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24 Hours Across Africa

Dry-run for presidency? Duterte daughter revels in Philippine midterms spotlight

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Source: Reuters

During Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s first two years in office, his daughter Sara had barely any interest in politics.

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One year on, she is front and center in a midterm election that she isn’t even running in, playing kingmaker for candidates allied with her father in what’s being widely seen as a not-so-subtle trial balloon for her own presidential run in 2022.

Monday’s elections are to a great extent a referendum on the Duterte administration, testing his popularity and giving him a chance to tighten his grip on power by retaining his Congressional majority, and keeping the opposition on the fringes of the all-important Senate for the remainder of his term.

Sara Duterte opted out of running for the Senate, choosing instead to manage the campaign of some of her father’s loyalists, which experts say will boost her political capital and build alliances that could come in handy ahead of the next presidential election.

“She’s projecting herself as a national personality. What’s happening today is her testing the water,” said Ramon Casiple, who heads the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.

“Her image is being looked into, how people accept her. She has her own personality. She’s not being looked at as a carbon copy of her father.”

Sara Duterte reluctantly took over from her father as mayor of Davao City and has become hugely popular there. She is also no stranger to presidential events and overseas trips, serving as first lady because of her father’s annulled marriage.

The 40-year old has spent the past three months on a campaign that has included touring on a 900 cc motorcycle and leading big rallies with billboards and banners carrying an image of herself twice the size of those of the candidates she is promoting.

Talk of succeeding President Duterte in 2022 has dampened concern among his critics that he might try to cling to power by changing the constitution to remove the single-term limit for presidents.

Casiple said Sara Duterte as president could protect her father’s legacy and insulate him from political vendettas and what he has described as a “pattern of imprisonment” of former Philippine presidents.

Some critics even suggest a family succession would protect Duterte, 74, from a possible International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment for crimes against humanity. The ICC last year launched a preliminary examination into Duterte’s war on drugs, in which police have killed thousands of people.

NO-NONSENSE, LESS DIVISIVE

For her part, Sara has urged her supporters to stop referring to her as the next president, insisting it would put her at the top of a “hate list” of people eyeing the job. Her intention, she said, was to help her father deliver on his agenda, and talk of succession was pointless until 2021.

She did not respond to questions sent by Reuters to her representatives.

Her appeal is that she has the same tough, no-nonsense approach that makes her father a hit among millions, but she is by no means his lackey.

She has been seen in public sharing lunch with opposition leader Leni Robredo, whose party the president despises.

She has openly disagreed with her father and some of his policies – though voiced support for his war on drugs – and has publicly insulted some of his inner circle.

She has also demonstrated that she’s not to be crossed.

She once punched a court sheriff in the face, and her disdain for former house speaker Pantaleon Alvarez saw her bring key power-brokers together to oust him, on the same day of his annual state of the nation address to Congress.

Alvarez wants to win back his seat on Monday and declined to comment on Sara Duterte’s political influence, or her backing of his rivals.

“I respect her politics,” he said, when asked about her presidential potential.

According to some analysts, Sara’s differences to her father could broaden her appeal among voters should she decide to run, allowing her to tap into groups alienated by his administration’s perceived adversarial approach to civil society, the media and the intelligentsia.

“I like the way she’s balancing out things when she openly contradicts blatantly ridiculous stuff that comes out of the administration,” said Alan German, a political campaign strategist at Agents International in Manila.

“She’s playing both side of the field. On the one hand she’s got the Duterte supporters, obviously because of her last name and who she is, and on the other hand, she’s trying to woo these sway guys who think ‘it won’t be so bad if it’s Sara’,” he said.

“She gives you just enough to think, OK she’s not a lapdog.”


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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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