African press review 5 August 2011

Text by: William Niba
4 min

Reactions in the Nigerian press to a UN report on oil pollution in Nigeria’s Ogoniland region dominate our review of the African press. A Nigerian ex-president sympathises with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. Internal ructions in South Africa's ANC continue, as does the crisis in Malawi.



In a landmark report published Thursday, the United Nations Environment Programme says it could take up to 30 years to clean up the effects of oil pollution in the Niger Delta region.

Nigeria’s main tabloids run key excerpts from the report, which details damage described by President Goodluck Jonathan as “worse than civil war” .

The Vanguard for example underlined the findings that drinking water in at least 10 Ogoni communities is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons.

This Day points to the case of one village in western Ogoniland where benzene in wells is at levels over 900 times above Wolrd Health Organisation guidelines.

The Daily Sun also quotes another section of the report which found out that some areas, which appear unaffected at the surface, are in reality severely contaminated underground.

None of the papers buy Shell’s explanation that the amount of oil spilled amounted to some 4,000 barrels and that illegal refining and oil theft were the major causes of the environmental damage.

The Guardian highlights reaction by Friends of the Earth Nigeria. The group says the report has vindicated its worst fears and underlines the gravity of Shell's atrocious breach of minimum environmental protection guidelines. The NGO has dismissed the $1bn restoration fund as negligible and wants it increased to $100bn.

The Vanguard warns in a commentary it’s not yet uhuru for the Ogoni people as all sources of ongoing contamination must be brought to the end before the cleanup.

Jonathan's inauguration of the reconstituted board of the National Council on Privatisation on Thursday makes the headlines in some of Friday’s newspapers. The Vanguard notes that the president regretted that privatisation in Nigeria had not lived up to its billing as the answer to ailing state enterprises.
The Guardian explains that the seven-man ad hoc committee is to carry out an inquest into the alleged lopsidedness in the privatisation of the federal government since its inception in 1999.
The Punch takes up calls by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo for dignified treatment of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Obasanjo says it is bad to put Mubarak in a cage.
The Punch says he made the remarks in Mombasa, Kenya, on Thursday, where he is attending the African Leadership Conference. Obasanjo said the treatment meted to the former Egyptian leader was bad for the image of Africa as a continent, according to the newspaper. Egypt has put its former president on trial for the killing of protesters in late January to early February this year.
South Africa’s Business Day comments that the image of Mubarak in a cage thrilled those who overthrew him and must have chilled other Arab autocrats facing popular uprisings.
The big story receiving extensive coverage in the South African papers is the looming showdown between the ANC and its youth league leader. Julius Malema has accused ruling party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe of "using headlines" to attack his views on Botswana.
The Times reports that at a meeting on Sunday, the youth league executive, announced plans to set up a "command team" to promote unity among opposition parties in Botswana with the aim of toppling President Ian Khama's elected government. The statement drew strong condemnation from the ANC, with Mantashe on Wednesday accusing the league of publicly showing a "desire to undermine the ANC leadership", according to the paper.

Mail and Guardian publishes an investigation into how Malema is “pulling tender strings”. The paper reports the firebrand youth has a stake in a 411-million-euro road management deal. He has been handing out state tenders to friends through the Ratanang Family Trust, according to the paper.

The continuing political crisis in Malawi also draws reactions from the South African newspapers. Mail and Guardian says President Bingu wa Mutharika faces further protests and a loss of desperately needed aid if he fails to address the country’s problems, quoting Malawian civil society groups and the United States government.

The man who heads the protests that left 10 people dead told the newspaper that Malawi risks becoming the next Zimbabwe. Undule Mwakasungula had been in hiding since security forces launched a violent crackdown to quell two days of demonstrations that erupted 20 July.



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