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Briefly: Independence from Britain celebrated amid turbulence

- - Wednesday, October 10, 2012

UGANDA

JOHANNESBURG — African leaders joined thousands of Ugandans on Tuesday on an airstrip in the capital of Kampala, where 50 years ago Uganda announced its independence from British rule.

The East African country has come a long way from the days when brutal dictators were in charge. But it has not had a single peaceful transfer of power since 1962, and the potential for instability remains as opposition activists intensify their campaigns and authorities clamp down.

President Yoweri Museveni took power by force in 1986 and has ruled since. He has not said whether he intends to run in the 2016 election, but some in the ruling party are starting to demand his retirement, saying his long stay in power hurts the party's popularity.

Tuesday's national celebrations were attended by at least 15 heads of state, including two of the longest-serving leaders in Africa: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II was represented by Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who in 1962 handed over the symbolic instruments of power to a young Ugandan politician who would be overthrown eight years later by the army chief, Idi Amin.

Uganda's population has since grown from 7 million to 34 million. The World Bank says Uganda has sustained a record of "prudent macroeconomic management and structural reform."

In 1996, at least 44 percent of Uganda's population lived below the poverty line. By 2009, according to the World Bank, the figure had fallen to 24.5 percent.

KENYA

President vetoes bonuses for parliament

NAIROBI — Kenya's president vetoed a move by the country's parliament to award legislators bonuses of up to $110,000 at the end of their term next year.

The move is unconstitutional and untenable in the country's prevailing economic circumstances, President Mwai Kibaki said late Tuesday.

Mr. Kibaki noted recent increases of salaries for teachers and doctors, and said Kenya requires massive resources to implement a new constitution and meet other competing demands in the economy.

The lawmakers last week quietly awarded themselves the bonuses, sparking public outrage.

On Tuesday, at least 100 people, including a popular Kenyan musician, protested outside parliament shouting "thieves" and urging the president not to approve the pay bill.

Kenya's 222 lawmakers currently make about $120,000 a year each. The minimum wage in Nairobi, the capital, is about $1,500 a year.

Kenyan parliamentarians are fast earning a reputation for trying to give themselves expensive perks.

Last year parliament attempted to raise their annual pay to $175,000, but the idea was met with such fierce public resistance that they shelved the plan.

Earlier this year, parliament inaugurated a new 350-seat chamber, where each of the seats cost about $3,000.

Human rights and anti-corruption activists say the motion to increase the parliament's bonus to $110,000 -- a vote that passed Thursday night with only about 30 legislators present -- violates the country's 2010 constitution, which does not allow parliament to set its own pay.

GHANA

Ruling expected Thursday on seized Argentine ship

ACCRA — An Accra Commercial Court will rule Thursday on whether to release the seized Argentine naval ship ARA Libertad to its creditors after it was impounded on arrival last week at the Tema Port.

Officials of the Ghana Ports and Harbors Authority, which runs Tema Port, seized the ARA Libertad on the orders of a U.S. court, and said they would release it only after a court order to do so.

The authority said last week the vessel was kept because of an injunction placed on it for debts owed.

Justice Richard Adjei-Frimpong on Tuesday heard arguments from attorneys of the creditors and the Argentine government, and said he will give his ruling Thursday.

ETHIOPIA

Newspapers stop publishing,cite government obstruction

ADDIS ABABA — Two weekly newspapers that have been critical of Ethiopia's ruling party have stopped publication because of government obstruction, the papers' publishers said this week.

The publishers are appealing to newly appointed Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to intervene.

A government spokesman said the Ethiopian government is not telling printers not to print the papers.

Both Feteh, the country's largest weekly, at 27,500 copies, and Finote Netsanet, which is published by the largest opposition group, Unity for Democracy and Justice, have been unable to reach their readers for several weeks after the state-owned Berhanena Selam printing company refused to continue printing them.

"We tried other printers, private ones as well. Some say they don't have the capacity, while others first agree to print our paper only later to refuse us without any reasons," said Negasso Gidada, a former president of Ethiopia who now leads an opposition political party with the lone opposition member in the 547-seat parliament.

"They simply tell us, 'Please don't come back we only want sports and medical issue papers not politics."

The group says its paper was forced off market after featuring critical articles on the legacy of Meles Zenawi, the country's ruler for 21 years until his death Aug. 20.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports