Ghana: African Press Review 08 January 2013

Political developments following Ghana's presidential elections and Kenya's rules on qualifications for candidates running for public office are two big issues in today's African press...

Ghana's main opposition, the New Patriotic Party, boycotted yesterday's swearing-in ceremony of President John Mahama following last month's disputed elections.

Former President John Kufuor of the NPP did, however, attend the ceremony, saying his position as an elder statesman put him beyond public partisanship.

As the Daily Graphic reports on its front page, Mahama was duly sworn into office as the fourth President of the Republic of Ghana. He thus became the fourth person with the name John to lead the country since 1992. (In case you're wondering, the others were John Atta Mills, John Kufour and John Rawlings).

The Graphic also notes that the new president read his inaugural speech from an iPad.

According to this morning's Ghanaian Chronicle, the New Patriotic Party is not going to stop with its Supreme Court challenge to the presidential result. The NPP also intends to challenge no fewer than 38 parliamentary results declared by the Electoral Commission following the 2012 elections.

The main story in this morning's Kenyan Standard is headlined "MPs suspend integrity and academic laws in March poll".

When you read the small print, you learn that the enforcement of integrity laws and the demand for academic qualification as a precondition for running for public office will not apply for the 4 March elections.

This is because it now turns out that Members of Parliament connived to suspend parts of the Elections Act that provided for the academic qualification, and watered down legislation meant to operationalise Chapter Six of the Constitution on leadership and integrity.

The changes MPs made were buried in the raft of alterations they passed as a package under what in parliamentary parlance is called an "Omnibus Bill'.

Consequently, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will not vet aspirants on integrity issues.

The commission will not ask those running for parliament, the senate or county representatives for their academic qualifications. The demand that Kenyan public representatives must have a university degree now only applies to those seeking to be governors.

The Standard also reports that the big political parties on Monday skipped a meeting convened by the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights to discuss the forthcoming elections.

Representatives from TNA, URP, UDF, Ford Kenya and Wiper parties were among those absent from the meeting attended by officials from 38 of the 52 registered parties.

The meeting was called to discuss the rules of engagement between the rights body and the political parties during the forthcoming nominations.

The front page of regional newspaper The East African reports good news for oil explorers: Kenya will in the next two weeks gazette five new crude oil and gas exploration areas to be offered to prospecting firms through competitive bidding.

The blocks fell vacant following the announcement late last year of new rules requiring exploration firms to cede 25 per cent of their licensed acreage if they failed to work on the sites in the stipulated time.

The five new blocks will increase Kenya's exploration areas to 51 from the current 46 and the auction is expected to trigger a fresh jostle among oil exploration majors keen to tap into Kenya's oil and gas business, which has in the past year attracted huge interest among explorers following two finds.

The news is not so good from South Africa, where the main story in the financial paper BusinessDay says Harmony Gold has suspended production at the Kusasalethu mine, warning it will close the operation if a solution to the "lawlessness, violence and intimidation" is not found.

If the mine is placed under care and maintenance indefinitely, close to 6,200 permanent and contract jobs could be lost.

Rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union at Kusasalethu escalated after last year's wildcat strikes in the gold, platinum and coal sectors.

In the three months ending last December, the second quarter of Harmony's 2013 financial year, disgruntled employees disrupted operations by staging a series of illegal sit-ins at Kusasalethu.

The mine is expected to report a cash operating loss of 13.3 million euros for the December quarter, and a negative cash flow of 22.4 million euros.

Planned production prior to the Christmas break fell to 22% of capacity due to the disruptions.

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