Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lesotho: Vote counting underway after snap elections

Vote counting was underway in the southern African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, following a snap election aimed at resolving a political crisis triggered by an alleged coup bid.

Tensions was high ahead of Saturday's parliamentary poll, which was called two years ahead of schedule.

But election day passed off without incident, according to observers.

Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission marshalls start the vote counting process at a polling station in Maseru, on February 28, 2015
Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission marshalls start the vote counting process at a polling station in Maseru, on February 28, 2015 ©Gianluigi Guercia (AFP)

"Everything I've come across tells me everything has gone extremely well," Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of neighbouring South Africa, who is acting as regional mediator, said shortly after polls closed at 1500 GMT.

"From my side it is congratulations to the people of Lesotho for having come this far to hold a peaceful election," Ramaphosa said.

Lesotho's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) also said the election had proceeded largely without incident, barring some ballot papers in two of over 2,000 polling stations not including the names of all candidates.

"The voting has been proceeding peacefully and according to plan," said IEC chairman Justice Mahapela Lehohla.

Lesotho has been in crisis since June 2014, when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament in June 2014 to avoid a motion that would have seen him ousted from power after his fragile coalition government fell apart.

On August 30, soldiers attacked police headquarters, looting weapons and killing one officer.

Thabane described the violence as a coup attempt fuelled by the opposition and fled to neighbouring South Africa.

Both the military and opposition denied any bid to topple him.

The army was confined to barracks during Saturday's vote.

Ramaphosa was appointed by the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) last year to try broker an end to the deadlock.

Landlocked Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa and is heavily dependent on its bigger neighbour in economic terms.

Analysts have warned the election could turn violent if any one party wins an outright majority -- particularly Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC).

According to local media, about 1.2 million people were registered to vote.

Casting his ballot in his home district of Abia, near the capital Maseru, Thabane downplayed the risk of unrest.

"We have to accept the outcome of the election. In the unlikely event that I lose, I will have to accept it," he said.

Thabane, 75, has previously said this will be his last play for power.

His party faces stiff competition from the Democratic Congress of Pakalitha Mosisili, a former prime minister, who ruled from 1998 to 2012.

The Democratic Congress won the most National Assembly seats in the 2012 election, but it was Thabane who ended up forming a government, composed of the ABC and two smaller parties.

Lesotho is no stranger to political upheaval and South Africa has intervened militarily twice before.

For South Africa, ensuring stability across the border is crucial to safeguarding the multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which supplies water to the greater Johannesburg area.

Shoving her hands deep in her pockets on a chilly evening, poll observer Gertrude Manako, 53, said what the country of around 2 million needed was politicians with the vision to harness Lesotho's natural resources.

"As you know, we are one of the poorest countries in the world -- but we are not that poor," she said. "We have minerals in this country. We have diamonds and water."

Pharmacy assistant Malineo Morake, 32, agreed.

A resident of Maseru, her parents live in one of the many villages dotting the mountainous countryside. They are poor, she said, and depend on her sending part of her salary each month to buy food.

"We have politicians who don't plan for the people... We have good soil. We have water. I would like for people to be able to grow their food for themselves."


Lesotho: Results to be announced after vote count

Polls have closed in Lesotho, the tiny African enclave surrounded by South Africa, where voters cast ballots for a new National Assembly and prime minister in snap elections.

The election, two years earlier than scheduled, followed an attempted coup in August that forced Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to flee. The attempt took place after Thabane sought to replace the army’s top commander, said to be an ally of Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.

Thabane is now back at home in the capital, Maseru, hoping to return to office after votes are counted. But he told VOA on Saturday, while appearing in his home district of Abia, that he still feared for his life.

Thabane was flanked by heavily armed security guards, and sniffer dogs swept the area before he voted.

Three parties were jostling for control of the government: Thabane's All Basotho Convention, the main opposition Democratic Congress and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.

Results of the election were to be announced as votes were counted.

Thabane has presided over a tripartite coalition government, the first of its kind in the country's history. However, discord within the coalition built rapidly when Thabane declared a 10-month suspension of parliament in June.  The declaration came after the opposition tried to pass a motion of no-confidence that would have ousted the prime minister.

In an interview with VOA in Maseru, Thabane said he closed parliament because "there was definitely a conspiracy to have a regime change within parliament. ... I could have hung on and struggled on, but I thought, 'Let's go back to the people.'  So I have risked my own position. I still had some time as prime minister."

Metsing, also running for the prime minister position, told VOA it was a mistake for his LCD party to have entered into a coalition government with Thabane's ABC.

Metsing said that "we differed with ABC on so many issues. ... Today, we are aware that we made mistakes."  He said now his party "would like to ensure that we can grow the economy.  We would address aggressively the issue of youth unemployment, because I think that it is a time bomb waiting to explode."

Former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of the main opposition Democratic Congress was also running for the country's top post against Thabane and Metsing.

The Southern African Development Community brokered an agreement with Lesotho's coalition parties to end the suspension of parliament in order to hold the snap election.

In Abia district, people wearing bobble hats and wrapped in woolen blankets for protection against the morning chill cast their votes in canvas tents pitched in a field.

Thabane was in high spirits when he voted. “My opponents will never praise me, and I am not going to praise them myself — that’s politics," he said. "You don’t praise your enemy in politics, you pull him down and you pull off his pants so women can laugh at him, so tighten your belt if you are in politics. Here in politics, we do unto others as they do unto us.”

Thabane dismissed accusations from opposition parties that he had stuffed government institutions with his supporters to assert his power.

Voting in Abia, Winned Magala said she voted for Mosisili, who was prime minister from 1998 to 2012. Years at the helm of government have given him an advantage, she said.

“ I think the order of DC is coming to do something better than Thabane,” she said.

With no opinion polls in Lesotho, it was difficult to predict the election outcome, but some said that the Democratic Congress was a strong contender.  The party won a significant number of seats in the 2012 election but fell short of winning a majority, losing out to the ABC-led coalition.

The top finishers most likely will have to look for allies to form a coalition government.

Some voters said they felt the politicians hadn't done enough for Lesotho, where nearly 60 percent of the 2 million population lives below the poverty line.

“According to me, I don’t see anything that can be different because here they are still the same people, same people," said Rethabile Bohope, 23, who is unemployed. "If this one goes down, this one comes up, there’s no difference. They will look for themselves and their own benefits.”


Friday, February 27, 2015

Lesotho: Why Lesotho's election is a crucial test for African democracy

In Africa’s year of elections, with democracy in retreat in many parts of the continent, Lesotho is a pygmy beside giants like Nigeria and other larger nations facing votes.

But many observers are watching the small mountain nation as it heads to the polls Saturday, one of just a handful of African countries that in the past has seen a peaceful democratic handover of power from one party to another.

Lesotho's democratic credentials are in question after an attempted coup in August forced Prime Minister Tom Thabane to flee the country.

Lesotho's important because, despite its problems last August, it is often regarded as a democratic standard-bearer throughout Africa. It's got a pretty big reputation to uphold.
- Jeff Smith, Africa specialist at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
Saturday’s balloting is supposed to resolve the crisis, if friction between political opponents and rival branches of the security forces doesn’t derail the process.

Among the other countries facing elections this year are Sudan, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Mali, Burkino Faso, Burundi, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Guinea, Central African Republic, Togo and Mauritius.

Jeff Smith, an Africa specialist at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, said Lesotho's election is significant because the nation of 2 million had been a leader in democracy, press freedom and human rights in Africa, as other parts of the continent had seen a backslide in democratic values.

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“Lesotho’s important because, despite its problems last August, it is often regarded as a democratic standard-bearer throughout Africa,” said Smith. “It’s got a pretty big reputation to uphold.”

He said Lesotho was one of the freer countries, as democratic gains are peeled back in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

“We have what I’d describe as a democracy recession. There’s a really worrying trend of leaders peacefully stealing elections,” said Smith, citing subtle methods such as the manipulation of voter rolls by incumbent parties to maintain a grip of power without using outright violence.

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The most dangerous sign as Lesotho heads to the polls is the politicization of the security forces. In last year’s crisis, the police supported Thabane while the army supported a rival.

In August, soldiers surrounded Thabane’s official residence in Maseru, the capital, forcing him to flee to neighboring South Africa. Troops also attacked three police stations, cut power to the city and shut down radio stations.

Thabane returned in September and is running in Saturday's election.

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Lesotho is the principal supplier of water to neighboring South Africa's vital mining and industrial area. South African political heavyweights, including President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, intervened to try to restore stability by bringing forward the elections, which had been due in 2017.

Ramaphosa recently extracted a pledge from Lesotho’s military leaders that soldiers would remain in their barracks during the voting and not interfere.

After the attempted takeover, coup leader and military commander Lt. Gen. Tlali Kamoli fled to the mountains with 200 men and a large supply of weapons and ammunition. But he was forced to leave the country in November.

However, the entrenched divisions between the political rivals and between the army and police are worrying, said Smith.

“I think it’s very dangerous and it’s one of these issues that’s probably been beneath the surface,” he said.

The crisis began with a split last year within the coalition government between Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing's Lesotho Congress for Democracy. The prime minister suspended parliament after Metsing’s party joined the opposition Democratic Congress party in trying to engineer Thabane’s removal through a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

The country’s economy is heavily reliant on a preferential trade program, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, that exempts exports to the U.S. from duty.

If Lesotho’s crisis isn’t resolved peacefully through Saturday’s vote, the country risks losing that trade status, potentially plunging the economy and the lives of its population into crisis, Smith warned.

“Given the precarious economic situation experiences by many people, the average person can ill afford any further disruption to their lives,” Smith said.

Under Lesotho’s election system, the party -- or coalition of parties -- that command a parliamentary majority select a prime minister as the nation's leader.


Lesotho: Parties face off in early elections

Feuding parties in Lesotho's ruling coalition will face off on Saturday in early national elections staged in a bid to restore stability six months after an attempted coup.

The vote is being held about two years ahead of schedule under a political deal brokered by South Africa, which surrounds the mountainous kingdom.

Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane briefly fled to South Africa in August after soldiers occupied police headquarters and encircled his palace.

Thabane accused his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing of working with the army to oust him, an allegation Metsing and the military dismissed.

Solving a crisis

Campaigning has been largely peaceful but analysts say tensions are high before the parliamentary vote that will pit Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) against Metsing's Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), alongside other parties.

"The idea of these elections is to try to solve a crisis but I think they might perpetuate one," said Gary Staden, a political analyst at NKC Independent Economists.

"My concern is any mess up like failure to deliver ballot papers is going to be interpreted as someone trying to rig the election and that could set off unrest," he added.

Commentators have been reluctant to call a winner in the absence of reliable opinion polls.

Metsing told Reuters he expected another coalition government made up of LDC and a smaller rival, the Democratic Congress (DC) party. "They are our natural ally and they are the ones we're going to form a coalition government with," he said.

Metsing, who has promised faster economic growth to create jobs, said the most pressing issue was peace and stability.

‘Why bother voting?’

There was little sign of optimism on the streets of the capital.

"Why bother voting? I am not going to waste my time to vote because this election is all about Thabane and Metsing. It has nothing to do with what we want as voters," said Dineo Motlou, a 22-year supermarket sales assistant.

Thabane, 77, said his main priority was to restore order.

"The nation needs stabilisation," he told Reuters. "We as politicians have destabilised communities by causing divisions among the people."

Relations have been stormy between ABC and LCD, which have both been ruling the country since 2012, since Thabane dissolved parliament in June to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Post-election unrest could further erode confidence in the $2.3bn economy, which is forecast to expand by nearly 5% this year.

- Reuters

Ghana: Supreme court cancels March 3 district assembly elections

The Supreme Court has directed the Electoral Commission [EC] to call off the much publicized District Assembly elections which was scheduled for March 3, 2015. 

The EC was dragged to court by an aspiring Assemblyman, Benjamin Eyi Mensah, represented lawyer Alex Afenyo Markin.

Mr. Eyi Mensah a fisherman, filed the case at the Supreme Court to annul the organization of the elections.

According to him, he was denied an opportunity to file his nomination despite meeting all conditions to be registered as a candidate because the EC closed nomination before the maturation of Constitutional Instrument (CI) 85.

Meanwhile, the William Atuguba led panel of judges in their ruling on Friday declared the election as “unconstitutional.”

According to the Supreme Court, the law on which the EC wanted to hold the election, CI 85 is not in force.

The EC’s lawyers led by EC James Quarshie Idan argued that the CI 85 which the plaintiffs were basing their case was not meant to empower the EC to conduct election but rather to give backing to the demarcation of electoral area on his clients relied on the section 11 of PNDC which deals with the organization of public elections in the country.

He further told the court that his client relied in section 11 of PNDC LAW 284, which according to him gave them the powers to organize and conduct elections in the country.
 By: Godwin Allotey Akweiteh /

Nigeria: 6 electoral body staff arrested over missing voter cards

No fewer than six staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Abia State are now helping the police in their investigation over the discovery of scores of permanent voters’ card, PVC, in the house of a criminal suspect in Isiala Ngwa South of the state.

A reliable source from INEC state office in Umuahia confirmed the arrest of the staff and said they were at the Police Criminal Investigation Department where they were undergoing interrogation.

The matter, he said, had already been reported to the commission’s headquarters in Abuja and the affected cards already placed on interdiction because of the seriousness with which the commission viewed the offence.

The police, it was learned, were on the trail of a criminal suspect in Isiala Ngwa South area, when they stumbled on permanent voter’s cards in his house in the course of their investigation in an entirely different matter.

However, it was not possible to ascertain the nature of the crime they said suspect committed but the police were said to be on investigation in his house when they found the PVCs.

Surprised by the discovery, the police were said to have brought the PVCs to Abia State headquarters of INEC to confirm if they were genuine PVCs from the commission.

On confirmation that the cards were genuine from the commission, INEC then summoned its staff who worked in the area and queried them over the cards because they never reported any case of missing PVCs, either through stealing or snatching.

Unable to give satisfactory explanation over the cards discovered in the criminal suspect’s house, the police arrested about six staff of the commission who worked in the area to help them in their investigation.

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Abia State command, promised to check their records and get back to our correspondent, but did not respond before press time.

Similarly, an inquiry sent to the CID boss through text message was not replied at press time.


Lesotho: Army to stay in barracks as vote proceeds

Lesotho's army will be confined to barracks when the small mountain kingdom votes Saturday in a snap election to break a political deadlock after an attempted coup last August.

With tension rising after a bystander was killed and two of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's bodyguards were wounded in a shootout with soldiers earlier this month, the military had planned to set up roadblocks in the capital Maseru.

But that idea was swiftly nipped in the bud by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional bloc that has been guiding Lesotho out of the crisis since the attempted putsch.

Instead, SADC will deploy 475 police from its member countries to provide security support during the election.

The latest troubles in the kingdom, which is completely encircled by South Africa -- erupted on 30 August, when soldiers surrounded police headquarters, killing one officer and looting weapons.

Thabane fled briefly to South Africa after being warned they were coming for him next.

The political situation had been deteriorating for months after Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a vote of no confidence that would likely have seen him ousted from power.

Thabane's fragile coalition government, in which his All Basotho Convention (ABC) did not hold the majority of seats in parliament, was expected to fall to Democratic Congress leader and former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

The day before the army attack, Thabane fired the general Mosisili had appointed as head of the armed forces a few years earlier, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.

After South Africa stepped in, Kamoli, his replacement and the police commissioner were sent into temporary exile.

'Band-aid solution'

But analysts say little has been done to address the security situation and the simmering hostility between the army and the police.

"This is a band-aid solution," said Tsoeu Petlane, analyst at the Transformation Resource Centre in Maseru.

"It hasn't addressed the heart of the issue that was on the table to start with."

The fact that no decision has been made on how to deal with the alleged plotters "may lead the military to believe they are not going to be held to account for the past violence", said Institute for Security Studies analyst Dimpho Motsamai.

"The message it sends to them in terms of deterrence is very weak."

Not that violence is expected during the voting: a peaceful first round of special votes for journalists, observers and others went off smoothly last weekend.

But analysts say there could be trouble if Thabane, who is seen as favoured by South Africa wins outright with a large majority.

"If the ABC wins," warned Motsamai, "there will be electoral violence."

About 20 parties are contesting the election. While no reliable opinion polls have been conducted, the ABC and the Democratic Congress are generally seen as the front-runners.

Ideological differences between the major parties are difficult to pin down, with both promising the population of some two million people more jobs and less poverty.

South Africa has led the regional mediation effort through Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Lesotho, which has lived in the shadow of its bigger neighbour throughout its history, is no stranger to political upheaval and South Africa has intervened twice before.

"There's a general national acceptance of the intervention, but it comes with embarrassment -- that we should have tried to sort out our own problems," said Petlane.

Lesotho's economy is heavily dependent on its neighbour, but in turn, its stability is crucial to South Africa, which needs to safeguard the multi-billion dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project that supplies water to its economic heartland around Johannesburg.


Ghana:Supreme Court orders EC to suspend all adverts

The Supreme Court has ordered the Electoral Commission to suspend all media adverts, commercials and publicity events concerning the forthcoming District Assembly elections until it determines on Friday February 27, 2015, a case brought before it by a disqualified aspirant.

Benjamin Eyi Mensah, a fisherman aspiring to become the assemblyman for the Eyipeh Electoral Area within the Effutu District of the Central Region, dragged the Electoral Commission to the apex Court over the election body’s refusal to register him as an aspirant for the District Assembly and Unit Committee Elections slated for March 3, 2015.

His disqualification was premised on late submission of his nomination forms. Mr Mensah is being represented in the case by the Member of Parliament for Effutu, Mr Alex Afenyo-Markin.

According to him, all attempts to get the EC to register his client for the local elections have met opposition thus his decision to resort to the Court for redress.

The District Electoral Officer and the Returning Officer reportedly refused to accept Mr Mensah’s forms when he submitted them on Monday December 22, 2014, just a day after the filing of nominations closed.

Mr Mensah’s Lawyer, in a letter written to the EC, said the Commission’s decision to open and close nominations at the said date was inconsistent with, and in contravention of Article 45(b) and 51 of the 1992 Constitution. Mr Afenyo-Markin further stated that the EC’s decision was “not fortified by law.”

In his writ of summon, Mr Mensah prayed the highest Court of the land to “order the Electoral Commission to [re] open nominations to enable the Plaintiff and other law abiding citizens…to file their nomination forms to participate in the upcoming District Assembly Elections.”

Source: Ghana/

Ghana: Supreme Court rules on March district level elections today

The Supreme Court will later this morning deliver a ruling on the suit challenging the legality of the March 3 district level elections.

A disqualified aspirant for the position of assemblyman in the Eyipeh Electoral Area in the Central Region, Benjamin Eyi Mensah has dragged the Electoral Commission to Court for failing to include him in the upcoming election.

According to his Lawyer, Alex Afenyo Markins, his client was prevented from filing his nomination even though the constitutional instrument governing the elections had not been passed.

Legal representatives for the Electoral Commission, the state and the plaintiff have engaged in heated debates since proceedings begun February 25.

Lawyer for the plaintiff, Alexander Afenyo Markins has insisted that the EC’s decision to open and close nominations when the CI 85 had not been passed is unlawful.

He told the court presided over by 7 justices including William Atuguba, Baffoe Bonnie and Sophia Akuffo that the ongoing process is null and void.

It has been a tough two days for legal counsel of the EC, Quashie Idun as the judges have challenged most of his arguments.

On the first day, Mr Idun quoted CI 75 but was immediately reminded by the judges that, that constitutional instrument deals only with presidential and parliamentary elections.

His decision to rely on CI 68 did not help either as the court drew his attention to the fact that it deals with unit committee elections.

At yesterday's sitting, Mr. Quarshie Idun abandoned those CI’s. He rather quoted section 11 of PNDC law 284. B According to him, the EC per that law is allowed to go ahead with the election without relying on CI 85, but the judges again, were not fully convinced.

The court was also not pleased with the oral submissions of the lawyer representing the state, which is the second defendant in the case, William Pobi. That is because Mr. Pobi again made reference to C1 75 in his argument.

The seven judges questioned whether the lawyers for the two defendants consulted before appearing before them. The judges also ordered a suspension of all Electoral Commission adverts on Tuesday’s polls.

Whatever the decision of the court would be today, analysts say, it will shape the conduct of district level elections in the future.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Togo: President seeks 3rd term in April 15 election

Togo's President Faure Gnassingbé has accepted his party's nomination as a candidate for elections in April and will seek a third term in power, a member of his party said on Wednesday, quoting the president.

The opposition has repeatedly organised protests across the capital calling for Gnassingbé to stand aside at the end of his second term.

"It is through duty to our dear country and loyalty to our ideals that I have the honour to accept to be a presidential candidate for our party UNIR. I accept this nomination with great humility," Gnassingbé said following a party convention on Wednesday.

Gnassingbé was installed as president of the small West African country with army support when his father, who had been in power 38 years, died in 2005. He later stepped down under regional pressure, but won an election months later and was re-elected for a second term in 2010.

Unlike some of its neighbours, Togo does not have constitutional term limits, having abolished them in 2002.

But the opposition has drawn hope from events in neighbouring Burkina Faso where mass protests in October drove out longtime President Blaise Compaoré as he sought to revise the constitution in order to seek another term in office.

The United States has repeatedly urged African leaders to add term limits to their constitutions and respect those limits if they already exist.


Nigeria: Tech-savvy NGOs forcing politicians to act

Ahead of the presidential election, apps and phone texts are mobilising communities to tackle government neglect.

The stakes are high in Nigeria's presidential election on March 28. Ethnic tensions, Boko Haram's violent attacks, and the "north-south divide" have spurred speculation about a post-election crisis.

Citizens are watching closely and they want to be heard. Simple new technologies are giving them a chance to scrutinise their candidates and parliament more closely and to have their say.

Activist Hamzat Lawal set up Connected Development (CODE) - a non-government organisation whose mission is to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa - to amplify the voices of marginalised communities, and ensure the government delivers on its election promises.

"In Nigeria today, young people have never been more interested in election and governance issues. This is really exciting and has triggered a series of off and online campaigns which have challenged aspirants and political parties," Lawal said.

Together with another NGO Vote or Quench, the two groups developed a tweet chat tagged #AirItOut that provides a platform for disengaged youth to have their voices heard, he said.

"We aim to increase civic awareness and serve as an outlet for objective opinions, beyond the extremes of partisan thuggery or unabashed indifference.

"We also have face-to-face round-table discussions to bring in opinions from those offline."

Bringing in offline voices is crucially important in a country where just 38 percent of the citizens are online.

Power of technology

CODE recognised the power of technology to hold government to account long before the election frenzy.
In 2011, poor mining practises in the Bagega region resulted in lead poisoning that killed 400 children, while thousands became sick. The government pledged funds to the region for critical healthcare, but two years later, it hadn't arrived.

CODE collected testimonies and evidence from the affected community - who were largely offline - and exposed the situation online through the #SaveBagega hashtag and posting infographics and stories on its website.

Senator Bukola Saraki, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, 48 hours after hosting a tweet-a-thon, announced the president had approved the immediate release of $5.2m in funds for healthcare remediation in Bagega.

They've tracked the treatments ever since.

CODE's co-founder Oludotun Babayemi recognises technology's power. 

"Technology penetration is increasing in Nigeria. Even government officials and institutions have opened Twitter and Facebook accounts and mobile penetration stands at 75 percent," said Babayemi.

"If we direct coordinated messages to government agencies and policy-makers and create a feedback loop through SMS platforms and Blackberry messages, we can reach millions within hours. We've shown how this results in government action and citizen empowerment."

In the upcoming election, ReclaimNaija is using FrontlineSMS to engage the offline population.

Citizens can report issues such as missing names or election fraud.  They can send reports by SMS that are visually mapped on the Kenyan platform Ushahidi.

During the January 2011 Voters Registration Exercise, they received more than 15,000 reports from the public in just two weeks.
The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) regards these reports as valuable information that can be validated and used as evidence of malpractice.

Many of these solutions are created locally.

Local talent serving their community

Across the globe, technologists and innovators are congregating in innovation hubs, enabling local talent to create solutions to the challenges their communities face.

Bosun Tijani, founder of Co-creation Hub, the leading technology innovation hub in Lagos, recognises the role of tech-savvy NGOs in promoting good governance.

"Innovation hubs across Africa provide the missing link for young creative talents to experiment around unlikely ideas," Tijani said. "Their community nature inspires collaboration and encourages shared accountability among individuals and organisations that won't typically join forces for societal good.

"Hubs debunk the general perception that good governance is the sole responsibility of governments by engaging talented individuals and non-state actors in co-creating novel solutions that bridge the gap between citizens and government. Not only are citizens now demanding better governance, talented members of the hubs are creating tools to encourage widespread social accountability."

The team drew upon the talents of their community and partnered with Enough Is Enough, an organisation promoting good governance and social accountability in Nigeria to create

The platform helps citizens navigate a complicated registration and voting process and gathers feedback from citizens, which is relayed to the Independent National Election Commission to enable improvements.

BudgIT, an organisation incubated at Co-Creation Hub, creates infographics that help the public better understand the budget.  They engage in online and offline dialogue that encourages citizens to ensure it's being used for public good.

They've also created TRACKA, which enables people to collaborate and track capital projects in their communities online. They received a citizen report about an uncompleted school building in Iwoye-Ilogbo, a rural community in Ogun state, where 429 pupils sat in two classrooms with exposed roofs.

Despite budget allocation to rectify the situation, the government ignored community requests to come to their aid.

Through informing the community of their rights in face-to-face meetings, the team stimulated community action, putting pressure on the government. It worked, and the school is currently being repaired under BudgIT's watchful eye.

Information thirst

Another community member, Zubair Abubakar, created the Nigerian Constitution application, which has been downloaded more than 900,000 times, demonstrating a thirst for such information. He recognises its role in empowering citizens to stand up for their rights.

"This mobile application has equipped ordinary Nigerians with knowledge of the laws that govern them so they can easily stand up to the government if it's not performing," said Abubakar. "It was used during the 2012 fuel subsidy protest to educate fellow Nigerians about the roles and responsibilities of the government, and we saw a huge spike in downloads."

These groups are well aware that technology's not a panacea to all social problems. But they recognise its power to amplify the impact of traditional community mobilisation, at a cost and scale never before possible.  This enables citizens to scrutinise their elected representatives and demand they deliver on their promises.

The outcome and aftermath of Nigerian's election remains to be seen. But one thing is certain - Nigeria's citizens are watching. 

Source: Al Jazeera

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lesotho: Ex-prime minister of Kenya leads Africa Union team for poll

Cord leader Raila Odinga has been picked to head a team of African Union observers who will monitor Saturday’s elections in Lesotho.

Mr Odinga will be leading a delegation of 40-member who will leave Nairobi for the southern African nation today.

The observer mission comprises members of the Pan-African Parliament, electoral officials from various countries and representatives from human rights and civil society organisations from across Africa.

A statement by Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango, says the team will meet key officials before the National Assembly polls start.

It will meet officials of the Independent Electoral Commission, leaders of political parties, representatives of civil society organisations and members of other international observer groups.


The Commission of the African Union contacted Mr Odinga last month, asking him to lead its observer mission.

“The short-term observers will complement the work of the AU long-term experts who have been deployed since January 29, and will remain in Lesotho until March 14,” said Mr Onyango.

After the elections, the mission will release its preliminary statement at a press conference in the capital, Maseru.

“Subsequently, the mission will produce a more detailed final report with recommendations two months after the elections,” Mr Onyango added.

Lesotho’s divided political leaders agreed to hold elections this month, two years ahead of schedule, as part of a deal mediated by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.


Lesotho: Early election is to restore order

Lesotho is staging early elections to restore order after a coup attempt, but there is concern that a rejection of the results by some parties could spark more violence.

Nearly five months after soldiers raided Prime Minister, Tom Thabane's residence and the Police headquarters, tension is still high in the capital Maseru, with a shoot-out between soldiers and the Prime Minister's bodyguards, resulting in the death of one person early this month.


Lesotho: Elections to proceed amid fears of post-election violence

Lesotho is staging early elections to restore order after a coup attempt, but there is concern that a rejection of the results by some parties could spark more violence, jeopardising hopes of improvement for the country's poor majority.

Lesothoans are set to hit the polls on Saturday amid fears that the early parliamentary elections aimed at restoring order following a coup attempt could plunge the southern African kingdom into yet more instability and violence.

Nearly five months after soldiers raided Prime Minister Tom Thabane's residence and police headquarters, tension is still running high in the capital Maseru, with a shoot-out between soldiers and the premier's bodyguards killing one person earlier this month.

"One of the big [political] players ... could challenge the result and that could lead to violence," says Dimpho Motsamai of South Africa's Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

Assassination attempts

While the Southern African Development Community (SADC) says the August raids "bore the hallmarks of a coup," the army says they were aimed at disarming rogue elements within the police force who were preparing to supply weapons to some political parties.

Thabane subsequently fled to South Africa, which surrounds the landlocked country of about 2 million residents ruled by King Letsie III, whose duties are mainly ceremonial.

The SADC brokered a solution to the crisis which resulted in the renegade army chief who allegedly spearheaded the coup attempt being sidelined and the elections being moved forward by two years.

Three major political parties - two of which form part of Thabane's coalition government - are vying for votes in the mountainous country roughly the size of Belgium, where nearly 60 per cent of the residents live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

Lesotho has a long history of political unrest, having endured coups, changes of kings and assassination attempts against politicians since independence from Britain in 1966.

Anti-corruption campaign

Elections have often been followed by violence, with a South African military intervention to quell rioting claiming about 60 lives in 1998.

A peaceful transition of power in 2012 and the formation of the country's first ever coalition government raised hopes of stability.

But the three-party coalition ran into trouble in June 2014, when Thabane's deputy Mothetjoa Metsing announced a vote of no confidence against the premier.

Thabane dissolved parliament and only reconvened it under pressure from the SADC in October.

Analysts say the strife could be related to Thabane's anti-corruption campaign, which threatened to implicate Metsing. The deputy premier is under investigation for his alleged involvement in the coup attempt.

The main political parties have their allies in the security forces, with many in the police force seen as siding with Thabane while Metsing enjoys support within the military, according to the IISS.

No opinion polls are carried out in Lesotho, where the three main parties have campaigned fiercely for votes, says government spokesman Ramakhula Ramakhula.

Fears of violence

They are Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC), Metsing's Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the main opposition party, former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili's Democratic Congress (DC).

None of the parties is likely to get enough votes to govern alone, Ramakhula says.

The army has promised to keep soldiers in the barracks on polling day to allay fears of violence, but questions remain as to what will happen after the publication of results.

The elections are expected to be transparent, but "shortfalls in the logistics could be enough for some parties to question the outcome", Motsamai said.

Further political instability would weaken hopes of improvement of the economy, based mainly on farming, customs income, a declining textile industry and the sale of water to South Africa in a multibillion-dollar joint water project completed in the 1990s.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Nigeria: Electoral body to educate voters on card readers

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that it would next week begin public enlightenment on the use of smart card readers.

An INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Akinola Salau, gave the assurance in an interview with newsmen in Lagos. Salua, who is in charge of Osun, Ondo and Lagos states, spoke to journalists during a visit to Lagos State Office of INEC, in preparation for the general elections.

The commissioner said that INEC was making efforts to see that voters were properly educated on the use and value of the smart card readers.

“Hopefully, by next week, the resident electoral commissioner will make every effort to see that mass education is held on what the card reader is, its use and the value,’’ he told journalists.

On the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), he said that efforts were being made to ensure that all registered voters would receive their PVCs in time. The commissioner appealed to eligible voters to avail themselves of the opportunity of the extension of PVCs distribution period to collect theirs.

“I plead that they should go and collect their PVCs; INEC will produce the cards; we cannot force you or come to your home to say you should go and collect them.

“I plead that everybody should make an effort to collect his or her PVC so that he or she can duly vote on the election days,’’ he said.


Nigeria: Group to sue electoral body from further polls shift

ALL Progressives Volunteers Group, a pressure group in the All Progressives Congress, APC, has said that it would institute a legal action against the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega and the commission to restrain them from further shifting the dates of the general elections.

Chairman of the group, Mr. Olusegun Bamgbose,who disclosed this in Benin, Edo State, in a chat with newsmen, said that any further postponement of the elections would be unconstitutional, hence the need to stop INEC and Jega from doing so.

He said: “We know that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has a hidden agenda to truncate democracy in Nigeria. So, it is our collective responsibility as citizens to resist them. From what we gathered, they are so desperate to truncate our nascent democracy. On our part, the APC Volunteers Group will make sure that PDP does not remain in power beyond May 29.”

He accused the Presidency of being behind the postponement of the elections from February to March to avoid imminent defeat and vowed that there would be no further shift of the polls.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Nigeria: We will survive the 2015 elections-President

President Jonathan assures that Nigeria will remain stable after the general elections, insists that Interim Government is unconstitutional and treasonable.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lesotho: Lesotho on track for peaceful elections

Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane is satisfied his country’s national elections will go ahead quite peacefully next Saturday, after a regional summit in Pretoria bolstered security arrangements.

Thabane said the gathering of leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had confirmed the decision by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that the Lesotho army should be confined to barracks during the elections.

“That was our main concern,” he said on the phone yesterday as he was about to cross the border back to Maseru. “But I’m satisfied now that Cyril Ramaphosa has confined them to barracks.

“If that happens, we will have a free and fair election.”

The SADC leaders also agreed to boost the number of regional police personnel in Lesotho to 475, and appealed to SADC member states to provide extra officers to deploy immediately.

Ramaphosa is President Jacob Zuma’s representative as mediator for SADC in the negotiations among the Lesotho politicians to try to resolve a political crisis that erupted on August 30 in a brief coup which forced Thabane to flee to South Africa.

Thabane said the SADC summit in Pretoria on Friday had backed Ramaphosa’s various political and security decisions, including the decision to confine the army to barracks for the duration of the elections and beyond.

That meant that “there will be consequences” if the army does not obey the order to stay in barracks, Thabane said, though he could not specify what those would be.

Thabane has had an ongoing problem with the army. Its chief at the time, General Tlali Kamoli, mounted the brief coup against Thabane. Under a security accord brokered by Ramaphosa last year, Kamoli, the officer Thabane appointed to replace him, and the police commissioner (who was loyal to Thabane) were sent abroad on diplomatic missions to get them out of the country until after the elections, which have been brought forward from 2017 to this Saturday.

The change in the election date is an effort to resolve the political crisis which erupted when Thabane’s main coalition partner, Mothetjoa Metsing, switched to the opposition, threatening to unseat Thabane.

Thabane had complained to Ramaphosa earlier this month, however, that Lesotho still wasn’t secure enough for elections, citing a recent shootout between soldiers and his bodyguards. He also reported that the new army chief, who was appointed after Ramaphosa’s intervention, was also not taking orders from the civilian government. Ramaphosa went to Lesotho again, after that, and secured the agreement to confine the soldiers to barracks.

Friday’s summit, which Zuma hosted, was designed to lend regional authority to the deals that Ramaphosa has brokered.

It was attended by the current SADC chairman, Robert Mugabe, as well as Namibian President Hage Geingob, Botswana Vice-President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Malawi’s Foreign Minister George Chaponda, and its Minister of Foreign Affairs and SADC Executive Secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax.

The summit noted that the SADC Election Advisory Council (Seac) had visited Lesotho and “confirmed that the political atmosphere and security situation are conducive to hold elections as scheduled.”

The leaders also noted that SADC’s Electoral Observer Mission (Seom) to Lesotho had been launched on Wednesday.

In its communiqué the summit confirmed that South Africa, Zimbabwean and Namibian security forces deployed to Lesotho to protect the government after the August 30 coup would remain there until March 31.

And it said that police forces from other SADC countries would be deployed immediately to Lesotho to help the local police secure ballot papers and voting stations during the elections, remaining there until March 5.

The leaders asked Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, the DRC and Tanzania to provide more police for this purpose.

Asked about the troubling behaviour of the Lesotho army, Zuma said after the summit that Ramaphosa had dealt with this by confining them to barracks.

SADC would send about 475 police officers from different countries to help Lesotho police take care of the elections.

The Lesotho defence force would only be called in if that became necessary. But they would, in any event, play a role in distributing ballot papers in remote mountainous areas.

Mugabe said the remaining underlying security problems which the Lesotho politicians had raised would be dealt with later.


Lesotho: Electoral body ready to organize polls on Feb 28

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Lesotho says a cross section of citizens will participate in planned advance voting on Saturday ahead of the February 28 general election.

Lesotho’s electoral law stipulates that security forces, nurses, media houses, embassy officials and officers from the electoral commission who will be on duty on election day, are permitted to vote ahead of a scheduled general election.

Tuoe Hantsi, spokesman for the electoral body, says the IEC is ready to administer a transparent and credible election.

“The [IEC] is so ready. All is in place. The materials have been sent to the stations where the voting is going to take place. The main one on the 28th,” said Hantsi. “The politicians all stakeholders are now together and would see to it that we are having a successful election on the 28th.”

Sharp disagreement between rival groups in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government led to an attempt to overthrow the administration. Analysts say tension in the government spilled over into the security agencies after the police and the military reportedly supported rival groups in the administration.

Basotho, as Lesotho citizens are called, have expressed concern that the prevailing political tension could create violence between rival supporters which they say could scare prospective voters and undermine the credibility of the election.

Hantsi admits the prevailing tension would not be good for the election.

“The tension between the security [groups] basically I can’t say it will be as calm as ever. But, we hope things would be sorted [out] then. It’s not as bad as one is saying, but it’s never been like this before,” he said.

He said the IEC will continue with its close collaboration with security agencies to ensure the election is peaceful despite the existing tension.

“All the security agencies, we are working together 100 percent. Now we are making arrangements and our electoral meetings with armed forces so that they can help with the helicopters transporting all with their aircraft since we have some areas that are not accessible with any form of transportation except by air so, all is in order,” Hantsi said.

“The ballot papers and all [sensitive] materials as well as voting stations will be guarded by the police forces,” he added.

Hantsi said rival political parties have been cooperating with the electoral commission in the run up to the election following a meeting with the IEC about the readiness of the electoral body to organize the election.

The election was brought forward after a sharp disagreement in Thabane’s coalition government. An agreement signed between the rival groups in the government mediated by South Africa’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, led to the re-scheduling of the election.


Friday, February 20, 2015

South Sudan: Electoral body to go on with polls

 The Sudanese government has reaffirmed that presidential and parliamentary elections will be hold in April denying any intentions to postpone it.

Sudan’s minister of justice, Mohamed Bushara Dousa, said in press statements in Nyala on Wednesday the postponement of elections is “impossible” even if a consensus among political parties has been achieved to that effect.

He pointed that constitutional amendments to delay elections should have been made at least two month prior to the end of parliamentary deliberations, wondering about the legal grounds for delaying elections.

The Sudanese minister stressed that the decision to boycott elections is a personal one, saying no party has the legal right to prevent the people from casting their ballots.

On Sunday, Sudan’s National Elections Commission (NEC) announced that polling in the coming elections will take place from 13 to 15 April while vote counting will begin on 16 April.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) rejected calls by Sudanese opposition to postpone the general elections until after the national dialogue and formation of a transitional government and insists that it is a constitutional requirement that must be met.

Last week, the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) and the opposition Reform Now Movement (RNM) launched two separate campaigns for poll boycott.

In another context, Dousa announced the release of all prisoners of public right at Kass prison, calling upon residents to maintain security in south Darfur state.

The governor of South Darfur state, Adam Mahmoud Jar al-Nabi, for his part, announced that all courts will be opened on Wednesday in order to achieve justice, pledging to resolve the electricity problem in the locality of Kass, 86 km west of South Darfur capital, Nyala.

Dousa is currently visiting South Darfur within the framework of a campaign for promoting juridical work in the state.


Lesotho: Calls for peaceful elections in Lesotho

Cabinet has called for free and fair elections in Lesotho, said the Minister responsible for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe.

"Cabinet reiterates the call by President Jacob Zuma for all parties in Lesotho to act in a manner that creates a climate conducive for the holding of elections that are peaceful, transparent, credible, and free and fair, thus reflecting the will of the people," Minister Radebe said on Thursday during a post-Cabinet briefing.

The Basotho people will go to the polls on 28 February.

He said Cabinet has also expressed its confidence in the ongoing facilitation work of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Observer Mission to Lesotho under the leadership of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

"As part of the decisions of the SADC Troika Heads of State and Government, South Africa will play its part by leading and forming part of the SADC Election Observer Mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho," Minister Radebe said. (Tshwane)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nigeria: Use of card reader constitutional - Electoral body

Prof. Attahiru Jega, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted that only card readers would be used for accreditation of voters for the general elections.

Jega made this known while briefing the Senate on Wednesday in Abuja on INEC’s preparation for the elections. He said that the use of the cards was constitutional, insisting that the commission would not revert to manual accreditation of voters during the elections. He assured that if any card reader developed problem, it would be replaced.

•Card reader

Jega told the senators that the commission would not use Temporary Voter Cards (TVCs) for election under any condition as being canvassed in some quarters. He stated that the use of the card reader would not contravene any section of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.
According to him, the use of PVCs and the card reader for the conduct of the elections, we believe, is in accord with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended. “They were introduced also, pursuant to the powers granted to the commission by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
‘’INEC is empowered by Section 16(4) of the Electoral Act, 2010 to and I quote: ‘wherever it considers it necessary, replace any voter card for the time being’. “An election is said to be validly conducted if it meets certain basic requirements, including accreditation of voters.“The use of the card reader for the purpose of accreditation of voters is one of the innovations introduced by the commission to improve the credibility of the electoral process.
“It is not offensive to the Electoral Act or to the Constitution. It adds value to the desires of Nigerians to have a credible election in line with international best practice,” he said. The INEC chairman clarified that the use of the card reader would not amount to electronic voting, explaining that though Section 52 of the Electoral Act prohibits the use of electronic voting, the card reader was not a voting machine. According to him, the card reader is only an electronic machine introduced to improve the integrity of the voting process.
He stressed that INEC didn’t see the need for an amendment of the Electoral Act to accommodate the use of card readers. Jega said that for the purposes of ensuring that the electoral process was credible, the card reader would be used in the verification of voters. “In the likely event that a card reader fails, we have enough spares to deploy before the end of the accreditation at 1 p.m.
“If we cannot replace before the end of accreditation, then the election in that particular point will be postponed to the following day when a new card reader will be provided. “If you say, if a card reader fails we go back to manual voting, we are worried that everywhere we will revert to manual accreditation because there are many people who don’t want card readers to be used. “The likelihood of card reader failing is slim; we had solid legal advice and we do not believe it violates legal provisions. “It is not electronic voting, it is verification. There is a difference between voting and the voting process.
“Anybody can go to court on anything but we believe we have not done anything wrong,” he stated. Jega disclosed that the commission hoped to utilize the six-week election date extension period to carry out voter education and public enlightenment. He also pointed out that so far, the commission had tested the card readers for durability and functionality and was satisfied with the results. While enumerating the advantages of the card reader, he said that it would increase the credibility of the election process.
“Once the card reader is configured, it can only read PVCs issued by INEC at the polling unit that it has been configured for.“It reads the embedded chip card not the barcode; it enables authentication of the identity of the voter by matching his or her finger print with that code on the chip of the card.
“It keeps a tally of all cards read and all cards verified or authenticated with all their details, including the time when this was done,’’ he said. “This information can be sent to a central server using an SMS; the stored information on the server will enable INEC to audit results from polling units.
“It will as well as do arrangement of statistical analysis of the demographics of voting, something INEC has never been able to do effectively.
“The ward collation officer can use this information to audit polling unit result sheets and to determine whether accreditation figures have been altered, a common feature of electoral fraud in our jurisdiction,” Jega added. He disclosed that the PVCs were made to last for more than 10 years, and as such, could be used for the 2019 elections.


Nigeria: Senate expresses confidence in electoral body

The Senate on Wednesday expressed confidence on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) readiness to conduct free, fair and credible elections.

The Senate President, David Mark, disclosed this when the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, briefed the house and demonstrated how the card reader would be used during plenary.

Mark, who expressed satisfaction at the demonstration of the card reader and the level of preparedness of INEC, said that the session was beneficial.

“We have so much confidence that you will organise free, fair and credible elections; indeed all of us who are standing for election in the Senate will like to come back.

“We will like to win our election but we want to win in free, fair and credible elections. I can say that nobody seated here wants to come back through the back door.

“It is for us to assist you to conduct free, fair and credible elections and whatever we can do between now and the date you have chosen for us to go for the elections, we will not hesitate to do.

“I believe that you have benefitted from this interaction; we have also benefitted.

“A number of issues have been raised and they are pointers to the way you will like to look at the administrative and technical issues that have also been raised.’’

Mark urged all senators to utilise the commission’s email address to report any problems they might be experiencing in their constituencies relating to the elections.

Sen. Bukola Saraki (APC-Kwara) in an interview after the session, said he was satisfied with the card reader demonstration on the floor of the Senate.

He said “I am very satisfied with the working of the card reader; it has shown that it does work.

“I think everybody will be more convinced that for this election, we will be using the card reader.’’

Sen. Ita Enang (PDP-Akwa Ibom) also expressed satisfaction with the demonstration but expressed concern if the card reader was unable to accredit all voters in polling units with high number of voters.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that earlier, the INEC team demonstrated the use of the card reader using PVCs of some senators present.


Nigeria: Only security chiefs can guarantee new polls’ date - Electoral body

e Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, has told Nigerian federal lawmakers he could not guarantee the 2015 general elections will hold on rescheduled dates in March and April.

At a meeting with Senators Wednesday, Mr. Jega said he could not commit himself to the “sanctity” of March 28 and April 11 – dates for the rescheduled Nigeria’s general elections.

He said the electoral commission could not guarantee aspects of the poll that are beyond its control.

Mr. Jega met with the lawmakers to review the decision to postpone the polls from February.

Under the Nigerian law, a further six-week extension of the elections is possible, a prospect opposed by many Nigerians, the main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, and the international community.

INEC had said the postponement were necessary for security reasons, as military chiefs had warned against going on with the vote to allow it focus on fighting the terror group, Boko Haram.
But the APC said the delay was instigated by President Goodluck Jonathan, to save him and ruling party from losing the elections to the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.

Since announcing the new dates nearly two weeks ago, the commission has declined to clearly confirm that there will be no further delay beyond March 28 and April 11, for presidential, National Assembly, governorship and state assembly polls.

Responding to a question by George Akume, Senate Minority Leader, on the sanctity of the new dates, on Wednesday, Mr. Jega said it was difficult for him to respond, saying he could only give assurances over aspects within the control of INEC.

“That’s a very difficult question to answer. I have said not everything that has to do with the conduct of successful election is within the control of INEC,” Mr. Jega said.
Use of card readers

Mr. Jega also said the commission will go forward with its plan to deploy card readers for the elections.

There have been some concerns, mainly from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, about the plan as Nigerian law prohibits electronic voting.

On Wednesday, while PDP Senators opposed the plan, their APC counterparts welcomed it.

Heineken Lokpobri, a PDP Senator from Bayelsa State and Odion Ugbesa, from Edo State, argued against the use of card readers for the elections, saying it would be illegal.

In his response, Mr. Jega said card readers would only be used for accreditation not actual voting.

He said there was no law forbidding the use of electronic devices for accreditation.

“Card reader is used for accreditation not voting. Voting his defined as dropping of ballot paper into ballot box. Accreditation is essential for integrity of the election,” he said.

“Nothing in the constitution says we should not use electronic device in the process of accreditation. Anybody that is not satisfied can go to court. We have solid ground on that,” he said.

He added that the card readers would curb electoral malpractices, as cloned cards would be detected.

Mr. Jega said INEC will perform a mock test on the card readers.

He said some tests had already been taken in the United States, and will now be tested in the six geopolitical zones.

“The card reader has passed in all the 13 test categories conducted in terms of its durability and versatility,” he said.

Mr. Jega said the postponement of the general elections will enable INEC to have a flawless, near-perfect elections.

INEC National Commissioners are to visit state offices to conduct evaluation and comprehensively determine the level of preparation in the election.

He said after the visit, the commission will meet with the heads of departments and directorates of units to conduct a comprehensive assessment, to figure out additional things to be done before March 28.
Mr Jega said a meeting with the inter-agency committee on security will hold a meeting to discuss security on the Election Day.


Ghana: Female aspirants for District Assembly Elections in Tarkwa- Nsuaem decreases

The Tarkwa- Nsueam Constituency has recorded a drop in the number of female aspirants contesting in this year’s District Assembly elections as compared to the number four years ago.

In the 2010 elections, 10 females filed their nominations to contest the district level elections, but this year only three females have filed their papers for the elections, slated for March 3.

Mr. Edwin Opare, deputy Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Electoral officer who disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview,   said the total number of candidates for this year's elections has also reduced slightly.

He said 86 aspirants have filed their nomination papers for this year's election as against 87 in 2010.

Mr. Opare said the number of male aspirants has also risen to 83 this year, as against 77 in 2010, adding that two assembly members are to be elected unopposed this year.

He urged all the candidates to demonstrate maturity in their campaigning, and to also exhibit a high sense of discipline.

Mr. Opare said the Electoral Commission was prepared to ensure that the elections took place peaceful, and entreated supporters of the various contestants to abstain from acts that could create friction among the contestants.


Ghana: District level elections are more important than presidential - EC

Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), on Tuesday said district level elections were more important than presidential and parliamentary elections and urged women to participate fully in the impending elections.

He said: “Instead of throwing your clothes on the floor for presidential candidates you don’t know, contest the District Level Elections or vote for candidates you know well in your localities for development,” he said.

Dr Afari-Gyan said this at a workshop for women in the Volta Region on “Enhancing the Participation of Marginalised Groups in Elections,” sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development.

He said district level elections gave the citizenry a voice in governance and that it was strange that women were not interested in that system.

Dr Afari-Gyan described the district assemblies as the best medium for development and urged women to be “most active” in the system and help find solutions to issues affecting women and the environment.

He said the excuse of lack of time was not tenable because the assembly ideally sat for only three or six times in a year, which could not affect one’s work.

Madam Laurentia Kpatakpa, Volta Regional Director of EC, said the workshop was to see an increase in the participation of marginalised groups in the district level elections.

Some women at the workshop said tradition and politics were major factors contributing to the marginalisation of women.

A source at the Electoral Commission in Ho told the Ghana News Agency that only about 135 women were contesting assembly elections in the Volta Region out of 1,934 candidates for 661 electoral areas.

For unit committee elections, the source said out of 3,495 contestants, only 342 were women for the 661 electoral areas contesting for the district level elections scheduled for March 3, this year.


Ghana:Physically challenged urged to assert rights during DLE

Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission, has appealed to physically challenged persons to be assertive but courteous in demanding privileges reserved for them at polling stations during the District Level Elections (DLEs).

“You must be aware of your rights and stand up for them,” he said.

The privileges include the chance to vote without having to wait in queues and be given assistance by polling officials including the provision of special polling screens that take care of their handicaps.

The rest are locating polling stations such that they could have easy access to them and the use of tactile jackets to enable blind voters to vote in secrecy.

Dr Gyan said the blind could state their choice of candidates to their guides or polling officials and be assisted by them to thumbprint beside those choices if they wished.

He was giving an overview of the DLE at a workshop organised by the Commission and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to enhance the participation of marginalized groups in the impending DLE.

He appealed to blind voters to come along to the polling stations with their white canes for easy identification.

Dr Gyan said it was the right of physically challenged persons to be afforded all means possible to be able to exercise their right to contest elections and to elect those who govern.

Explaining why they and women were being referred to as “marginalized”, Dr Gyan said the term was an admission of the fact that they were pushed to the margins of Ghana’s politics contrary to the laws of the country.

He said the term was therefore not meant as an insult as some physically challenged thought.

“Being marginalized means being marginalized by somebody,” Dr Gyan said.

He said the term marginalized had been used to describe the denial of the rights of various groups of people even in advanced democracies.

Dr Gyan therefore urged the physically challenged to take active part in election related forums and offer suggestions and criticisms towards improving their participation in the choice of leaders for the country.

He said it was “morally wrong” for other candidates to campaign against physically challenged persons using their physical disabilities as reason why they should not contest elections and be voted for.

Dr Gyan said that way of campaigning was defamatory and those against whom they were directed had the right to legal redress.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nigeria: Police vow to go on strike, disrupt elections over unpaid salaries

Over 15,000 police officers have threatened to either go on strike or disrupt the March 28 and April 11 general elections over their unpaid salaries.

The aggrieved officers were those promoted from the rank of sergeant to the rank of Inspector and those promoted from the rank of Inspector to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police, ASP, in December 2013.

The policemen claimed that they were promoted since December 2013, but that the police authorities had refused to pay them their new salaries.

They said that after waiting for the police authorities for over a year, they were surprised that they were paid their new salaries with the January 2015 salaries, wondering why the money meant for the 13 months was not included.

One of them told Punch that, “We were promoted in December 2013 and the letters which were given to us indicated that we were to enjoy the benefits accruing to our new rank from the date of our promotion.

“We waited to be paid throughout last year, which was 2014. They didn’t pay us, saying that the money was not yet released.

“In January this year, they paid us the new salary that was commensurate with our new ranks. But they have refused to pay the areas for the 13 month.”

Another officer, who is an ASP, said, “We know that there is corruption in the Force, but how can someone sit on our 13th month salaries and would expect us to keep quiet?

“Elections are coming. They said we should be neutral. How can we be neutral when we are being shortchanged by our bosses and the country?

“We want to be paid or else there would be crisis during the elections. This is the time for us to shout so that Nigerians would know what we are passing through.”

The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, said though he had not been briefed about the issue, he nevertheless promised that their grievances would be looked into and addressed.

 “I have not heard of the report, but we will look into their grievances and address them,” he said.


Nigeria: Electoral body distributes 75.94% of voter cards

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Johnbosco Agbakwuru

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, released details of the Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs collection rate, showing that 75.94% of registered voters across the country have taken delivery of the crucial voting material.

52,275,367 voters of the registered 68,833,476 voters, according to INEC’s computation, had collected the PVCs as at yesterday.

The details, however, showed a continuing disparity in the PVC collection rates with indications that collection of the PVCs were significantly higher in the North than in the South.

The revelation came as the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senate caucus, yesterday, alleged fresh plans by the Presidency allegedly working in cahoots with the Senate leadership to ensure that the PVCs and card readers were not used for the elections. The caucus alleged that the ultimate agenda was to scuttle the rescheduled elections.

The figures for PVC collection showed that Zamfara, Nasarawa and Gombe states with 97.51%, 96.29% and 95.05% respectively have the highest collection rates.

Ogun with 40.86% had the lowest collection rate and was trailed by the Federal Capital Territory with 61.42% and Lagos with 62.4% trailed in that order.

The geopolitical collection rates showed the North-west with 88.66% collection rate, and the South-West having the lowest collection rate with 63.23%.

PVCs: How the regions stand

The geopolitical distribution rate is as follows:

lNorth East – 82.95%
lNorth West – 88.66%
lNorth Central – 73.78%
lSouth East – 73.35%
lSouth West – 63.20%
lSouth South – 74.09%
No explanation was available for the disparity in the collection rates among the geopolitical regions and Mr. Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to National Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega was not available for comments on the development as his telephone lines were switched off.
APC senators were led to the press briefing by the Minority Leader, Senator George Akume who claimed that the Presidency manipulated the INEC Chairman, Jega, through security agencies to shift 

The hastily arranged briefing was in response to the summons given to Jega to appear before the Senate today. They said the summons was part of plans by government to compel the INEC chairman not to apply the card readers and the PVCs in the conduct of the polls.

They described the action as part of a plot to emplace an Interim Government.

“There is no country in the world whose leader can sit down and do what we are doing here, to undermine our democracy. We have nothing like Interim Government in our constitution and of course, there is nothing like coup in our constitution and therefore, we must do the right thing.
“The President himself has sworn to protect this country and therefore, where he is going wrong, he must be corrected. Elections must be held as rescheduled, it is important that INEC must do this in order to avoid unpleasant consequences.

“Nigeria is a huge and complex society, culturally, structurally, and all hands must be on deck to avoid the Somalia experience,” they warned.

Senator Akume said the use of card readers will add value to the conduct of the elections.
“We are talking about free and fair elections. Time has passed when people carry ballot boxes and papers to their respective rooms, thumb-print and in the following days, we have senators, we have members of the House of Representatives, we have governors and we have the president. The whole world is watching this county. We have become a laughing stock, we are becoming a banana republic.


They accused the Presidency of using soldiers to intimidate their leaders.
“If we don’t have troops to provide security cover, it is appropriate to say that we have troops who can intimidate, harass, embarrass and humiliate members of the opposition. It has happened to the national leader of our party and a governor under our party platform. The fact that we are in the opposition does not make us any security risk. We are even more patriotic than those who are in government.

“We want elections and card readers must be applied; they must be used, otherwise, the elections can never be free and fair. If Ghana can get it right, using the card reader, why can’t the giant of Africa do it? If Sierra Leone can do it, even Liberia, why can’t Nigeria do it? We are waiting for INEC to do it; INEC must do it. Card readers are a must to ensure free, credible, acceptable elections. To do otherwise won’t be acceptable,” Akume added.

He continued: “We note with regret that in far away London, the National Security Adviser alluded to the possible postponement of the elections on the ground that the Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVCs had not been sufficiently distributed to the people.

“The production of PVCs we know, is the responsibility of INEC. They distribute to the states and the people also come forward to receive these cards. As political parties, we also have a role to play in ensuring that Nigerians, particularly our supporters have access to the PVCs.

“They are there for people to pick. INEC has produced over 67 million PVCs and of course, every Nigerian who is registered has the responsibility to come forward for them. There was the National Council of State meeting and the issue discussed there was the elections and from records, we know that all the former Heads of State supported holding of the election as scheduled. Former chief justices, those who know the law also supported the holding of the elections. But INEC later said the elections could not hold on the flimsy ground that the service chiefs said they could not provide security. Security for what?

“We have over 774 local government areas in this country and serious security breaches in the North-East are registered in only 14 local governments and therefore, there was no reasonable ground to shift the elections. We recall that in 1999, there was no election in Bayelsa during the first round of voting, elections were later held.

“Under normal circumstances, we believe the situation is also normal now, these affected areas should have been isolated for the purpose of holding elections at a later date. But this was not to be. We are all learned people, educated people to know that elections have been held in Columbia, which is perpetually at war with itself. Elections have been held in Egypt, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Mali, Tunisia and other countries. Nigeria cannot be an exception.”

“Yesterday, the reason given was lack of adequate distribution of PVCs, later, it turned to inability to provide security cover and we wonder that the multi-national force that has been assembled to fight Boko Haram is just 7000, including the Nigerian troop and we have a troop level of over 100,000 in this country. Why is it not possible to hold elections with adequate security cover for those who are supposed to do their jobs constitutionally? We believe that there is serious manipulation and a deliberate attempt to undermine and to manipulate the democratic institutions and structures,” Akume further said.


Nigeria: Senate summons electoral body boss over poll delay

The Senate yesterday issued sweeping summons to the Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) Prof Attahiru Jega to appear before the Upper House today to explain the circumstances that led to the shift of the general elections

In a similar vein,the APC Caucus in the senate yesterday raised fresh alarm over subtle moves to further shift the general elections using card readers as an excuse and likened the shift of the elections to treason and also insisted on the use of card readers for the general elections as it will ensure the elections are free, fair and credible .

Coming under a point of order, Senate Leader Victor Ndoma -Egba stated that given the reasons postulated by the INEC boss for the shift in the elections it was necessary that the Upper House invites Jega to shed more light on the poll shift and explain the use of the card readers for the elections

According to Ndoma-Egba the use of card readers amount to contravention of section 52 of the Electoral Act(2010) which prohibits the use of electronic device during voting and the need for Jega to come and give more information to the Senate

Meanwhile briefing Senate Correspondents, the APC Caucus of the Senate led by Senator Akume   said the issue of election postponement was discussed at the National Council of State meeting and that all the former Heads of State supported the holding of the election as scheduled “Former Chief Justices, those who know the law also supported the holding of the elections.

On the use of card readers they said: Card readers will add value to the conduct of the elections; we are talking about free and fair elections. Time has passed when people carry ballot boxes and papers to their respective rooms, thumb-print and the following days, we have senators, we have members of the House of Representatives, we have governors and we president. The whole world is watching this county.


Nigeria: Boko Haram threatens to mar elections

Nigeria's presidential election on March 28 will not take place peacefully, AbuBakr Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, has said in a new video purportedly released by the group.

In the video, released on social media on Tuesday and obtained by US based SITE intelligence group, Shekau issued a warning to the Goodluck Jonathan's government that next month's elections would be disrupted with violence.

"Allah will not leave you to proceed with these elections even after us, because you are saying that authority is from people to people, which means that people should rule each other, but Allah says that the authority is only to him, only his rule is the one which applies on this land," he said.

"And finally we say that these elections that you are planning to do, will not happen in peace, even if that costs us our lives.

In the video message, titled "A message to the leaders of the disbelievers", the contents of which Al Jazeera has not been able to independently verify, Shekau also takes aim at the leadership of regional countries who are co-ordinating efforts against the group.

"You are claiming that we don't know how to fight, but we forced your forces to flee from their bases and we freed our imprisoned brothers from the prisons that you oppressed them in, only praise be to Allah."

Nigeria's presidential election was to be originally held on February 14, but was postponed due to security concerns.

Speaking before Shekau's threat, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou vowed that his country would herald the end for the rebels, whose six-year insurgency has cost more than 13,000 lives.

Renewed attacks

"Niger will be the death of Boko Haram," he told a cheering crowd after a protest against the insurgents in the capital Niamey.

But Boko Haram has proved resilient and experts question whether the group can be overpowered in the short-term.

On Tuesday, two suicide attacks ripped through northeast Nigeria, killing at least 38 people and injuring 20 others.

In a separate development, the United States military said on Tuesday they would be providing communications equipment and intelligence to help African nations in the fight against Boko Haram.
Major General James Linder said that, as part of the annual US-backed 'Flintlock' counter-terrorism exercises this year in Chad, the United States would provide technology allowing African partners to communicate between cellphones, radios and computers.

The renewed attacks on Tuesday came as heads of states from Central African countries were ending a meeting in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, to plan the creation of a joint military response to the growing regional threat posed by Boko Haram.

The 10 member states announced that they had contributed more than 50 percent of the $100m needed to fight Boko Haram. They also called on Nigeria to cooperate by allowing the multinational joint task force to attack Boko Haram in its strongholds in Nigeria.

Boko Haram has fought a five-year insurgency, has recently begun stepping up its attacks against neighbouring countries after Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin agreed to contribute troops toward a regional military effort.

The violence has forced some 157,000 people to seek refuge in Niger, while 40,000 others have gone to Cameroon and 17,000 are in Chad, the UN said.

Almost one million Nigerians are internally displaced, according to the country's own statistics.

Source: Agencies