African press review 19 December 2015

Who or what stands between Paul Kagame and a lifetime as Rwandan president? If yesterday's constitutional changes are agreed, Kagame could rule the roost in Kigali until 2034. Will the African Union send peacekeepers to Burundi? And why is Egypt angry with the European Parliament?


The main story in regional paper The East African says only one man stands between Rwanda's president Paul Kagame and a shot at a third term at the helm   and that man is the president himself.

Rwandans voted yesterday in a referendum to change the constitution and do away with current presidential term restrictions.

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The final result will be officially announced on Monday, but early indications are that a large majority have voted in favour of the constitutional amendment.

Throughout the constitution review exercise, Kagame has remained non-committal on his stance, but promised his Rwandan Patriotic Front that he will make his position known after the referendum.

If the yes vote is confirmed, Kagame will be eligible to run in 2017 for another seven-year term plus two further five-year terms after that, potentially allowing him to stay in power till 2034.

The United States and the European Union have criticised the move to amend Rwanda’s constitution, saying it undermines democratic principles.

South African financial paper BusinessDay reports that the African Union’s Peace and Security Council has proposed sending 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi, invoking for the first time a rule which allows the African Union (AU) to deploy a force without a country’s consent.

The force will be called the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi and will be staffed by soldiers from the East African Standby Force. Their mandate will be to protect civilians and create conditions for dialogue.

Burundi, which United Nations officials warn is on the brink of civil war, says there is no need for a peacekeeping mission.

At least 400 people have been killed since April, when unrest erupted after President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term in office.

The AU decision, drawn up late on Thursday, now needs to be approved by the UN Security Council.

According to The Egypt Independent, Cairo has categorically rejected a call by the European Parliament for the immediate and unconditional release of Egyptian-Irish prisoner Ibrahim Hussein Halawa.

The resolution constitutes an unacceptable violation of the independent judicial system in Egypt, the foreign ministry said in a statement issued yesterday.

Halawa has been held for more than two years in connection with riots that followed the crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo in August 2013.

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He and 493 other defendants are charged with public order offences.

The European Parliament claims that Halawa, who was 17 years old and therefore a minor at the time of his arrest, faces the death penalty if found guilty. The authorities in Cairo have denied that he faces execution.

According to the Ugandan Monitor, opposition Forum for Democratic Change presidential flag bearer Kizza Besigye has angrily reacted to threats from the chairman of the country's electoral commission Badru Kiggundu to deploy the army against Besigye.

The oppsition leader says Kiggundu has notoriously allowed widespread cheating in previous elections and is nothing but a loudspeaker for current president Yoweri Museveni.

The Kenyan Daily Nation reports that talks at the World Trade Organisation 10th ministerial conference hit a snag yesterday when delegates failed to agree on agriculture and export subsidies.

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

The closing ceremony was postponed twice and talks continued into the night as negotiators worked on a final text.

Thorny issues are said to include the lengthy phase-out period for export subsidies by developed countries, longer repayment periods and a watering down of the food aid element.

Sister paper The Standard says that if the meeting ends without a deal on agriculture, then poor countries -- mostly from Africa -- will walk out of the discussions empty handed. Developing countries came to Nairobi hoping for an end to the payment of farm subsidies by rich countries, payments which African farmers say have locked them out of global trade for decades.

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