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African press review 4 February 2014

5 min

The storming of Kenya's controversial Masjid Musa Mosque and in South Africa, the collapse of the merger of the Democratic Alliance and Agang opposition parties - all in today's papers..


There's a lot of confusion in the Kenyan papers as to what exactly happened in the coastal city of Mombasa on Sunday.

The Nairobi-based Standard daily reports that human rights activists say at least six militant youths were killed in the storming of the controversial Masjid Musa Mosque.

Police put the death toll at two, saying one youth was shot after he stabbed an officer and attempted to steal his rifle.

According to the authorities, the order to storm the mosque was given only after shots were fired at police officers from inside the compound.

Al-Shebab - who are they?

Police reports, confirmed by independent eyewitnesses, indicated that the militants, who barricaded themselves in bathrooms, toilets and minarets fought back with guns, machetes, meat cleavers, scissors and iron bars.

Hussein Khalid, the Executive Director of Haki Africa human rights group, told the Standard that four bodies had been recovered at the Coast General Hospital. He claims that all four died from bullet wounds sustained in shooting at the mosque. It is alleged that two other bodies were taken from the hospital morgue for burial on Sunday night.

The police claim the mosque is a centre for militant Islamic youth, including returnees from Somalia who have trained with the al-Shebab militia group.

One hundred and twenty-five people appeared in court yesterday, accused of various public order offences in connection with the mosque violence.

The other big story in Kenya this morning concerns the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who will find out tomorrow if he has to stand trial before the International Criminal Court in the Dutch city of The Hague.

Kenyatta faces charges of complicity in the violence which followed the presidential election in December, 2007.

The President’s lawyers are expected to argue for the charges to be dropped. The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, will be asking for more time to get fresh witnesses and evidence.

Bensouda needs extra time to carry out further investigations since her case has been weakened by the withdrawal of key witnesses.

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

There's a heart-warming story on the front page of this morning's Ugandan Daily Monitor. Under the headline "Kayihura rebukes spies over Besigye escape," we learn that the Inspector General of Police, Kalé Kayihura, has lashed out at intelligence officers for failing to detect movements of the opposition figure and former Forum for Democratic Change president, Kizza Besigye.

The police chief observed that it was embarrassing for officers to keep vigil at Dr Besigye’s home thinking he had been confined, when he suddenly appeared in central Kampala after beating the security cordon.

If intelligence officers were doing their jobs, said the police chief, Besigye would not be able to escape from his home and cause chaos in the city centre. The Inspector General of Uganda's Police was addressing the passing out ceremony for new intelligence officers at Masindi Police Training School.

On its news analysis pages, South African financial paper BusinessDay looks at the collapse of the merger of opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and Agang.

According to BusinessDay, the potential for opposition parties to provide a credible alternative to the African National Congress fell under the spotlight on Monday as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Agang traded barbs on who was responsible for the mess their failed merger had created.

In a flurry of publicity and enthusiasm, Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele agreed to represent the DA as its presidential candidate. Five days later, the deal was off. This, says the Johannesburg-based paper, is a setback at a time when opposition politics in South Africa desperately need credibility.

In parachuting in a non-member as its presidential candidate, the DA had tacitly admitted that it lacked internal capacity.

One political commentator points out that opposition politics is more complex than having a black or a white leader. But this débacle reinforces the perception that a viable opposition leader should be black.

The Democratic Alliance will have a tough job finding another figure of Ramphele's standing.

And where the whole shambles leaves the struggling Agang is anybody's guess.

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