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African press review 6 February 2015

The run-up to Nigeria's elections is hit by controversy. Kenyans ask where their taxes go. Half of Kenya's teachers want to quit. And Mugabe takes a tumble ... or does he?


The elections scheduled to be held next weekend continue to preoccupy the papers in Nigeria.

In its lead story the Guardian questions reports that influential council of state has decided to press ahead with presidential elections on 14 February, rejecting calls for a postponement.

It's a little more complicated than that, the paper says.The council also advised the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission, to consult widely before the elections, contrary to reports that the council simply directed INEC to go ahead with the polls.

The Guardian says it has learnt that the commission was specifically advised to consult security agencies about their preparedness for the polls.

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The Daily Independent reports that loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday called for the sacking and arrest of the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, for allegedly registering and issuing permanent voter’s cards to minors in the northern part of the country.

The group, led by Edwin Clark, said the registration and issuance of PVCs to minors in the north was a grand plan by the INEC chairman to shore up the voting figure in the area so as to ensure that Jonathan does not win the forthcoming presidential poll.

At a press conference in Abuja, reports the Independent, the group insisted that the presidential election must be postponed until April, while another person must be appointed to oversee the conduct of the poll. The group said that, if its suggestion was ignored, it may be driven to using violence to stop the elections in the southern states of the country.

This Day Live looks on the bright side, reporting that in Gombe State, in Nigeria's north east, Christians and Muslims have signed a pact to ensure violence-free elections.

What's more, almost one million voters' cards have been distributed, with only 50,000 unclaimed.

On the other side of the continent, in Kenya, the Daily Nation has a story headlined "How the governors spend your money". A question which many in Kenya and elsewhere would like an answer to. The paper cites a World Bank report published this week which provides some clues.

Counties are going against public policy by spending most of their allocations on salaries and administration costs rather than on projects that directly benefit the nation. For example, out of 290 billion shillings allocated to education in the 2013-2014 financial year, 60 per cent went on teachers’ salaries.

The World Bank report shows that only 10 counties spent at least 30 per cent of their budgets on development projects last year. That means 37 counties failed to meet this threshold. It concludes that if they continue to pour money into salaries, fuel and office expenses, the whole purpose of devolution, which was supposed to deliver better services to citizens, will be defeated.

TheStandard, meanwhile, gives pride of place to what it calls "a shocking story" about how nearly half of Kenyan teachers want to leave the profession.

Why? Because of "unfavourable working conditions," the paper says; citing the findings the Education International Conference underway in Nairobi. What's "unfavourable" is what many consider poor pay and too heavy workloads. 20 per cent of Kenyan teachers need a second job to make ends meet. A strike by teachers has become an annual event.

So, on the one hand, too much is spent on teachers' salaries, on the other hand, not enough. One wonders how that circle can be squared. Answers on a postcard please to the Kenyan government.

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In Uganda New Vision reports that Zimbabwean state media and spin doctors have rushed to defend 90-year-old President Robert Mugabe's honour after he fell from a staircase, saying "even Jesus" would have tripped under the circumstances.

Mugabe missed a step as he walked off a podium on Wednesday at Harare International Airport after returning from Ethiopia where he was elected African Union chairman last week.

Information minister and spin doctor Jonathan Moyo told the paper that Mugabe's fall was not news.

"The misrepresentations and morbid celebrations of the incident by malcontents is the real news here and not the alleged fall as there was none," Moyo was quoted as saying by the Herald.

Some local journalists claimed they were forced to delete photos of the fall from their cameras by security agents on the scene.

Some images did reach the public realm, becoming fodder for jokes ridiculing Africa's oldest leader.

They include a photo-shopped picture of Mugabe touching the naked bottom of Kim Kardashian, an American celebrity. Others show him being charged by a rhino and chased by a baton-wielding Zimbabwean policeman.

There has been no comment from Mugabe's spin doctor.


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