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African press review 20 September 2011

Elections in Zambia, allegations from a Kenyan former military officer that investigators from the International Criminal Court tried to bribe him, and accusations of theft involving Uganda's presidential guard, all in Africa's newspapers today.

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Zambia takes pride of place today, as voters there go to the polls for the fifth time since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1991.

The state-run Daily Mail in Lusaka has been doing its own little press review, reporting that the Associated Press has tipped the incumbent, President Banda, to win, that on the basis of a report in yesterday's Washington Post.

The Associated Press maintains that Zambia’s booming economy should ensure success for Banda, who took over the reins of power following the death of President Levy Mwanawasa in 2008.

Ten candidates are vying for the top seat, with Banda and the Patriotic Front’s Michael Sata viewed as the top contenders. The 10 parties will also be jostling for the 150 parliamentary seats and hundreds of local government positions.

The Times of Zambia leads with a presidential call for electoral calm. According to the Lusaka daily, President Banda has ordered the police to act firmly against people promoting chaos in the country during and after the elections.

He has asked well-meaning Zambians to refrain from premature celebrations before the Electoral Commission declares the official winner.

President Banda said he has ordered that anyone involved in violence should be dealt with without favour or mercy in view of information he had received that there would be violence in the country.

The Post is the only privately-owned English-language daily in Zambia. Reading its front page, President Banda seems much less sure of re-election.

The Post publishes an opinion poll conducted by a group of Zambian lecturers in conjunction with Canada's Bradford University. The poll suggests that Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front will win today's election with 55 per cent of the vote.

The same poll has also revealed that the Patriotic Front will win 87 parliamentary seats, leaving the Movement for Multiparty Democracy with just 34.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, The Herald in Harare reports that an Air Zimbabwe flight from Victoria Falls to Harare on Sunday afternoon made the trip with just one passenger. The aircraft had earlier landed in the southern resort town with 16 passengers. The MA60 is designed to carry 60 passengers.

All Air Zimbabwe flights were recently grounded by a two-month strike by pilots and cabin crew.

In Kenya, The Daily Nation reports that a former military officer has alleged that International Criminal Court investigators and a former ambassador attempted to bribe him in relation to post-election violence cases

In a sworn affidavit dated 12 September, Rev John Mathenge claims the former diplomat and ICC officers met him last year and asked that he make a statement against Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta in exchange for “775.000 euros and security”.

The affidavit has surfaced only days before confirmation of charges hearings before the ICC in the Hague against Kenyatta, the Head of the Kenyan Civil Service Francis Muthaura and Postmaster-General Hussein Ali.

Tomorrow, the court will be asked to confirm charges of murder, forcible transfer of persons, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts for the three suspects' alleged roles during the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

In Uganda, The Daily Monitor reports that soldiers of the Special Forces Group, the elite presidential guard unit, have been named in the alleged theft of large sums of money, reported to be in billions, from the State House Cash Office in Kampala.

The theft is being looked into by the investigations unit of the same crack force, according to a unit spokesman.

The paper has been told by inside sources that three presidential guard soldiers have gone missing since last Friday’s disappearance of the money from the office, which is located beside the presidential lodge in Nakasero.

No one is sure how much is missing, though sums ranging from 524 to 5240 euros have been mentioned.

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