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African press review 22 July 2011


A crackdown on protests in Malawi, hunger and starvation in Kenya and a call by Nobel laureat Wole Soyinka for a investigation into the death of late Nigerian president Umaru Yar'Adua are some of the stories making headlines in Africa's media.

The Malawian press is dominated by a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests. The Nyasa Times puts the death toll after two days of clashes between protesters and security forces at 10 dead including two police officers and 98 seriously injured across the country.

Maravi Post says up to 18 people were killed in the violence.

Malawi Voice explains that the Human Rights Consultative committee had called the protest to express what they said is their anger and disgust at president Bingu wa Mutharika’s marauding tyranny, bad economic policies and poor democratic governance

Blantyre is still wearing a deserted face headlines Malawi Voice. The paper reports that protesters continued to loot shops for the second consecutive day, Thursday, in the capital Lilongwe and several suburbs of the economic hub, Blantyre.

“Malawians tell Bengu time is up”, headlines the Nation. The paper reports that a heavy police presence was no deterrent as thousands of people in high spirits joined a rare vocal protest in the economic capital Blantyre.

This is a group united by anger according to the paper. And like beads in a chain, they remained together at least until the police decided enough was enough and tear gas canisters went flying.

In an address to the nation, President Mutharika called for a ceasefire so that they could reason together. Nyasa Times regrets that the 77 year-old president has refused to step down, and blames opposition and civil society leaders of paying looters to target businesses.

The Maravi Post underlines it was the biggest demonstration ever staged in the country. The paper accuses the Mutharika administration of targeting private media to whip them into line.

The paper says four private radio stations were taken off the air for several hours on Thursday. The Malawi communications authority accusing them of inflaming the people against the government.

Kenya has ordered the release of maize from strategic stocks to feed people facing the risk of starvation. The Nation reports that Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Thursday released 500,000 bags of maize from the reserves.

Kenya Food Security Steering Group estimates that the number of Kenyans affected by drought has increased from 2.4 million in January 2011 to between 3 and 3.5 million people currently.

The Nation says Kenya has been thrown into the centre of the worst refugee crisis as Somalis fleeing drought and insecurity cross the border in their thousands.

An estimated 400,000 refugees are now in Dadaab, which was initially built for 90,000. Kenya’s strategic reserves hold 2.2 million bags, way below the ideal eight million bags.

The Standard reports that the cabinet met on Thursday to release nine billion shillings to buy food for drought-hit areas. The meeting chaired, by President Kibaki, also directed strict management of genetically modified maize imports. According to the Standard, the cabinet said it issued a directive banning the use GMO imported maize as seeds.

In Nigeria, Nobel laureat, Wole Soyinka, wants a probe of late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s last days in office. Yar’Adua died at state house in May last year after what Soyinka says was a melodramatic incident that held the country spellbound for more than one year.

Wole Soyinka issued the appeal while addressing the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria at a meeting in Lagos on Thursday. This Day reports that he asked President Goodluck Jonathan to use his request to test the workability of the Freedom of Information Act. Soyinka said it was timely, as Nigerians really deserved “to know what happened to their president as citizens”, according to the paper.

Vanguard also takes up Soyinka’s claims that the circumstances surrounding Yar’adua’s death were concealed from Nigerians. The paper underlines Soyinka’s claims that lights were put off the airport as the phantom was being transported from Saudi Arabia back to Abuja

The paper backs Soyinka’s argument that the public has a right to know how this was possible, the people involved in the operation and what document was passed as an appropriation bill and the official who signed it.

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