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African press review 14 June 2016


In a major change of position, the Niger Delta Avengers armed group say they would be prepared to talk to the Nigerian government about the redistribution of oil wealth. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees asks Kenya to ensure that the closure of the world's largest refugee camp does not lead to forced repatriations. And Egypt considers a technical riposte to hi-tech exam cheats.

The Niger Delta Avengers, an armed group that claims oil profits are not being used to benefit people in the producing area, yesterday agreed to enter into dialogue with the Nigerian government on issues affecting the Niger Delta region.

Recent attacks on oil pipelines by the group has virtually crippled crude oil exports. Up to now, the organisation have refused all offers of negotiation with the government.

In a statement yesterday reported by the Lagos-based Guardian, the group called for a "genuine attitude and conducive atmosphere" from the authorities to enable any proposed dialogue and lasting peace talks.

The statement continued by promising further attacks against oil corporations and international refineries until the government agrees to use profits to develop the Niger Delta territory.

UN calls for respect for Kenya's Somali refugees

Kenya's planned closure of Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, later this year must not result in people being forcibly returned to Somalia, the head of the United Nation's refugee body warned yesterday. The story is top of the front page of regional newspaper the East African.

Speaking in Nairobi at the end of a five-day visit to Kenya and Somalia, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for any repatriation to be timely, humane and dignified, and to respect international principles.

Kenya has vowed to send back 350,000 Somali refugees living in Dadaab in north-east Kenya by November, insisting the camp is a security threat and a drain on national resources.

Nairobi has taken a hardline position, describing Dadaab as a terrorist training ground for Al Shebab Islamist fighters and has repeatedly said all Somali refugees would be removed from the country by the end of this year.

But Filippo Grandi, who met Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday, said there was room for flexibility.

Pension increase keeps up with inflation, more or less

The main story in the Cairo-based Egypt Independent reports that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last month approved a 10 percent increase in all state pensions, a move that benefits about nine million pensioners nationwide. The increase starts from July and was generally well received, but critics have pointed out that the added income will be cancelled out by ongoing rises in consumer goods, including food.

Jamming threat to Egyptian exam cheats

The Egypt Independent also reports that parliament is considering the possibility of installing mobile phone jamming devices in exam centers as a measure to prevent cheats using smartphones during public high school exams.

This year's exam season has been rife with cheating and the circulation of papers online, facilitated by mobile phones with internet access, which students have smuggled into exam halls.

Members of the Parliamentary Communications Committee rejected the idea of using jamming devices on the basis of impracticality, as the devices would have to be installed at 1,575 exam centers nationwide.

Others on the committee have rejected the use of jammers on the basis of cost.

A communications and digital technology expert interviewed by the Cairo-based paper described the devices — illegal in many countries due to their ability to interfere with security communications — as an "unsafe" method of ending cheating, as they would also prevent schools from making emergency calls.

Solar power projects set low prices for sector

On inside pages, South African financial paper BusinessDay reports that a solar power auction in Zambia at the weekend set a new low price for the solar sector. Two development groups have won backing to build generating plants in the course of the next year, according to a statement from the World Bank yesterday.

French company Neoen and US-based First Solar jointly bid 6.02c/kWh and will build a 45MW solar plant in Zambia. Enel Green Power, a subsidiary of Italy’s largest power company, Enel, bid 7.84c/kWh and will build a 28MW facility.

Those bids compare with recent solar contract prices of more than 7c/kWh in South Africa and nearly 12c/kWh in India.

The two new solar plants are expected to expand Zambia’s generating capacity by five percent, easing the strain of drought that has reduced the country’s hydroelectric output.