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African press review 24 September 2015

Do Ugandan MPs know what they are voting for? Why has the VW scandal hit South African platinum prices? How bad is the situation of Zambia's copper sector, soon to be hit by huge job losses? And why has Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir decided to skip this week's meeting of the UN General Assembly?

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Two stories dominate the front page of this morning's Ugandan Monitor.

One headline reads "MPs don't understand the bills they pass"; the other says "MPs move to end cash for presidential candidates". The question is, are these stories related?

The Monitor quotes a legal officer at the African Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims as saying that most MPs pass bills they are not conversant with.

The same legal officer notes that the recent debate on the anti-pornography bill got bogged down in discussions about miniskirts and goes on to say that Parliament must be allowed enough time to legislate because MPs need to go through proposed laws with a fine tooth comb, so that they pass laws acceptable for everybody. "If we rush laws," he says, "we risk coming up with shoddy legislation."

So, were the Ugandan MPs more than usually on the ball yesterday, when they proposed to stop the public financing of presidential candidates, reasoning that this will weed out those who just show up for the money?

The bill under discussion proposes that presidential candidates be given the shilling equivalent of 12,000 euros as opposed to the current practice that grants all presidential candidates 5,000 euros, a vehicle and security.

Some voices had earlier pushed for more funding, saying a presidential candidate ought to be comfortable during a campaign.

The Volkswagen scandal is making headlines as far away as South Africa.

As the Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay reports on its front page, investors and the mining sector are fearful that the German car manufacturer’s falsification of emissions tests could affect global demand for diesel cars, which use platinum in the catalytic converters in their exhaust systems.

The price of platinum slid to a seven-year low yesterday.

And there's more bad news for African miners with a report that Glencore’s Zambian unit Mopani Copper Mines has notified the government in Lusaka that it plans to lay off more than 3,800 workers due to lower metal prices and high production costs.

An electricity shortage in Zambia and weaker copper prices have put pressure on the national mining industry, threatening output, jobs and economic growth in Africa’s second-biggest producer of copper.

Mopani had initially said it planned to cut 4,300 jobs.

Regional paper The East African reports that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, under indictment by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, has abandoned his plan to attend the UN general assembly in New York later this week.

Last year Washington officially refused to grant Bashir an entry visa to the US to attend United Nations meetings.

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

The East African also reports that arrest warrants have been issued against people suspected of having been responsible for organising and financing the violence that has rocked Burundi since a failed coup in May, according to the country’s Attorney-General Valentine Bagorikunda.

According to Bagorikunda, a report by a commission of inquiry investigating the violence, will form the basis for prosecuting those found responsible.

The commission recently submitted its report to the attorney general, accusing a host of civil society leaders, heads of opposition political parties and some politicians of instigating and fueling the conflict.

In Kenya the opposition has accused the president of lying about government incapacity to meet striking teachers' wage demands.

According to The Standard, opposition leaders yesterday disputed President Uhuru Kenyatta's assertion that the economy is incapable of supporting the teachers' salary increment.

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

Addressing thousands of Kenyans who turned up at Uhuru Park for a rally, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leaders led by Raila Odinga accused the president of lying to Kenyans and pressed the government to pay teachers the 60 per cent salary increment awarded by the courts.

The government's refusal to pay has sparked a nationwide strike that culminated in the closure of public primary and secondary schools countrywide last Monday.

The Daily Nation reports that thousands of Kenyan schoolchildren are engaging in menial jobs to augment family incomes as the teachers’ strike drags on.

In Isiolo County the Daily Nation found scores of schoolchildren working in a quarry to supplement their parents’ meagre income.

They have been accompanying their parents to Mwangaza quarry to crush stones for ballast since the strike started three weeks ago.

The main story in the Cairo-based Egypt Independent says that France has agreed to sell two Mistral helicopter-carriers to Egypt for 950 million euros after their sale to Russia was canceled in August.

Cairo has sought to boost its military power in the face of a two-year insurgency in the Sinai peninsula and fears that the conflict in neighbouring Libya could spill over.

A French defence ministry source said the contract, unlike the original deal with Moscow, would not include any technology transfer, meaning that Egypt will not benefit from French research.

The French government agreed to reimburse 950 million euros to Moscow last month after the Mistral sale to Russia was canceled as a result of the Ukraine crisis.

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