African press review 18 October 2011

Text by: Clare Sharkey
4 min

The implications of Kenyan troops crossing into Somalia, elections in Liberia, a police crackdown on Walk to Work protestors in Uganda and the murder trial of South Africa's right- wing leader Eugene Terre'Blanche grab the headlines in the Africa press.

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Despite the denial by Somali officials that Kenyan troops have entered the country, the Kenyan Daily Nation headlines that its army is in for the 'mother of all battles'.

The paper claims that in the coming days, Kenyan forces are likely to have a major battle in the town of Afmadow, 620 kilometres south of Mogadishu.

The paper has been supportive of action against the al-Shebab militants, saying that the government has been under pressure to restore confidence in its ability to safely welcome tourists, as well as one of the world's largest aid communities.

Over the past five weeks, a British woman and a French woman have been adbucted in two separate incidents from tourist resorts and two Spanish aid workers were seized last week from the Dabaab refugee camp which is one of the largest in the country with 450,000 mainly Somali refugees.

The Ugandan daily The Monitor publishes reactions to the police crackdown on Walk to Work protestors yesterday in which tear gas and rubber bullets were used on demonstrators in Kampala.

The paper interviews human rights activists who condemn the excessive use of force and worry this will lead to protests resembling, what the paper calls, "the raw violence" in April when protestors were met with bullets and teargas.

The protestors are walking to work to highlight soaring prices for food and other commodities.

Witnesses say Monday's police action was prompted by protestors who blocked traffic on Kyaggwe Road and Kisekka Market Road while throwing stones at passing motorists.

Many shops have remained closed in Kampala's central business district following the disturbances.

In the Nigerian press, there is also talk of unrest due to commodity prices. The Vanguard, leads with the headline 'We didn’t okay subsidy removal – OPS'. The OPS refers to the Organised Private Sector.

The paper argues that the federal government will face tough times pushing through its planned removal of a fuel subsidy. The move could even prompt social unrest as workers, employers and some stakeholders have already stated their opposition to the move.

However, The Nation argues that it is not all cut and dry as there are other private sector organisations who have not yet said where they stand on the issue and in fact it could even divide the private sector.

The Nigerian paper This Day, claims that an unusual weapon is being deployed to break the stalemate in neighbouring Liberia's elections.

The daily claims that religious leaders have resorted to seeking divine intervention, not only to make sure that the election ends decisively, but also that it does not descend into war.

It claims the resolve to seek spiritual calm in the country cuts across different religions.

According to the paper, prayers in temples and mosques intensified at the weekend and  most faiths seem to agree that divine intervention is inevitable.

The second round of the election is scheduled for 8 November between Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Unity Party and Winston Tubman’s Congress for Democratic Change.

However, Liberia's own paper The Inquirer continues to fret that the National Elections Commission faces serious time constraints. It believes holding presidential and legislative elections, then run-off elections, within two weeks is a challenge.

In South Africa, the murder trial of Eugene Terre'Blanche continues. The Mail and Guardian headlines with 'Terre'Blanche murder trial: More police blunders exposed.' It concerns the case of the killing of the former right-wing leader who was beaten to death in April last year.

According to the paper, the state's case links a minor to the accused Chris Mahlangu. The second suspect, who was 15 at the time of the crime, was picked up on the night of the murder. Both suspects have pleaded not guilty to murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and housebreaking.

Norman Arendse, defence laywer for the teenager, in his cross examination of the witness once again uncovered sloppy police work and a "missing" statement. He also accused state witness Constable Peter Modise of "lying and making up stories".

Modise told the court the teenager told him from the back of a police van he had "overpowered" Terre'Blanche in a fight about unpaid wages. He also said the suspect had "something like blood on his boots".

But the state was later forced to admit that forensic testing showed the teenager's white rubber boots had no evidence of blood on them.

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