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African press review 1 May 2012


Criticism of the police in Uganda over human rights abuses, the alleged plot to kill Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga, South Africa upping Iranian oil imports despite pressure from the US and questions over the cost of international tribues grab the headlines in Africa's newspapers.

Yesterday, you may remember, we had the international group, Human Rights Watch, criticising the Ugandan police and security forces for frequent violence, especially against political opponents of the Museveni government.

This morning, the main headline in the Kampala-based Daily Monitor reads, "Police under attack over abuses".

Yesterday, parliament received the 14th annual report on human rights and freedoms in Uganda, and the police force came under more criticism from rights defenders, the law society and opposition political activists.

Human rights violations increased by 28 per cent over the last 12 months, according to the report, with the number of cases rising from 797 to 1,021. The Uganda Police Force once again topped the list of rights violators in 2011.

The other violators were individuals, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, local government agents, Uganda Prisons Service, education institutions and private companies.

The chairman of the Uganda Human Rights Commission said police officers needed to be trained on human rights and on the handling of demonstrations and riots.

The commission has paid the shilling equivalent of nearly four million euros in compensation to victims of human rights abuses since 1995, the year the commission was formed. The commission also noted particular difficulties for journalists.

The Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura, said the report was not fair to the force. Kayihura claimed his officers were working hard to reduce crime levels.

In Kenya, the Daily Nation reports that a Cabinet minister and two MPs have petitioned President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to revoke the appointment of the Kenya Ports Authority directors over allegations of ethnic imbalance.

It is argued that the list is dominated by people from Central Kenya at the expense of professionals from Coast Province.

MP Sheikh Mohamed Dor said at least 75 per cent representation on the Kenya Ports Authority board of directors should be reserved for people from the province.

But Transport assistant minister Ali Hassan Joho defended the appointments, saying the new directors were fit to run the parastatal professionally.

Also in Kenya, government chief whip Jakoyo Midiwo has insisted the statement he made about an assassination plot against Prime Minister Raila Odinga is true.

Midiwo, who arrived home on Sunday night after being out of the country for the past two weeks, accused the Director of Public Prosecutions of being insincere and arrogant in issuing an arrest warrant against him.

Midiwo linked Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri and other high-ranking police and army officers to the plot.

Regional newspaper, The East African, reports that Rwanda is determined to have the genocide archives at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda transferred to Kigali.

A UN Security Council Resolution in 2010 concluded that the archives belong to the UN, and will remain in Arusha.

Rwanda hopes to exert influence through the rotational two-year non-permanent member slot at the Security Council, which is reserved for the East and Southern Africa region, with elections due this September.

Rwanda has vigorously campaigned for the slot and seems poised to win it after securing the key support of South Africa, the outgoing holder of the seat, as well as the African Union, several African countries and some European and Asian countries too, according to information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kigali.

In South Africa, the financial paper BusinessDay reports that South African crude oil imports from Iran rose sharply in March, indicating that Pretoria had not bowed to US pressure to curb commercial links with Tehran.

The South African Revenue Service said the country imported more than 500,000 tons of Iranian crude in March, up from 400,000 tons the previous month.

South Africa has come under western pressure to cut Iranian crude imports as part of sanctions designed to halt Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, but the response from diplomatically non-aligned Pretoria has been unclear.

South Africa could take an economic hit if it does not comply, according to BusinessDay. Its Iranian crude imports declined between October and January, when they reached zero, but began rising again in February.

Neither the Foreign Affairs ministry nor the Department of Energy were willing to comment.

The Zimbabwe paper NewsDay tells us that the jury is still out on the international war crimes system.

According to the article, the war crimes conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor may have been seen in some quarters as a victory for global justice, but a backlash against costly, lengthy international tribunals is also underway.

Human rights groups and western governments in particular welcomed the Taylor verdict, saying it stood as a warning to others that while the wheels of justice might take a long time to turn, the age of impunity for national leaders was over.

But with the United Nations-backed "hybrid" court trial - including both international and Sierra Leonean members - taking a decade and costing an estimated 37.7 million euros, some see that view as simplistic.

Some put the cost of the entire Sierra Leone tribunal process at as much as 151 million euros, while British newspapers have complained that plans for Taylor to serve his sentence in a British prison could cost taxpayers up to 122,000 euros a year.

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