Staff at the Kenya Times, Kenya's third largest daily newspaper, are threatening to down tools if they are not paid salary arrears owed for six months, writes Dennis Itumbi.

The staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say they have been patient with their employer but cannot wait any longer as they had "social obligations and costs to meet".

An editor at the newspaper, who gave his name only as Lumbassio, said that the matter was being handled internally and "it is true we have a problem, but we are handling it internally".

Senior journalists however say that they had exhausted all internal mechanisms and are now considering paralyzing the operations of the newspaper.

"We have families and other duties, we have always done our part in ensuring the newspaper gets quality stories and competes well in the market, the management should pay us, failure to which we will stop working to demand our pay and eventually move to court if we are still unheard," a senior journalist who has worked for the newspaper for over five years said.

Kenya Times was the third daily newspaper to launch in Kenya after the Standard and the Nation, but has since been overtaken in popularity by the Nairobi Star and The People Daily.

The latest Steadman media ratings show that the Kenya Times remains the third in terms of size, but ranks as the seventh in terms of readership.

The paper started as a propaganda outlet for the then ruling party Kanu, headed by retired President Daniel Arap Moi before it changed hands to  a team led by Agriculture Minister William Ruto. He lost a crucial ownership case in court two years ago.

A fast-growing local company, TranCentury holdings – owned by a group of businessmen with close links to President Mwai Kibaki – are currently in negotiations to buy the paper.