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African press review 20 February 2015

Text by: Brian Eads
5 min

An albino child is abducted in Tanzania. Boko Haram continues its attacks. Soyinka calls for resistance against “misrule”. Obasanjo comes under editorial fire. And a belly-dancer takes up politics in Egypt.


The abduction of an albino child in Tanzania wins front-page coverage and comment in the Guardian.

The one-year-old boy was grabbed from his mother in his home in the Geita Region on Sunday, a month after the government announced a nationwide ban on witchdoctors who are accused of fuelling a wave of attacks on albinos.

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More than 70 have been murdered in the east African nation in the past decade, according to UN figures, many hacked to death and their body parts removed to make charms and spells that witchdoctors claim bring good luck and wealth.

The police have launched a manhunt for the boy the paper says. He has not yet been found.

A four-year-old girl, abducted in December by an armed gang accompanied by a traditional healer, is still missing.

"It leaves much to be desired when a country that boasts an active police force fails to protect its most vulnerable citizens," the Guardian’s editorial says

The papers laments the police's failure to tackle the problem, with few people arrested or charged, and says that for many in Tanzania when it comes to superstition it's "see no evil, hear no evil".

In Nigeria the abduction in April of 276 schoolgirls by fighters of the Islamist sect Boko Haram has slipped down the news agenda. Claims that the authorities had negotiated their release were simply not true. They too are still missing.

The Boko Haram insurgency and the faltering efforts of the Nigerian military to contain it are still headlines news.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

Punch reports an attack yesterday on a village in Adamawa State, saying that rampaging insurgents killed 30 local people. The paper says the attack came shortly after the military liberated 11 other communities from the rebels. It quotes a security source as saying that a combined team of air force and army personnel killed more than 300 of the insurgents in recent days, which may or may not be true.

The paper's editorial is more concerned about comments earlier this week by Wole Soyinka, the Nobel prize-winning playwright and political activist. Soyinka said "Nigerians should be ready to go back to the trenches, stand up against misrule from whoever wins the election." He was referring to presidential and parliamentary elections which were due this month but postponed until the end of March, largely because of the fighting in the north-east.

Punch considers the motives of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who quit the ruling People's Democratic Party this week. Obasanjo has been fiercely critical of President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking reelection on a PDP ticket.

Punch is not convinced that the gesture was sincere, wondering if it shows an anti-democratic temperament or deeper psychological drives that are hard to fathom. Punch says Obasanjo has been trying to run Nigeria from the shadows since he stepped down in 2007, having failed to amend the constitution to allow himself a third term in office.

More important than such squabbles, the paper believes, is the absence of a national consensus against corruption, without which whatever steps are taken by whoever win the elections will be no more than flashes in the pan. It's hard to take much comfort from that.

The popular paper the Daily Sun avoids navel-gazing, declaring simply, "Military raid Sambisa forest. Warplanes pound Boko Haram strongholds. More insurgents killed." Tabloid journalism at its best.

There's surprisingly little coverage in the Egyptian papers about air strikes on Islamic State armed group targets in Libya. Egypt launched air strikes said to be against forces of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” on Monday.

The Daily News does report a visit by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to a military headquarters on the Libya-Egypt border.

The paper quotes al-Sissi as saying that the borders must be protected from terrorist infiltration as well as the smuggling of weapons.

Finally, the Egypt Independent has the hot news that belly-dancer Sama al-Masry yesterday applied to run in the election for the House of Representatives on behalf of the Azbakeya constituency after passing the medical examination.

“The people asked me to,” she said.

She said she will fight for women’s rights. It is refreshing that she is able to do so.


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