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African press review 5 December 2013

Plans for a new tax in Kenya, Kampala's power struggles, East Africa's integrated payment system, debt in South Africa - all in today's papers.

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Thousands of workers in Kenya, already grappling with the high cost of rent, food and other basic items, may have to suffer more pain if President Uhuru Kenyatta signs a new bill into law. That's the main story in this morning's Nairobi-based Standard newspaper.

The National Social Security Fund Bill, passed by Parliament yesterday, will oblige all workers registered with the fund to pay six per cent of their gross earnings every month.

The new rate replaces the current monthly flat contribution of 1.70 euro per worker.

The Standard also reports that at least 10 people have been killed and five others injured in an inter-clan battle in the northern border town of Moyale.

The deaths followed a nine-hour gun battle yesterday between the Gabra and Burji people on one side and the Borana on the other, according to local officials.

Locals say politics and a land dispute are the causes of conflict.

The main story in the Kenyan Daily Nation says a power outage earlier this morning affected most of Nairobi and several other parts of the country.

Kenya Power said a fault on their main supply line caused the blackout. Parts of Nairobi, Mombasa and central Kenya have been affected. Engineers are working to resolve the situation.

The Daily Nation also reports that a crisis looms in the Kenyan public health sector after workers issued a one-week strike notice over plans to transfer responsibility for paying them to county governments.

Public health workers from three unions said the transfer was tantamount to “tribalising” the health services.

They said this would leave health professionals at the mercy of members of county assemblies.

The unions represent doctors, nurses, clinical officers and other paramedics.

In Uganda, according to the Daily Monitor, MPs have hailed yesterday's meeting between the Leader of Opposition in Parliament and the Prime Minister as the only effective political solution that will relax the standoff in Kampala City.

Speaking after yesterday's closed-door discussion, the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, promised to deliver a detailed statement to Parliament today, explaining the plight of opposition figure Kizza Besigye, who remains confined at his home in Kasangati. The Prime Minister will also clarify the government position on the dispute which saw Erias Lukwago sacked from his job as Lord Mayor of Kampala.

Kampala has long been the site of a struggle for dominance between President Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Movement-led government on the one hand, and the country’s opposition led by the Democratic Party on the other.

Regional paper the East African reports that the central banks of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have connected their payment systems, offering traders and bank customers an alternative method of sending and receiving money.

Rwanda and Burundi are expected to join the integrated regional payment system at a later date.

The new payment system became operational just days after the five East African Community presidents signed the Monetary Union Protocol which is intended to result in a single currency in 10 years’ time.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

According to the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay, almost half of South Africa’s 20-million credit-active consumers are struggling to meet their debt repayments, National Credit Regulator figures showed on Wednesday, reflecting the negative effect of high debt levels and a rising cost of living.

This comes just a day after Reserve Bank figures showed debt levels remained high in the third quarter, despite 40-year low interest rates. Consumers have suffered electricity price hikes and lower wage increases compared with previous years.

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