African Press Review 01 January 2014

Exams in South Africa, conflict and ceasefire talks in South Sudan and East Africa's new shared tourist visa system are all topics in today's African papers ..

The main story in South African financial paper BusinessDay tells us that students sitting university entrance exams through the Independent Examinations Board this year achieved exceptional results, securing a 98.56% pass rate.

The IEB examinations are an alternative to state-set examinations, with both based on the same curriculum. Ten thousand students took the alternative route last year, with the results published yesterday. That's dwarfed by the 707,000 full-time and part-time candidates who enrolled for state-set examinations in 2013.

The 2013 state-set exam results will be released on January 6.

The front page of the Nairobi-based Daily Standard gives pride of place to President Uhuru Kenyatta's New Year message, which the paper summarises as a government pledge to give priority to reconciliation and unity in order to promote growth. Enthusiasm and optimism are clearly the key words in the president's vision of the year just starting, with the construction of the standard guage railway from Mombasa expected to create thousands of jobs, and irrigation projects expected to make one million acres of new farmland available in the Tana River valley.

The president has promised policies which will be progressive, issue-based and people-centred.

The situation in South Sudan gets pride of place in The Daily Nation, with a main headline which reads "South Sudan rivals to start ceasefire talks as fighting rages".

The Nairobi daily welcomes the peace talks, due to open in Addis Ababa later today, but The Nation also notes that rebel leader Riek Machar has warned his forces will keep fighting until a ceasefire deal is reached.

Machar has rejected face-to-face talks with President Salva Kiir, but has sent representatives to the talks in the Ethiopian capital as concerns soar over atrocities being committed in the world's youngest nation.

UN humanitarian officials say thousands are feared dead in the conflict which erupted on December 15 when Kiir accused Machar - who he sacked as his deputy in July - of mounting a coup against him.

Fighting quickly took on an ethnic nature, pitting Kiir's Dinka tribe against Machar's Nuer.

Machar yesterday told the French Press Agency that his forces were marching on the capital Juba.

The rebel leader claims that Nuer militia under his command on Tuesday captured Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, just 200 kilometres north of Juba. South Sudanese army spokesman Philip Aguer disputed the claim that Bor had been seized, saying fighting was ongoing inside the town.

President Kiir has described the war as "senseless", but has ruled out any power-sharing arrangement with the rebels.

South Sudan also dominates front pages in Uganda, with the main story in the Kampala-based Daily Monitor headlined "Machar accuses Uganda of fuelling South Sudan conflict".

South Sudan's former vice president Riek Machar has responded to Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, accusing Uganda of fuelling the fighting in the world's youngest nation. "We call upon the African Union and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to restrain the Ugandan government from fuelling the conflict by sending troops and war planes in support of the government of Salva Kiir," a statement released to media said.

In Juba on Monday, Museveni warned Dr Machar to either agree to the ceasefire or face collective military action from IGAD member states. The rebels now say they are willing to talk, observing in their statement carried by the Sudan Tribune newspaper yesterday that: "We are ready to ceasefire immediately to stop the bloodletting once the government of Salva Kiir reciprocates."

The main story in regional paper The East Africa says that tourists visiting Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will no longer have to pay for separate visas for each of the three countries, as the East African single tourist visa comes into effect today, January 1, 2014.

Working like the Schengen visa for European Union countries, the East African single tourist visa will allow a visitor to enter any of the three countries that issued the visa and move freely within the other two.

The multiple-entry visa, which will be valid for 90 days, will cost about 75 euros.

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