African press review 18 November 2015

6 min

The authorities in Egypt refuse to accept Russian suggestions that last month's Sinai plane crash was caused by a bomb. The Rwandan senate gives the green light to a referendum which could see Paul Kagame hold onto the top job until 2034. And Barack Obama does miraculous things in Manila.


The front page of the Cairo-based Egypt Independent reports that Egypt disagrees with the Russian conclusion that a terrorist bomb caused last month's Sinai plane crash.

Egyptian authorities said yesterday they would take into account Russia's conclusion that a bomb brought down the passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula, but stressed that the local investigation had so far found no evidence of criminal action.

The comments were made at a joint news conference held by the prime minister and several cabinet ministers in Sharm al-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort from which the doomed plane took off.

The interior minister said if any security lapse was to blame for the crash then those behind it would be punished. However, no evidence of such a lapse had so far been discovered, he said. Egyptian authorities have increased security at all airports and now search all bags and passengers, the minister added.

Egypt's civil aviation minister said yesterday that all scenarios for the cause of the Russian plane crash in the Sinai on October 31 were possible and the investigation had not reached any conclusion.

Regional paper The East African reports that Rwanda's senate yesterday unanimously approved a draft constitution to allow President Paul Kagame to seek a third term in office, clearing the path for a referendum that is not expected to generate much opposition.

Kagame has been in power since the year 2000. He was first elected president in 2003, and the proposed changes could see him staying on until 2034.

Rights groups say the Rwandan government severely restricts freedom of expression and does not tolerate dissent.

The Democratic Green Party, Rwanda's only one genuine opposition, which has no seats in parliament, has tried to block the amendments through legal action, but the Supreme Court in Kigali rejected that bid.

A date for the referendum has yet to be decided.

Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta has told the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stop meddling in his country's internal affairs.

Kenyatta said Kenyans had resolved to live together in harmony and that the court should give them room to run their own affairs, rather than continue to disturb the peace in the country.

The Kenyan leaders accused the court of trying to incite Kenyans on issues that are long forgotten, adding that people are tired of their interference.

Judges at the Hague-based court earlier this year withdrew charges against Kenyatta. He was accused of stoking ethnic violence after the 2007 presidential election.

Prosecutors accused the Kenyan government of interference with witnesses as well as political hindrance, a charge the Nairobi administration denies.

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto is still on trial on charges of complicity in the 2008 violence.

In Nigeria, The Guardian reports that the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra yesterday disagreed with President Muhammadu Buhari over his statement that Nigeria is indivisible, describing it as a "personal opinion".

The independence movement also claimed that the United Nations would conduct a referendum to allow Biafrans to decide their own fate. The group took a swipe at the military’s decision to quell pro-Biafra protests, while South East governors enjoined the protesters to abide by the law.

The Press Review prize for headline of the day goes to South African financial paper, BusinessDay, for their "Obama puts South China Sea on table".

The report is almost tame by comparison. We read that US President Barack Obama put tensions over Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea squarely on the agenda ahead of an Asia-Pacific summit yesterday, pointedly visiting the main warship of close ally the Philippines shortly after he landed in Manila.

While Obama affirmed a commitment to the Philippines’ security and to freedom of navigation in regional waters, a senior official in Beijing said China was the real victim of the waterway dispute because other countries had occupied islands there illegally.

The Spratly islands in the South China Sea are claimed by both Manila and Beijing.

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