior to join a growing list of security officers indicted for mishandling the walk-to-work demonstration or Dr Besigye himself.

The officer has been charged with “neglect of duty”, according to Police Spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba. She, however, denied that the reprimand followed his failure to stop Dr Besigye, who was last week put under ‘preventive arrest’, from leaving his home.

The Star in South Africa reports that the driver of the train which crashed into a stationary train in Soweto last week, injuring hundreds of people, was dismissed on Tuesday for doing 85 km an hour in a 30 km zone, and passing through two red lights, according to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa.

The chief executive of the rail division said that, in response to the Soweto accident and another accident in Tshwane a few weeks ago an extraordinary meeting was held last Saturday to review safety measures.

According to The Herald in Zimbabwe, the African Union extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government which began in the Ethiopian capital yesterday saw African leaders calling for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of Libya by Nato forces and urgent assistance to enable the north African country to return to normal political rule.

The leaders also expressed concern over developments in Somalia, Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire.

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