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Africa

Press review: this week in Zimbabwe and DRC

media Zimbabwe security forces cracks down on protesters in Harare REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Crisis-hit Zimbabwe faces unknown future after a violent crackdown on nation-wide demonstrations. And in DR Congo, new President Tshisekedi enjoys a facelift as former foes come begging in his first week in office.

Zimbabwe's newspapers are combing the skies for solutions to nation-wide demonstrations, strikes and a brutal crackdown by security forces after President Mnangagwa’s announced a 150 percent increase in fuel prices on January 12.

The Bulawayo-based Daily News quotes civil rights organizations as saying that at least 12 people have been killed and hundreds injured -- 78 of them with gunshot wounds -- during the crackdown over the past two weeks.

According to the paper, a thousand people including leading trade unionists, lawmakers, and youths are still under detention, leading lawyers in their court robes to hit the streets of Harare, to denounce the summary trials, hundreds of civilians arrested in connection with the protests.

Regretting Mugabe?

Several publications lead with claims by the leader of the main opposition MDC party Nelson Chamisa at a Harare press conference that the violent crackdown was worse than anything experienced under ousted leader Robert Mugabe.

 "At night, people are no longer enjoying their freedoms, they are dragged out of their places of joy and entertainment, restaurants... and being beaten up” he regretted

The Standard says he addressed the media in the gutted lobby of his party headquarters which was fire-bombed during the protests.

In a reaction that is bound to dumbfound many in his country, President Emmerson Mnangagwa jumped on his twitter handle to vent his indignation, after watching a television report showing how security forces slapped, punched and kicked a handcuffed man before he was bundled into a van.

"I was appalled by today's @SkyNews report. That is not the Zimbabwean way," tweeted Mnangagwa.

Paradox

Yet, the President’s own Deputy Chief Secretary appeared to be charting a line different from that of his boss when he gave a radio interview to justify the violent crackdown.

In the remarks published by the state-owned Herald George Charamba warned that  a citizen has a right to violate the law and expect full protection from the Constitution.

Political witchhunt?

Meanwhile Daily News says it is able to report that opposition leader Nelson Chamisa now fears for his life as he warms up for dialogue.

The Bulawayo-based publication says Chamisa spoke to its reporters after reportedly being harassed by overzealous state security agents, while he attended the funeral of late Zimbabwe music icon Oliver Mtukhuzi, first at Harare’s National Stadium on Saturday and then in  the star’s rural home in Madziwa on Sunday. “My life is now in danger because the hatred has now reached a different level, Chmaisa told the Daily News.

Political impasse

Nelson Chamisa also pointed to contradictions in what president Mnangagwa says on the ground and in social media about dialogue with all political leaders which he said was imperative before the country hits rock bottom.

The unrest broke out 14 months after Mnangagwa’s election is a disputed election and with the country still suffering from spiraling inflation and regular shortages of basic necessities.

 

Des supporters du nouveau président Félix Tshisekedi à Kinshasa, le 24 janvier 2019. John WESSELS / AFP

Transition in DR Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the eyes of the press have been on President Felix Tshisekedi who is completing his first full week in office this Friday. It’s the first time Kinshasa is experiencing a democratic change of power since the country’s independence in 1960.

Felix Tshisekedi marked the end Laurent Kabila’s 18-year rule with a pledge to improve on the country’s human rights record.

The 55-year-old’s pledge to free all political prisoners held in the country was on all the front pages of the vibrant Kinshasa papers all week, the publications underlining that he also made public his intention to give the judiciary the independence they need to do their work.

Anxious wait for new Government

A major issue of media speculation is about Tshisekedi’s shortlist for cabinet portfolios.

Sept sur Sept says it is able to report that Albert Yuma Mulimbi, will be the country’s next Prime Minister. Yuma is the powerful President of the DRC’s Business Chief’s Federation, chairman of the board of Directors of the state-owned mining company Gecamines, and top administrator of the Congolese Central Bank.

The newspaper says Yuma Mulumbi’s profile fits perfectly with the wealth creating manifesto agreed on in the secret accord signed by Tshisekedi’s transition team and the outgoing FCC-CAH coalition which won the majority of seats in the national assembly elections.

Skeletons in the Presidential closet

Today’s Congo Indépendant warns Tshisekedi about thorns left on his road by his predecessor which include skeletons left in the closet.

According to the newspaper, they include last minute decrees signed by Joseph Kabila weeks before he left office, which it claims should open the new President’s eyes about the heretical methods of the “Kabilist” regime.

Congo Indépendant reports that the new President found out a few days ago, that up to 26 ambassadors and 1213 directors were appointed by Kabila as his term of office came to an end.

Congo Tribune claims that the vast majority of the persons promoted in the Presidential decrees were Kabila loyalists and cronies.

Tshisekedi's new Western friends

And the new Congolese President will be delighted with the change of heart about his electoral victory by international stakeholders.

Le Potentielonline's front page splash is the essence of Washington's new policy towards Kinshasa. "We are ready to work with President Tshisekedi and his government”, declared the American US ambassador to the DRC Mike Hammer on Thursday, while he inaugurated the new United States embassy in Kinshasa.

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote to the new DRC leader this week welcoming the first peaceful transition of power in the country since independence.

Paris originally distanced itself from Tshisekedi's election when foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, stated on January 20 that the announcement of Felix Tshisekedi's victory did not correspond with the expectations with regard to the awaited results.

 

Remembering President Tshisekedi's late father

All of Kinshasa’s influential publications mark the second anniversary of the death in Brussels of new DRC president’s father, Etienne Tshisekedi with special memorials.

La Prosperité recalls that the "lider maximo" of the DRC’s authentic opposition died in Brussels from a lung infection.

 

Grand Congo notes that the remains of the veteran opposition leader who served as Mobutu’s Prime Minister are still in the Belgian capital after a long battle with the Kabila regime which had opposed plans by his UDPS party to lay him to rest in a special mausoleum to be constructed in Kinshasa.

 

The Kinshasa-based newspaper publishes an invitation from the party's new leader, Simon Andrien Kaienga, urging well-wishers to attend a memorial church service for the late Etienne Tshisekedi, at Notre Dame du Congo Cathedral in the Lingwala suburb of the DRC capital.

 

Bringing the late UDPS leader's remains home is now expected to be a foregone conclusion now that his son is in power.

 
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