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African press review 2 September 2017

media DR

A historic judicial decision in Kenya is making the headlines in the African press this morning. Editorialists are also expressing concern about media coverage of natural catastrophes and the cost of religious pilgrimages.

“Kenya’s Supreme Court makes history in Africa.”

That’s the main headline in Standard Media this morning, as it reacts to the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday, following a petition by his opponent Raila Odinga.

Standard Media points out that Kenya is only the third country in the world to cancel a presidential election and that it is the first in Africa.

The Kenyan press is full of reactions to the historic decision, along with pictures of Odinga’s supporters engaging in street celebrations.

IEBC under fire

A lot of the talk is focusing on Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which has been blamed for irregularities in the vote count.

The Daily Nation says the court’s decision was based on reports by two teams of experts, who examined the commission's servers and electoral forms.

The paper says the IEBC delayed access to their servers for hours and that, when they allowed the experts to examine them, their attitude was suspicious.

When the court asked to see certificates of penetration tests, to verify the system's ability to withstand hacking, the IECB provided forms which were not in accordance with election technology regulations.

Unsurprisingly, the electoral commission is now under attack.

Immediately after the ruling Odinga called the irregularities a “monstrous crime against the people of Kenya” and said its officers should be prosecuted.

Other politicians have joined in to say the IEBC should go on trial before a new election takes place.

“It’s now back to square one”, the Daily Nation says.

But in its editorial, like Standard Media, the paper has some encouraging words.

It says the ruling demonstrates the “independence of the judiciary and signals the end of the era of impunity that has painfully assailed Kenya for far too long”.

News values and natural disasters

South Africa's Mail & Guardian is running a powerful editorial on what it calls the "hierarchy of suffering" in the way we perceive catastrophes in the world.

It reminds us that mudslides have killed about 500 people in Sierra Leone over the past two weeks.

In Niger torrential downpours have killed 44 people since June.

In Yemen floods have killed 18 people this week and exacerbated a cholera epidemic, which has claimed the lives of 2,000 people since it broke out four months ago.

But, despite these horrific figures, the Mail & Guardian writes, "it is the deaths of 15 people in the United States, in the unfolding drama of Hurricane Harvey, that has captured the attention of South Africans and much of the rest of the world".

It says we've "failed to do something as basic as establish a sense of shared humanity".

"What we think of as 'global' is actually the province of a few in North America and Western Europe," it says.

"The great mass of humanity is, however, local, regional, “ethnic”."

The Mail & Guardian says the media should "do more to tell the story of the person in Freetown calling the names of her relatives across the rubble in such a way that she is heard as loudly as the US First Lady Melania Trump in stilettos at the scene of a hurricane".

Cost of pilgrimage

In Nigeria Punch is running an investigative piece on the hefty sums spent by Nigerians on the Islamic pilgtrimage, the Hajj, this year.

It says that despite the recession, over 300 million euros have been spent by individuals and state governments, which partly subsidise their fares.

Punch doesn't seem too happy about the scale of the spending which, according to its calculation, comes to about 3,500 euros per person.

It's keen to remind its readers that "in the the Koran, Hajj is only a religious obligation for those who can afford it".

In the same way, pilgrimages to Jerusalem aren't obligatory for Christians, it says.

Yet state governments have been sponsoring people to go to both Mecca and Jerusalem.

Punch says these subsidies are becoming a subject of controversy, in the light of Nigeria's troubled economy, and that some states have already abolished them.

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