African press review 2 March 2016


One opponent of Uganda's newly re-elected president managed to meet yesterday's deadline and submit a legal petition questioning the result of last month's poll. But Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change was kept away from the Kampala Supreme Court by "hostile actions".


One of Uganda's defeated presidential challengers, Amama Mbabazi, launched a petition yesterday challenging the victory by President Yoweri Museveni last month, citing voter bribery and arrests.

The petition was lodged at Uganda's Supreme Court in the capital Kampala.

However, Museveni's closest rival, opposition stalwart Kizza Besigye, who was arrested nine times during the election and subsequent vote count, was blocked from making a similar petition. That's the top story in this morning's regional newspaper The East African.

A spokesman for Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party said Besigye could not deliver his petition due to "hostile actions by government" including a police and military presence to prevent Besigye from leaving his home.

The FDC has promised to announce a new strategy later today.

Yoweri Museveni was re-elected for the fifth time last month with 61 per cent of the vote.

The East African also reports that the southern African drought has reduced the flow of water over Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river to a 30-year low.

Downstream, Kariba Lake - the world's largest manmade reservoir - is only 12 per cent full, compared with 53 per cent at the same time last year, according to the Zambezi River Authority.

Kariba is the water source for a hydro-electric plant which provides Zimbabwe and Zambia with much of their electricity. Power cuts have become a daily occurrence in both countries this year.

The plant could stop producing power completely over the next six months if water levels continue to fall.

South Africa is suffering its worst drought in a century.

A report on the front page of the Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay says South Africa continues to export maize, despite not being able to meet local requirements. This was revealed as farmer representatives met MPs to discuss the drought crisis yesterday. The exports are worsening the shortage, and contributing to the high cost of grain. The deterioration of the rand-dollar exchange rate has contributed to the higher price of imported maize. The absence of a grain reserve makes users vulnerable to escalating prices.

Estimates suggest that South Africa will have to import a record quantity of white and yellow maize this year, amounting to an estimated 3.5-million tonnes.

The farmers have called on the government to control the export of maize and assist in the build-up of a strategic grain reserve.

There's even worse news elsewhere on BusinessDay's front page with a warning that the South African economy is on the brink of contraction. Growth slowed last year to a level of sluggishness last seen during the recession in 2009.

International rating agencies have warned that anaemic growth heightens the risk of a downgrade of South Africa's soverign credit to junk status.

In Harare, the Zimbabwe High Court yesterday allowed the largest diamond mining company in the Marange fields to return and assume control of all assets after the company challenged the government’s order to stop mining operations.

Zimbabwe’s mining minister on February 22 ordered all nine companies operating in the diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe near Mozambique to stop mining and leave because their licences had expired.

Mbada Diamonds, a 50-50 venture between the Harare government and a Mauritius-registered holding company, won a reprieve from the high court, which ruled that Mbada should have full control of its assets.

Mbada wants the court to force the government to renew the company's licence.

Analysts say the latest move by President Robert Mugabe’s government could further tarnish the country’s image as a risky investment destination, with investors already unnerved by Mugabe’s drive to force foreign-owned firms to sell majority shares to locals.

The court is to announce a final, binding decision later today.

The main story in the Cairo-based Egypt Independent newspaper reports that an Egyptian assistant minister has denied as “baseless” media reports that a senior coroner testified that murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni was tortured systematically and then murdered by the Egyptian security services.

The Reuters news agency yesterday reported that Hisham Abdel Hamid, Director of the Department of Forensic Medicine, provided testimony last week to the public prosecutor's office as an expert witness. Abdel Hamid said during questioning that the wounds on the student's body indicated that he had been tortured over a period of seven days.

A statement from the Justice Ministry yesterday dismissed the Reuters claim as "completely false, fabricated and baseless," adding that Abdel Hamid had never been summoned to give testimony in the Regeni case.

When Reuters contacted Abdel Hamid by telephone yesterday, he declined to comment.

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