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24 Hours Across Africa

Australia’s PM launches official campaign six days out from election

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Source: Reuters

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially launched his party’s election campaign on Sunday, less than a week before the May 18 vote that opinion polls have consistently indicated he will lose.

At the campaign launch in Melbourne, Morrison’s focus was on economic management and said his center-right Liberal-National coalition would support the “decent, simple and honest aspirations” of Australians.

“A stronger economy where people have the confidence to invest more, to employ more, to invent more, to work hard,” Morrison said.

The government has been trailing the center-left Labor Party, led by Bill Shorten, in polls for years, though recent figures indicate the race is tightening.

Morrison’s Liberal Party has been rocked by division in recent times, having had three different leaders in four years.

Neither of Morrison’s two immediate predecessors as prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott, were present at the campaign launch. Former Prime Minister John Howard, who led Australia from 1996 to 2007, also did not show up.

Morrison previously dismissed questions about why the former prime ministers wouldn’t be attending, saying the day was about speaking directly to the Australian people.

“It’s not about party festivals and slapping backs and doing all that sort of stuff,” Morrison told reporters on Saturday.

Morrison has been the dominant figure for the government in the campaign but members of his front bench attended the launch on Sunday, including Environment Minister Melissa Price, who has largely been unseen during a campaign in which climate change has been a prominent issue.

The coalition has had to focus its attention on many traditionally safe seats this election, which appear to be under threat from candidates running on platforms focused on more action on climate change.

The Age newspaper reported on Sunday the government was facing tight contests in Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah in Sydney and the seat of Higgins, in Melbourne’s wealthy inner-east.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said there were a lot of disillusioned voters in Higgins, which the Liberal Party has held since the seat was created in 1949.

“There is a mood for change,” Shorten told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Morrison also took aim at Shorten and said Labor had a history of poorly managing the economy.

“Reckless spending is not a vision … it’s a burden on current and future generations,” Morrison said.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Kenya: Popular author and gay activist dies.

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Kenyans prolific writer Binyavanga Wainaina, who was born in Nakuru in Rift Valley Province has died after a short illness in Kenya.

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He is popularly known for his debut book, a memoir entitled One Day I Will Write About This Place, was published in 2011.

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In January 2014, in response to a wave of anti-gay laws passed in Africa, Wainaina publicly announced that he was gay, first writing a short story that he described as a “lost chapter” of his 2011 memoir entitled “I am a Homosexual, Mum”, and then tweeting: “I am, for anybody confused or in doubt, a homosexual. Gay, and quite happy.

Prize-winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina has died in Nairobi after a short illness at the age of 48.

Wainaina was also named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014 for his gay rights activism.

He “demystified and humanized homosexuality” author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote at the time.

Wainaina was one of the first high-profile Kenyans to openly declare he was gay and “he felt an obligation to chip away at the shame” that people felt about being gay, Adichie added.

Wainaina challenged Kenyans to rethink their negative stereotypes about homosexuality, Nyabola added.

“Inasmuch as homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, there are people who are very comfortable with their identity… but the public space for acceptance and respect has always been lacking and even characterised by violence,” Nyabola said.

“What he said is ‘look I’m here and I’m still the same person that you know and love and respect ‘… I think it’s incredibly powerful,” she added.

Homosexual relations are currently illegal in Kenya but the Supreme Court is due to rule on Friday whether to overturn the law banning them.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Algerians army Chief shun claims over political ambition.

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Algeria’s army chief of staff said on Wednesday he had no political ambitions in response to democracy activists who say that he intends to copy the authoritarian model of Egypt.

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The armed forces have been a pivotal power center in Algeria for decades and have been managing a transition after mass protests forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign last month after 20 years in office.

Street demonstrations have continued to press demands for a dismantling of the elite of independence veterans, security commanders and business tycoons that have run the major oil and natural gas producer since independence from France in 1962.

“Everybody should know that we have no political ambitions,” Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah told state television.

A presidential election has been scheduled for July 4 but an informed source said on Friday it might be postponed.

Algerian activists say they are concerned the army-steered transition toward democracy will prove illusory as in Egypt.

As Egypt’s army chief in 2013, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled freely elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, won election himself in 2014 and then suppressed Mursi’s supporters as well as the liberal opposition in a pervasive crackdown on dissent.

In Algeria, analysts the army fears the crisis will continue at a time of worsening disorder in neighboring Libya, where there is factional fighting for control of the capital Tripoli.

Salah also said a fight against corruption and cronyism, among protesters’ main grievances, would continue and that he disagreed with some officials who said this was not a priority.

Earlier this month a military judge placed Bouteflika’s youngest brother and two ex-intelligence chiefs in custody. They joined a string of businessmen and officials under investigation over corruption ahead of the presidential election.

Said Bouteflika, who served as a top adviser to the presidency, acted as Algeria’s de facto ruler after his brother suffered a stroke in 2013 that left him in a wheelchair.

Several businessmen, including Algeria’s richest man, Issad Rebrab, have also been placed in custody pending completion of investigations into corruption allegations.


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