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African press review 4 September 2013

Kenyan parliamentarians will have to interrupt their summer holidays tomorrow, as they've been recalled to debate the country's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.

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According to this morning's Standard newspaper, a two-pronged assault on the International Criminal Court was launched by Parliament and in local courts, barely one week before the start of the first Kenyan case at The Hague.

Later today, the High Court in Nairobi will hear an application seeking to block President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto from travelling to The Hague for their trials, alleging that the absence of the two men would lead to a power vacuum in Kenya.

Tomorrow afternoon, the National Assembly will convene for a special sitting to discuss a motion intended to agree to the withdrawal of Kenya from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC.

Once that debate is over, says the Standard, the deputies will go back to their holiday homes. The next official sitting is due on 17 September.

According to sister paper the Daily Nation, the whole business is a storm in a teacup anyway. This is because quitting the Rome Statute will have no effect on the impending trials of President Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang, all of whom are charged with crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the 2008 post-election violence. The trial of Ruto and Sang is set to open next Tuesday.

The court has already warned that withdrawing from the treaty at this stage is an exercise in futility   the trials will continue.

The MPs say, however that their push is not about these particular trials, but about protecting Kenyan citizens from the international court, which they have described as “political”.

President Kenyatta, whose separate trial is due to open in The Hague in November, has other problems. Yesterday, according to a report in the Nation, he told a conference of primary school heads in Mombasa that the government cannot afford to increase teachers’ salaries and fill vacancies in public schools.

Although the demands were justified, the economy cannot sustain them at the moment, the president said. Kenyatta added that the government would address the teachers’ welfare demands as soon as the economy registers growth.

That might start happening sooner rather than later, if another story in The Daily Nation turns out to be well-founded.

Under the headline, "Kenya oil estimates now 368m barrels," we learn that an oil prospecting firm in Turkana County’s Lokichar basin has announced a five-fold increase in its estimates of oil reserves in the area.

Africa Oil, a Canadian prospecting operator, on Tuesday said that results from tests conducted over the past twelve months showed that the South Lokichar basin contained 368 million barrels of oil, an increase of nearly six times on previous estimates.

If confirmed, such a level would exceed the threshold for commercial development.

And there are more surprises on the South African labour front.

According to this morning's edition of the financial paper BusinessDay, the National Union of Mineworkers yesterday dramatically cut its wage demand from 60 percent to 10 percent, just as a strike began in the gold mining sector on Tuesday night.

The surprise move holds out the possibility of a far less bruising industrial action than at first feared, says BusinessDay, with employer body the Chamber of Mines saying it "significantly closes the gap between employers and the union", and that discussions were continuing.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, a rival to the NUM, has not gone on strike.

The chamber had been offering a 6.5 percent increase, arguing the industry could not afford more.

The NUM’s move appears to confirm speculation that workers may not have the appetite for another long-term strike.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which represents about one third of workers in the sector, has already rejected the 6.5 percent offer.

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