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African press review 16 January 2014

Is the Uganda army fighting rebels in South Sudan,  the constitutional referendum in Egypt and UN concerns over Nigeria's new anti-gay law, are all topics in today's African papers.

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We start in Uganda, where the main story in The Daily Monitor is headlined "Machar’s fighters kill UPDF soldiers," the UPDF being the Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces, the national army.

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

According to the Kampala-based newspaper, President Yoweri Museveni yesterday revealed that the Uganda army is actively fighting rebels led by Riek Machar in South Sudan. He also disclosed that Ugandan soldiers had been killed and others injured when the UPDF engaged the rebels just 90 kilometres outside the capital, Juba, on January 13. The president gave no casualty numbers. An army spokesman said few details were available.

The army had previously denied that it was involved in any combat operations in South Sudan.

There are reports of a 55 per cent voter turn-out in the Egyptian referendum on a new constitution.

This was the first national ballot since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsy. According to the Cairo-based Egypy Independent, a "yes" vote is likely to lead to a presidential bid by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

Sisi ousted Morsy, Egypt's first freely elected head of state, in July. Sisi's Islamist foes see him as the mastermind of a coup that kindled the worst internal strife in Egypt's modern history and brought back what critics have described as a police state.

The referendum was boycotted by members and supporters of Morsey's Muslim Brotherhood, and other opposition groups.

Egyptian government officials have hailed the revised constitution as a clear sign of democratic progress. Human rights groups remain skeptical.

The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists described the draft constitution as highly flawed.

Surprisingly, there's not a word on any Kenyan front page from yesterday's first day of the Westgate shopping centre trial.

The main story in the Kenyan Daily Nation this morning looks across the continent to Nigeria.

The reports says that UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon yesterday raised concern over the new law prohibiting same-sex relationships in Nigeria.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

The law sets a 14-year jail term for same-sex couples who live together and a10-year term for any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly publicises same-sex amorous relationships.

Ban's critical response to the law follows similar remarks made on Tuesday by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who sais he had rarely seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs violated so many basic human rights.

A US State Department official last month urged the Ugandan government to “stop enactment” of a Bill approved by the country's Parliament that criminalises homosexual relations between consenting adults. That bill has not yet been signed into law, and the Ugandan Prime Minister has said it should never have been passed in its current form.

The African pages in South Africa's financial paper BusinessDay report that Zimbabwe's Vice-President Joice Mujuru is to continue her unusually long stint as acting head of state until the end of this month.

This is the longest period that Mujuru has served as acting president, having temporarily taken over last month. President Robert Mugabe is on annual leave but there has been speculation in social media about the state of his health since he returned home from Singapore last weekend.

The president turns 90 on February 21 and is serving his seventh term. Mugabe was last seen in public on December 29.

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

South Africa’s ailing platinum-mining sector inched towards another round of potentially damaging strikes on Wednesday, with mining companies caught in the middle as rival trade unions battle for supremacy among workers.

The National Union of Mineworkers said on Wednesday it would continue its strike at Northam’s Zondereinde mine, while the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union signalled its intention to down tools across the platinum sector next week.

Platinum mining shares were mixed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with Anglo American Platinum up nearly 3 per cent and Lonmin down by about the same amount.

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