8 January 2013

Africa: News Round Up

In Kenya the Daily Nation reports that Presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday criticised Prime Minister Raila Odinga for branding Jubilee alliance leaders non-reformers.

Mr Kenyatta said all Kenyans were reformers since the achievement of the new Constitution.

"Reforms are not owned by an individual. All of us are reformers, and we have a responsibility of implementing the Constitution," he told a rally in Ogembo Town.

He said Jubilee leaders were also in the government that brought reforms including free education, Constituency Development Fund and Economic Stimulus Programme.

He asked their rivals in Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) not to use the Constitution as their campaign tool because it was passed by all Kenyans.

"The Constitution is not an individual property, all Kenyans participated in one way or another in passing it. Mr Odinga should tell us what his policies are," he said.

The next polls, he said, were not about reformers and non-reformers but issues and numbers.

He said Kenyan politics had changed and hatred and election violence should be shunned. He challenged the Cord coalition to come up with policies that would address the plight of farmers and women instead of engaging in hate speech and mudslinging.

In Ghana, the main opposition party boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of President John Mahama following last month's disputed elections, Reuters reports.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) said Mr Mahama won the election fraudulently.

Official results gave Mr Mahama 50.7% of the vote, enough to avoid a run-off against the NPP's Nana Akufo-Addo, who won 47.7%.

Ahead of his inauguration, Mr Mahama called for unity in Ghana - seen as one of Africa's most stable democracies.

Mahama, who narrowly defeated his rival Nana Akufo-Addo in a December 7 vote, pledged to focus on development and unite Ghanaians.

"There is a tremendous amount of work that still needs to be done. More jobs must be created. More roads must be built," Mahama, dressed all in white, told cheering crowds in the capital Accra.

Mr Mahama was Ghana's vice-president until the unexpected death of President John Atta Mills in July.

He has served since then as acting president.

Ghana became Africa's newest oil exporter in 2010 with the startup of Tullow Oil's offshore Jubilee field, propelling economic growth to 14.4 percent in 2011.

That rise has not been reflected in average incomes in the cocoa and gold exporter.

Former-president John Kufuor, an NPP member, did attend the ceremony, defying the boycott and a group of young party members who gathered outside his house to persuade him not to go.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan joined other African leaders at the ceremony in the seafront Independence Square.

In Gabon, the Daily Nation reports that leaders of the rebels who have seized key towns in the Central African Republic arrived Monday in Libreville for expected talks with the government to end the conflict in the chronically unstable nation.

The Central African Republic's embattled President Francois Bozize also made a quick trip Monday to Brazzaville to meet with his Congolese counterpart, Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is serving as mediator and has said the peace talks could open later this week.

At a joint press conference in Brazzaville, Sassou Nguesso stressed that a "military solution was not a good one and there must be negotiations."

For Bozize, the attacks in the Central African Republic were triggered by "elements coming from outside.... We consider them as mercenaries manipulated from outside, who attacked the peaceful Central African people.

The Seleka alliance of three rebel movements launched its assault on December 10 in the north of the Central African Republic (CAR).

Since then, it has moved steadily south, capturing a string of key towns with little or no resistance from the poorly equipped and poorly trained army.

They are now in striking distance of the capital Bangui.

At first, the rebels were simply calling on the Bangui government to respect the terms of peace accords signed in 2007 and 2011. As their position strengthened, however, they began calling for Bozize to step down.

The Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) will host the Libreville talks. But the regional bloc has also sent more troops to strengthen FOMAC, its multinational intervention force in the CAR.

In Zambia President Michael Sata has warned on Monday that high food prices could spark riots, which toppled a previous government, as he put pressure on millers to keep prices down, News24 reports.

Speaking before meeting millers, who have been selling mealie meal at steep prices, Sata said the nation's founding president Kenneth Kaunda lost power in 1991 over food riots.

"If you don't protect the people, I am going to protect them myself. When people rioted during Kenneth Kaunda's time, it's the food riots ...that caused him to be removed from power. I don't want food riots," Sata said.

Prices for staple food mealie meal rose sharply last December, from 45 kwacha ($8.50) up to 80 kwacha ($15) per bag of 25kg in outlets in the capital Lusaka.

Most of the impoverished southern African nation's people cannot afford the increase.

Millers have argued that the high cost of maize from the government reserves, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), sparked the price hike.

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