African press review 12 January 2015


Today's African press review has it all: the first day of the new Egyptian parliament, a church backlash in Kenya, concerns over China in South Africa and two worrying new diseases.


Regional paper The East African worries about two new tropical diseases posing new threats.

The first one is "a little-known bacterial disease" that "may be killing as many people worlwide as measles", while the second one is a "mosquito-borne virus known as Zika".

Dossier: Ebola outbreak 2014

And this is worrying because, as the paper puts it, "The spread of Ebola in West Africa last year shows how poorly-understood diseases can emerge and grow rapidly".

Scientists are apparently especially worried over the "potential rapid spread" of Zika.

First detected in Africa in the 1940s, the virus was unknown in the Americas until last year "and has now been confirmed in Brazil, Panama (and) Venezuela," says the newspaper.

"While the virus is not thought to kill, health authorities in Brazil linked it to a surge in babies born with microcephaly, restricted head growth that seriously limits a child's mental and physical abilities," says the East African.

It's a catchy name. Let's hope no one will have to remember it.

The Egypt Independent is reporting on the first day of parliament. The 596-member House of Representatives held its inaugural session last Sunday.

According to the newspaper, it was dominated "by social media sarcasm following odd moments and blunders made by several MPs who became the focus of ridicule.

"The most talked about moment came from Zamalek Sports Club chief Mortada Mansour" when he refused to stick to the script of the constitutional oath after qualifying the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak as a conspiracy.

Social networks were mostly talking about Dina Abdel Aziz, the parliament's youngest MP.

Many Facebook and Twitter user, congratulated her for being "a soft-toned, good-looking and elegantly-dressed member".

The Egypt Independent cals that admiration. It could also be described as casual sexism.

Churches in Kenya are threatening to vote the Jubilee government out in 2017   that is, if the authorities go ahead with a plan to regulate religion in the country.

You'll find the story in the Daily Nation. The government "recently published rules requiring clerics to undergo theological training to be certified as preachers," explains the paper.

The new rules would also require religious institutions "to submit their statements of faith so that their doctrines may be examined". They were welcomed coldly by religious authorities around the country.

The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, for example, deemed it as "a systematic ploy to muzzle the church". The EAK "is now planning to collect 3 million signatures to stop" the regulations.

This means the Kenyan government will likely soon amend the set of rules. Asthe Daily Nation reminds its readers: "Church-goers form the majority of the Kenyan electorate."

Finally, The Mail and Guardian takes a look at South Africa's relationship with China. The article his an opinion piece from Ross Anthon, the director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University.

If you've been following South African news in the last year, you've probably noticed that China's relationship with the country has "deepened significantly".

The year 2014 was dubbed “the Year of South Africa in China”. It was followed last year by the “Year of China in South Africa”. Now South Africa has been upgraded to China’s lofty “Strategic Comprehensive Partner”. This sums up the article.

China has been South Africa's largest trading partner since 2010.

This led some to worry that the African country is cutting itself from its western partners. But according to Ross Anthon, "South Africa may be taking sides at an ideological level. But at the level of international economic engagement, it is business as usual."

In short: "The South African government uses the language of anti-western imperial hegemony while simultaneously being deeply engaged in the logic of global markets".

That's what you would call the "talk left, walk right" approach.

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