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African press review 24 September 2016

4 min

The Chibok Girls are back in the news in Nigeria, with the president saying he'll pay Boko Haram for their release. Riek Machar, banned from political activity in Sudan and refused asylum in Ethiopia, is running out of places in which to live in exile. Who'll be the next head of the World Health Organisation? And will Uganda's hydroelectric dams at Karuma and Isimba stand the test of time?

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The Guardian in Nigeria says the government has not ruled out the payment of a ransom to ensure the release of the Chibok Girls who were kidnapped by islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram.

The 276 girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok town, Borno, on April 14, 2014.

Asked why the government was willing to pay a ransom for the girls to be released, the presidential spokesman said Muhammadu Buhari wants the girls out of captivity at all costs.

Buhari vowed to rescue the kidnapped girls but their families and Bring Back Our Girls, a movement that has been campaigning for purposeful government action on the rescue of the girls, are not convinced the authorities are doing enough.

Recently, the Nigerian president told UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on the sidelines of the 71st UN General Assembly in New York that Nigeria would welcome intermediaries from the UN on the proposed swapping of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls for Boko Haram fighters held in custody.

Ethiopia refuses asylum to South Sudan's Riek Machar

The main story in regional paper the East African says Ethiopia has refused to grant asylum to South Sudanese ousted vice president, Riek Machar.

Machar   who is currently in Khartoum after fleeing Juba on July 11  has been denied asylum in Ethiopia where he had hoped to take refuge after completing treatment for a leg injury in the Sudanese capital.

Ethiopia is to provide the bulk of the 4,000 troops to the UN-backed regional protection force, intended to act as a buffer between President Salva Kiir’s soldiers and those loyal to Machar.

On Thursday, the Sudanese government stopped Machar from holding a press conference in Khartoum at the end of a week-long SPLM-IO leadership meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in South Sudan. The Khartoum authorities say he is in the capital on humanitarian grounds and can not engage in any political activity.

Who'll next head the WHO?

BusinessDay in South Africa reports that six candidates are in the running to take over the helm of the World Health Organisation. They include Ethiopia’s foreign minister, who is bidding to be the first African to hold the position.

The organisation’s 194 member states had until the end of the day on Thursday to propose candidates to replace director-general Margaret Chan, who will step down next June after 11 years in the role.

The list of people to replace her includes Ethiopian foreign minister Tedros Adhanom, who enjoys the unanimous backing of the African Union.

A renowned malaria researcher and former health minister between 2005-2012, Adhanom was among the first to put his name forward, but he will face competition from rivals proposed by France, Italy, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and Hungary.

France has proposed former health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy to replace Margaret Chan.

No damn good, suggest damaging dam reports

The top story in the Ugandan Daily Monitor questions the long-term structural viability of the Karuma and Isimba dam projects.

According to the Kampala-based daily, a report from the ad hoc committee investigating shoddy works and negligence by contractors and government officials at the Karuma and Isimba hydropower projects has revealed a hair-raising mess.

The leaked report warns that if the defects on the two dams, which are to cost nearly 2 billion euros, are not rectified, and supervision and management streamlined, the durability of the projects could be compromised. The report speaks of a ‘cancer of the structure’ which would not be immediately obvious but could have dangerous long-term implications.

Corrosion and the use of inferior grades of steel and concrete are the main problems identified in the report.

The two dams are scheduled to be ready by 2018, although experts see meeting that deadline as unlikely because of infighting between project managers and lingering questions about the integrity of engineering on the projects.

The Isimba Dam deputy project manager has dismissed the findings as alarmist. Karuma dam project officials refused to comment on the specific issues of quality raised in the report.

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