13 March 2013

Mali: African Press Review 13 March 2013

Photo: Sidwaya
Malian military.

A Mali paper's still online, even though its editor is in jail. Kenyatta struggles to keep out of the International Criminal Court. Odinga dithers over challenging election results. An SA minister tells off Cosatu. And the rand continues to fall.

The internet edition of Mali's independent daily Le Républicain is still being published, despite the fact that the paper's editor, Boukary Daou, remains under arrest without charge.

The main story in today's edition of Le Républicain is headlined "US ambassador harshly critical of arrest action".

The story quotes the ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard, as regretting the arrest of Boukary Daou. She goes on to underline the importance of a genuinely free press for all democracies, especially those, like Mali, which are in transition following the ousting of the last elected government.

Boukary Daou was arrested last Wednesday following the publication by Le Républicain of a letter about poor conditions from soldiers fighting Islamist fighters in the north. The soldiers claim that they lack equipment and food.

The letter also complains that Mali's military leaders are living in comfort in the capital, Bamako, while their colleagues suffer in the norther desert.

A separate story in Le Républicain is headlined "Serious threat to press freedom" and the small print there details a series of visits by state security officials to the newspaper's offices. The paper's founder and the production editor have both been ordered to present themselves at state security headquarters.

The article describes the action as "harrassment" and warns all Malians that not only press freedom but fundamental human rights are under threat.

In Kenya two stories dominate the front page of the Nairobi based Standard.

"Uhuru fights off ICC charges" reads the main headline with the story explaining that Kenya's president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, is fighting to have his case at The Hague referred back to the pre-trial chamber for reconsideration.

This comes as the prosecution files a petition at the International Criminal Court to withdraw all charges against Uhuru's coaccused Francis Muthaura, citing insufficient evidence.

In his response to the prosecution's insistence that his case proceed to full trial, Uhuru poked holes in the prosecution arguments maintaining the pre-trial judges were "misled" into confirming charges against him.

The other big story concerns the recent presidential election. The headline reads "We have evidence of rigging in presidential poll, says Raila."

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who came second in the election, has expressed confidence that his party's challenge to the election of Uhuru Kenyatta will succeed at the Supreme Court.

Raila claimed his Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) team has evidence proving that last week's elections were bungled to hand Uhuru, the Jubilee Alliance candidate, victory.

Cord has, however, yet to formally lodge the petition at the Supreme Court but has until Monday to do so, according to the law.

There's not much good news on the South African front pages.

According to the main story in financial paper BusinessDay, African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday threw down the gauntlet to the party's labour ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), warning of a rocky road ahead in South Africa's rapidly changing labour relations scene.

In a hard-hitting speech to Cosatu's bargaining conference in Boksburg, Mantashe outlined in stark terms the federation's possible fate should it continue on its current "dangerous downward slope", amid simmering tensions within trade union ranks.

According to BusinessDay, Mantashe was unsparing in his criticism of Cosatu's inability to adapt to the new labour landscape, marked by internal divisions, rebellion among workers and outside "attacks" from legal challenges to labour laws, companies sidestepping bargaining processes and rival unions taking on established Cosatu affiliates.

Mantashe is a former leader of Cosatu's biggest affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers.

On the financial front, we learn that a surprise upward revision of the Reserve Bank's estimate of the current account deficit in the third quarter of last year, and news that it remained wide in the fourth quarter, knocked the rand to a new four-year low on Tuesday.

The rand has depreciated by about seven per cent against the dollar this year on continued investor concerns over labour tensions in the mining sector and a yawning trade deficit that has negative implications for the current account.

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