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African press review 17 April 2018

4 min

More trouble for the Kenyan electoral commission as three more members resign. The struggle for the memory of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela continues in South Africa. And how Egypt intends to improve its standing in the world happiness rankings.


Kenya's electoral commission is back on the front pages and the news is not good.

"IEBC crippled as three poll chiefs quit," reads the headline on the front page of this morning's Nairobi-based Daily Nation.

The report says the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was crippled yesterday after three commissioners resigned, leaving the electoral oversight body incapable of conducting any business.

The Daily Nation does not explain why the three commissioners resigned but says that only three of the seven commission posts are now occupied, a situation which legal experts say makes the IEBC unworkable. There have been a series of clashes between commission members and the chairman Wafula Chebukati.

The IEBC Act states that the quorum for the commission to conduct business is five commissioners and an amendment to the law last year to reduce it to three was quashed by the High Court as being unconstitutional.

Lawyer James Orengo, who is also the minority leader in the Kenyan Senate, says the commission is cursed. He went on to say that “the resignations at the IEBC are a symptom of an incurable cancerous disease that bedevils it. Without a doubt the resignations undermine the legitimacy of the Jubilee administration and confirm that last year’s elections were an electoral fraud.”

IEBC now short of legal quorum

Over at the Standard, the main headline reads "IEBC now lacks quorum to conduct any business".

The Standard quote the three commissioners who resigned yesterday as accusing the chairman, Wafula Chebukati, of turning the commission into a space for "scrambling and chasing individual glory and credit".

One of the resigners told journalists after making the joint statement that, under Chebukati’s leadership, the commission boardroom had become a venue for peddling misinformation and brewing mistrust.

Matters might be compounded further after politicians demanded that the remaining three officials also leave. They threatened to drag the remaining three officials through a tribunal if they did not leave voluntarily.

Among the issues that could be hobbled by the resignations are ongoing post-election reviews, constituency boundary delimitation, approval of the commission's budget, any byelection and recruitment of senior staff.

Manipulating history

The editorial in South African daily BusinessDay is headlined "Framed from the grave."

The article says that one of the most irresponsible, duplicitous and outright false narratives of what happened in the past has become an issue of the moment in the wake of the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The editorial quotes fiction writer Stephen King to the effect that "when it comes to the past, everybody writes fiction."

In a desperate effort to claim the memory of Madikizela-Mandela for themselves, both the ruling ANC and the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters have recast her history in ways that, not surprisingly, make them out to be heroes and everyone else villains.

The controversy includes the publication of a documentary on Madikizela-Mandela’s life by a French film-maker, Pascale Lamche. The documentary sought to examine her rise and fall within the movement and includes an interview in which Madikizela-Mandela wrongly claimed that some journalists "did the work of Stratcom", the apartheid-era organisation designed to weaken the forces fighting for democracy and freedom.

The journalists named went on to have long and proud careers in which their integrity was proven time and again, in difficult and dangerous circumstances. Now what we are left with, says BusinessDay, is Madikizela-Mandela’s claims against three enormously brave and reputable journalists who correctly believed that struggle icons are not above scrutiny.

United Arab Emirates plan to export happiness

Egypt is to import happiness from the United Arab Emirates. This, I kid you not, is the top story in the Cairo-based Egypt Independent.

The 2018 World Happiness Report places Egypt in 122 place of the 156 countries surveyed. Egypt is the third most unhappy Arab country – after Yemen and Syria, both nations currently ravaged by war.

In 2016 the UAE launched a new Ministry for Happiness, responsible for creating and spreading happiness and satisfaction in society. It has borne fruit. The 2018 World Happiness Report said that the UAE is the happiest country in the Arab world and ranks 20th out of 156 countries overall.

Now they plan to export the stuff, by means of an "initiative that aims to implant the culture of positivity, happiness and tolerance in Arab societies in order to make happiness a behaviour and a habit".

It's all done with seminars and workshops. Aldous Huxley's rulers in Brave New World used a pill. At least that worked.

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