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Posts tagged ‘Africa Section’

Weah takes early lead in Liberia election’s first results

October 13, 2017

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Former international soccer star George Weah has taken an early lead in Liberia’s presidential election as the West African nation begins releasing provisional results. The National Election Commission data shared late Thursday show Weah ahead in 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties while Vice President Joseph Boakai leads in his home county, Lofa. With 20 candidates in the race, observers expect a runoff election.

Commission Chairman Jerome Korkoya warned that the early results represent a small portion of the total vote, and he cautioned candidates’ supporters against declaring victory. Liberia seeks a successor to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who led the country as it recovered from civil war and the Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians.

One of the largest political parties called for a halt to vote-counting Thursday, alleging voting irregularities and fraud. Angry Liberty Party supporters claimed that polls opened late and that ballot-tampering occurred in at least one location in the capital, Monrovia.

“These people stood in the rain and under the sun. These people sacrificed,” the party’s vice chairman for political affairs, Abe Darius Dillon, told The Associated Press. The Liberty Party’s candidate is Charles Brumskine, a corporate lawyer who placed third in 2005 elections and fourth in 2011.

The election commission is ready to listen to official complaints but the vote-counting will continue, spokesman Henry Boyd Flomo said. “The constitution mandated us to conduct elections and declare results therefore in 15 days,” Flomo said. “We’ve got no option but to live with that.”

He said he could not address the accusation of ballot-tampering but acknowledged that many voters found it difficult to find their voting station. Everyone was allowed to vote, he added. The Carter Center, which observed elections, commended Liberians “for the calm and peaceful atmosphere” of the vote. It noted difficulties with long lines and management of voter lists but said it could not give a final assessment until vote counting is complete.

“No matter the outcome of this election, it will result in a transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another for the first time in the lives of many Liberians,” it said in a statement.

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Kenya ruling brings new uncertainty to fresh election

October 11, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Kenyan judge on Wednesday ruled that a minor opposition candidate can run for president in this month’s election, bringing fresh uncertainty a day after opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the new vote ordered by the Supreme Court.

At the same time, lawmakers approved amendments to the electoral law that have been criticized by the opposition and Western diplomats. The amendments require the approval of President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose ruling party sought the changes after the Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta’s election in August and cited “irregularities.”

Elsewhere in Nairobi, police used tear gas to disperse thousands of opposition protesters who regrouped outside the election commission’s offices and demanded reforms. In the opposition stronghold of Kisumu city, four people with gunshot wounds were admitted to hospitals after police used live ammunition to disperse protesters, a police official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters.

Wednesday’s court ruling appeared to open the way for other presidential candidates in the August election to run again on Oct. 26, though none aside from Kenyatta and Odinga received even 1 percent of the vote.

Justice John Mativo said he did not see any reason for Ekuru Aukot to be barred from participating in the repeat election. Aukot won about 27,000 votes of more than 15 million cast in the invalidated poll.

The Supreme Court last month rejected the August election in which Kenyatta was declared the winner after Odinga challenged the results, saying hackers infiltrated the electoral commission’s computer system to manipulate the vote in Kenyatta’s favor.

Odinga then surprised Kenyans on Tuesday by withdrawing from the fresh election, saying the electoral commission must be changed or the new vote risked having the same problems. His withdrawal created confusion in East Africa’s largest economy, with observers wondering how the new election might go forward.

The election commission has said it was meeting with its legal team on the way forward. Kenyatta, who called the Supreme Court judges “crooks” after their ruling, has said he does not want changes to the election commission. His Jubilee Party has instead has used its parliamentary majority to push for the changes to the electoral law.

The opposition says the changes are meant to make the transmission of election results a manual process that would have fewer safeguards against fraud, and would make it more difficult for the court to annul an election.

Diplomats including the United States ambassador this month said the proposed amendments put at risk the election commission’s “ability to conduct a better election” and unnecessarily increase political tensions.

Zimbabwean talk about who will follow Mugabe gets murkier

October 06, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — He was viewed as a likely successor to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, a longtime ally whose close association with the 93-year-old leader dates to the struggle against white minority rule, Now Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa appears to be falling out of favor, deepening the mystery over who will take over from a man who has ruled since independence in 1980.

Mugabe has led attacks on his old friend, reflecting turmoil within the ruling ZANU-PF party in a country where political uncertainty has fueled problems in a deteriorating economy and increased hardship for many Zimbabweans. The criticism of the vice president, one of two presidential deputies, comes ahead of Mugabe’s re-election bid next year and amid a rise in prominence of Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, whose name is popping up more often as a possible successor.

On Thursday, Mnangagwa pledged his “unflinching loyalty” to Mugabe following accusations from Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, and others that he had misled the country by saying recently that he fell ill because he was poisoned.

The fractured opposition, meanwhile, has been unable to channel national discontent into a strong play for power. The main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has health problems and recently received treatment in neighboring South Africa.

“Mugabe survives on pitting one faction against the other. He elevates one faction, discards it when it begins to feel comfortable and props up another one,” said Gabriel Shumba, a Zimbabwean political analyst and human rights lawyer based in South Africa.

The machinations are eerily similar to those that augured the 2014 dismissal of Vice President Joice Mujuru, another former ally of Mugabe who is now an opposition figure. A dominant figure in the ouster of Mujuru who has now set her sights on Mnangagwa is Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe, whose calls for the appointment of a female vice president intensified talk that she eventually wants to take over the top spot from her husband.

So Mnangagwa has dutifully sat through political rallies where the Mugabe couple accused him of leading a faction that seeks power and has endured humiliating barbs from his boss. President Mugabe, for example, told a crowd about allegations that the vice president once left a rival for a woman’s affections paralyzed after forcing him to jump from a multi-story building.

“He was told to make a choice between sitting on a hot stove or jump out of the window. He chose to jump and now he is disabled. He could have refused both options but I guess he was afraid,” Mugabe said at a rally in Bindura town on Sept. 9.

During the remarks, Mnangagwa and his wife sat stone-faced on the dais. And that wasn’t all. Grace Mugabe then piled on, warning Mnangagwa that he might face a similar fate to that of Mujuru, who was also accused of plotting to oust the president.

“I am begging the VP to stop this. I once warned Mujuru and she thought I was joking. Where is she now?” the first lady thundered. The other vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko, has joined in criticism of his colleague, even though he is not considered a front-runner to succeed Mugabe because he lacks a strong political base.

Zimbabwe’s constitution says that if the president dies, resigns or is removed from office, the vice president who last stood in as acting president takes over for 90 days, following which the ruling party must appoint a person who takes over until the expiry of the former president’s term. Mnangagwa was acting president during Mugabe’s trip to the United Nations last month, while Mphoko has previously assumed the role.

Some analysts point to Sekeramayi, the low-key defense minister, as a possible successor. A medical doctor, Sekeramayi appears acceptable to those wary of Mnangagwa, who was in charge of state security when Mugabe unleashed a North Korean-trained brigade to crush dissent in western Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Sekeremayi’s name was first brought to the fore by Jonathan Moyo, an ally of Grace Mugabe and a critic of a faction associated with Mnangagwa.

At the Bindura rally, Mugabe said he invited Mnangagwa and Sekeremayi to join the independence war at around the same time, making neither of them senior to the other. His wife said Mugabe summoned Sekeremayi when he suffered diarrhea and thought he was dying; she didn’t say when that happened.

“The first family is using the rallies to reconstruct Mnangagwa’s image from a war hero to a careless, cruel and divisive individual, unfit to take over. At the same time, he is painting Sekeremayi as equal to Mnangagwa in terms of seniority in the party,” said Alex Rusero, an analyst based in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital. He speculated: “All this is to cast Sekeremayi as the chosen one.”

Burundi refugees pressured return home, says rights group

September 29, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Thousands of Burundi refugees are under pressure to go home where they risk being killed, tortured or raped, an international human rights group said Friday. There is pervasive climate of fear in Burundi two years after Nkurunziza changed Burundi’s constitution and won a third term in office, which many opposed, said the rights group. More than 400,000 Burundians have fled the country fearing violence since April 2015 when Nkururunziza’s candidacy sparked weeks of protests and a failed coup.

Amnesty International said in a report that it interviewed 129 Burundi refugees in camps in Tanzania and Uganda, some of whom escaped persecution by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government as recently as May this year.

Sixteen people told Amnesty that they were tortured or ill-treated while in detention, among them a young man who said he was detained for a week in May in Kirundo Province, northern Burundi, the report said. He said he was held in a tiny unlit room with three others, repeatedly beaten with batons, and made to eat his meals in the toilet next door, the report said.

“They tortured us to make us confess that we worked with the rebels. One day they tortured us in an atrocious way. They took a bottle filled with sand and hung it from our testicles,” he told Amnesty International.

More Burundians continue to flee the country due to repression and insecurity despite government assurances of safety, said Amnesty’s Burundi researcher Rachel Nicholson. “Let’s be clear, Burundi has not yet returned to normality and the government’s attempts to deny the horrific abuses still taking place within the country should not be given credence,” Nicholson said.

Despite this, there is mounting pressure on Burundian refugees to return to their home country, the report said. In January this year, Tanzania stopped automatically granting refugee status to Burundian asylum-seekers and Uganda followed suit in June. In July, Nkurunziza in an official visit to Tanzania called on the more than 240,000 refugees there to return home and his remarks were echoed by the Tanzanian president.

“Belonging to an opposition party, associating with opposition members, refusing to join to the ruling party or simply trying to leave the country is enough to create suspicion and the threat of arrest or worse,” Nicholson said about Burundi’s current political climate. “In these circumstances, it is imperative that Tanzania and Uganda continue to provide a safe haven for Burundian refugees in line with international law.”

European, African leaders meet in Paris for migration talks

August 28, 2017

PARIS (AP) — The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain are meeting Monday with counterparts from Libya, Niger and Chad to discuss ways to curb illegal migration across the Mediterranean Sea to European shores.

As a key transit point on the route, Libya is expected to be a focus of the discussions convened by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. The leader of Libya’s internationally-backed government, Fayez Serraj, is representing the troubled north African country.

The leaders also plan to discuss security cooperation, and the European leaders will then hold separate talks focused on European Union matters. A top diplomatic official at the French presidency said the goal of the meeting is to produce a common “roadmap” that would define priority actions on migration routes.

One issue to be addressed is helping Libya and other countries of Africa’s Sahel region to fight human smuggling. Another is developing a resettlement policy for migrants who appear to fulfill criteria for obtaining asylum, the French official said.

An idea under discussion is establishing “protection missions” in Chad and Niger that would be operated by the United Nations’ refugee and migration agencies in cooperation with EU countries’ domestic migration agencies. The pre-asylum centers would receive European financing.

The official, in keeping with French presidential policy, requested anonymity and would not provide details on the precise locations and procedures for the missions. Macron commented last month about establishing “hotspots” in Libya, Niger and Chad where people hoping to migrate to Europe could be screened for asylum eligibility. The comment prompted confusion, and his office later downplayed the remark.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ahead of the meeting that she wants more support for Libya’s coast guard and a “migration partnership” with Niger to inhibit migrant smuggling. While European and African leaders were to meet in Paris, interior ministers from Libya, Chad, Niger and Mali met Monday at Rome’s interior ministry Monday morning.

A joint statement after the meeting said the ministers expressed satisfaction with the Paris summit’s agenda, which they said “can constitute the beginning of a new relationship between Europe and Africa.”

The ministers also renewed a pledge to back peace accords among Libya’s southern tribes and to stress the importance of backing Libya in the creation of a border guard force. They agreed with the aim of setting up in Niger and Chad and of improving in Libya “reception centers for irregular migrants, coherent with their own legislation, with the aim of bringing them up to international humanitarian standards.”

Frances D’Emilio contributed in Rome.

Kenya election official stopped from flying to US

August 16, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A top Kenyan electoral official, among those who oversaw this country’s disputed presidential election, has been stopped from traveling to the U.S., Kenyan officials said Wednesday.

At least 24 people have died in protests opposing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election although international observers saying the official results, which show Kenyatta trounced veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga with more than 1 million votes, are credible.

Electoral commissioner Roselyn Akombe was stopped by security agents from boarding a flight to New York late Tuesday, said the officials who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals. Her luggage was offloaded and she was told to seek clearance to travel from the director of immigration, said the officials. Akombe, who is a dual U.S. and Kenya citizen, was not given any reason why she stopped from boarding her flight, said officials.

The electoral commission later said Akombe who was to be traveling to the U.S. for an official meeting was delayed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by officials who have since apologized. She was to board a connecting flight to the U.S. Wednesday morning more than 10 hours later, said the officials.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has rejected the official results of the presidential election which show he lost to incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. Odinga claims that the vote was rigged.

2 killed in Kenya protests after president wins 2nd term

August 12, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan police shot and killed two people during riots by opposition supporters after President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in elections overshadowed by fraud allegations, authorities said Saturday.

The deaths occurred on the outskirts of Kisumu, a city where opposition leader Raila Odinga has strong support, according to Leonard Katana, a regional police commander. Another five people were injured by gunfire in Kisumu, Katana said.

Also Saturday, Kenyan police opened fire to disperse opposition protesters who blocked roads and set up burning barricades in a slum in Nairobi, the capital. Associated Press photographers saw police charging demonstrators and firing live rounds and tear gas in the Mathare area, as well as similar scenes in Kibera, another Nairobi slum.

Protesters, some with rocks or sticks, ran for cover as they came under fire in Kibera. It was not known how many people were arrested by police in anti-riot gear. Most of the country of 45 million people was calm the day after the election commission announced that Kenyatta, whose father was Kenya’s first president after independence from British colonial rule, had won a second, five-year term. In a victory speech, Kenyatta said he was extending a “hand of friendship” to the opposition, which alleged that the election commission’s database had been hacked and results were manipulated against Odinga.

Kenyatta won with a decisive 54 percent of the vote to nearly 45 percent for Odinga, but the bitter dispute over the integrity of the election process tempered what many Kenyans had hoped would be a celebration of democracy in a regional power known for its economic promise and long-term stability.

The unrest also exposed divisions in a society where poverty and corruption at top levels of government have angered large numbers of Kenyans, including those who have been protesting in the slums and see Odinga as a voice for their grievances.

Adding to the rift is ethnic loyalty. Kenyatta is widely seen as the representative of the Kikuyu people, the country’s largest ethnic group, while Odinga is associated with the Luo group, which has never produced a head of state.

But reconciliation efforts, the introduction of a progressive constitution in 2010 and an intense security operation during the recent election period have helped to ward off the kind of ethnic violence after the 2007 election in which more than 1,000 people were killed. Odinga ran unsuccessfully in that election; he also lost the 2013 vote to Kenyatta and took allegations of vote-tampering to Kenya’s highest court, which rejected his case.

Recalling its failed legal challenge in 2013, the opposition has said it will not go to court again. Its top leaders have, so far, refrained from publicly calling for mass protests. Catholic leaders on Saturday appealed for calm and asked security forces to exercise caution during protests.

“We appeal to them to restrain themselves from using excessive force in handling crowds,” said John Oballa Owaa, vice chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. “No life should be lost because of an election.”

The bishop said any dispute over the election should be resolved peacefully and by “legal norms as provided in the constitution.”

Associated Press journalists Ben Curtis and Jerome Delay in Nairobi contributed.

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