African press review 20 February 2013

The news that Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has resigned is making the front pages all over Africa, as is Laurent Gbagbo's appearance at the International Criminal Court. And Tanzanian students' eccentric answers to exams.


In South Africa's BusinessDay, we learn that the resignation followed Jebali's failure to end the political crisis provoked by the assassination last month of opposition politician Chokri Belaid.

Belaid’s death touched off mass protests against the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda to which Jebali belongs.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

Jebali proposed forming a cabinet of technocrats without political affiliation in an effort to restore calm and take Tunisia to elections. But he did not consult his own party or its secular coalition partners.

The plan was rejected.

Also making front pages across the continent, the news that former Côte d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo appeared in the International Criminal Court on Tuesday to hear whether accusations of crimes against humanity against him were strong enough to warrant a full trial.

Gbagbo, accused of plunging his country into civil war after 2010 elections rather than relinquishing his grip on power, would be the first ex-head of state to be tried by the court.

His lawyers accuse the Hague-based tribunal of doing the bidding of his successor, Alassane Ouattara.

Prosecutors will attempt to prove that Gbagbo ordered his forces to commit murders, rapes and other human rights violations during violence in which about 3,000 people died in the four-month civil war that uprooted a million people from their homes following the 2010 elections won by Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo supporters and human rights groups have complained that abuses carried out by pro-Ouattara forces during the conflict have yet to be punished, arguing that this is holding back efforts to reconcile southerners and northerners.

In South Africa itself murder-accused athlete Oscar Pistorius told his bail hearing yesterday that the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was a tragic accident.

The double amputee told the court that he felt extremely vulnerable because he was not wearing his prosthetic legs. He heard noises and fired a gunshot at the door of the bathroom.

He then broke open the door with a cricket bat and found his girlfriend dying on the floor. She died in his arms.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

He asked to be released on bail, saying he would not evade trial. He pointed out that he did not attempt to flee following the incident but remained until the police arrived.

The bail application has been postponed until Wednesday. Pistorius continues to be held at the Brooklyn police station.

On the opinion pages of BusinessDay, Steven Friedman is critical of Mamphela Ramphele, saying forming a political party is fairly easy ... getting people to vote for it is the difficult bit. Particularly since a great deal more is needed than good ideas and the respect of the people who drive the national debate.

Excitement at Mamphela Ramphele’s political plans seems based on wishful thinking more than sound analysis, says Friedman, and on very little appreciation of what it takes to get large numbers of people to vote for a party.

Ramphele yesterday formed a "political party platform", Agang. Why she has chosen to call it a platform rather than a party is unclear since its website declares that it hopes to contest the next general election: whether it does this or not, it is hard to see the logic of those who see a Ramphele-led party as a political game-changer.

The article ends by suggesting that politics in South Africa is shifting but that shifts happen gradually, not in a big bang. Whether, as the columnist believes, the game will finally be changed by another split in the ANC or, as others argue, by an erosion of the ANC vote, the shift is likely to ripen in time, not burst forth with the arrival of a new messiah.

In Kenya, the Standard leads with the news that three opinion polls have predicted a dead heat in the presidential race between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta.

With just two weeks to go to the 4 March election of the country’s fourth president, the surveys either show the race tied or give a slight lead to Raila.

All surveys indicate that the presidential contest will almost certainly be settled in a run-off, which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has scheduled for April 10th.

The main headline in regional paper the East African reads "Shock as 60 per cent of Tanzania students fail national exam".

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

According to the story, based on official figures, six out of every 10 Tanzanian students who sat last year’s ordinary secondary level examinations attained the lowest grade possible.

Close to 54 per cent of students tested picked up Division Zero in National Form IV exams, a big rise from the 32 per cent who had failed to score in 2011.

Some were so dismal that they resorted to writing insults on the answer sheets after the realisation that they were completely unprepared.

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