Thursday, July 30, 2015

Obama urged to back up Africa democracy call with action

The former leader of Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) said U.S. President Barack Obama’s criticism of African leaders clinging to office beyond their terms is not backed by concrete action.

Speaking Tuesday to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Obama warned the continent’s democratic progress is at risk from leaders who refuse to step aside when their terms end.

Kizza Besigye said that if Obama is serious about encouraging democracy in Africa, then there must be consequences for those who don’t embrace it and encouragement for those striving to adhere to democratic principles.

“I think what is most prominent in his engagement with the political process in Africa is that his words are not backed by action.  If you are talking about encouraging democracy, encouraging peaceful change of leadership in Africa, then there must be action that encourages that, there must be consequences for those who don’t follow that kind of direction [and] there must be encouragement for those who strive to bring that to happen in Africa," he said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been in power for nearly 30 years. Besigye said Museveni has kept himself in power since manipulating a 1995 constitution which had placed limits on presidential terms.

“Unfortunately, it was removed on the very test it had because, in 2005, President Museveni was completing the second term under that constitution.  But, unfortunately, he being the only person in Uganda affected by that provision did everything to cause its removal from the constitution,” he said.

Besigye who unsuccessfully contested in three consecutive presidential elections (2001, 2006, and 2011) is seeking the nomination of his party for the 2016 election. He said that because all three elections were marred by irregularities, every Ugandan who believes in democracy must work for a free and fair electoral process.

“There has been a very strong demand throughout the country for fundamental electoral reform to be undertaken ahead of the next election, and I am coming into this process primarily to pursue that demand, to rally the population so that it’s not just a demand that remains on paper, but that the whole control can put the force of the people’s will behind it, and that we force reforms to be undertaken ahead of the next election,” Besigye said.

Former Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is seeking the nomination of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). The deadline for filing nomination forms is July 31.

Besigye, who himself was once a member of the NRM, had been quoted in the local media as saying that Mbabazi was no different from Museveni.  He said he will support anyone who recognizes the government has failed the people.

“I strongly support Mr. Mbabazi in taking a firmed stance of saying you know the regime I have been serving was on the wrong path and I would like to join my fellow citizens who are challenging this wrong path in correcting it.  Then, obviously, I will embrace him and work together with him,” Besigye said.


Congo: Opposition to resist third term bid for incumbent premier

Republic of Congo opposition parties called on the population Wednesday to resist attempts at constitutional reform that could pave the way for President Denis Sassou Nguesso to seek a third term in next year's presidential election.

The country's opposition parties and some civil society groups convened an alternative meeting in the capital after boycotting a government-sponsored forum earlier this month that opened the possibility for Sassou Nguesso, 71, to seek another term.

Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled oil-producing Congo for a total of 31 years during two separate periods in office, is banned by the Constitution from seeking another term. He has not said whether he plans to run, but his party and supporters have pushed for constitutional reforms, which the opposition argues is a ploy to enable him to run.

"We, the participants of the alternative national dialogue on the respect of constitutional order and democratic political change in 2016, call on the Congolese people to resist and defend the Constitution if it were to be violated," a statement from the gathering said.

Opposition to long-ruling African leaders trying to extend their reign has triggered protests in several countries in the continent in recent months.

During a speech Tuesday at the African Union in Ethiopia, President Barack Obama admonished African leaders who are trying to change constitutional term limits, warning that they threaten democracy on the continent.

- Reuters

Burundi: Opposition leader occupies top post despite reject polls

Burundi's main opposition leader Agathon Rwasa has taken a senior post in parliament, despite condemning the parliamentary and presidential polls held earlier this month, reports the BBC's Prime Ndikumagenge from the capital, Bujumbura.

MPs elected Mr Rwasa as the parliamentary deputy speaker while the speaker's post went to a member of the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

He won 108 votes out of 112 after receiving the backing of the CNDD-FDD, the AFP news agency reports.

More than 70 people were killed in protests against Mr Nkurunziza's bid for a third term ahead of the 21 July presidential election.

-BBC online

Somalia: UN 'rejects' government move to forgo elections in 2016

The United Nations envoy to Somalia has criticized an announcement by the country's president that general elections will not be held in 2016. The statement by the U.N. came amid accusations by opposition parties in Somalia that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was exploiting the country's poor security situation to remain in power.

“Any term extension beyond the designated mandate will be unacceptable,” Nicholas Kay, the U.N.'s special representative to Somalia, said in Mogadishu on Wednesday, Hiiraan Online, a Somali news website, reported.

The country's ruling party has denied recent accusations that failing to hold popular elections would work against the government's stated goal of opening the country to greater freedoms, and said continuing rampant violence has kept the country unprepared for elections. While the conflict-ridden nation will not hold general elections, it was likely to find an alternative to a general election, such as holding a vote for regional leaders, Reuters reported.

“We never promised 'one person, one vote' and to make a ballot box available in every meter of the country,” Mohamud told Voice Of America. “We promised a better process than the one that brought us [to power] -- an easier and more dignified process.”

Mohamud became president in 2012 and vowed to increase security and democracy. He was chosen by parliamentary members who were selected by Somali elders. It was Somalia's first vote since 1991, when the country spiraled into a civil war following the ousting of Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, its democratically elected president, Reuters reported.

National elections are impossible amid rampant violence planned by Al Shabaab, Somalia leader HSM said in a statement

— Live From Somalia (@Tuuryare_Africa) July 30, 2015

“We are not arguing everything is 100 percent correct. We are not claiming perfection," Mohamud said in the interview with Voice of America. "We are arguing that there’s progress on the political, economic and security fronts. But convincing the people about this will depend on a transfer of power to the next government without conflict, disturbance, friction or chaos. That is a duty on our shoulders.”

While the al Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab continued to wage a brutal insurrection against Somalia's government, the group has lost some of its key territory in recent years. However, the organization continued carrying out deadly attacks against African Union troops, civilians and politicians. A car-bomb linked to the militant group exploded outside a popular Mogadishu hotel, killing at least 13 people Sunday.

Earlier this month, the government -- along with support from the African Union -- launched a renewed offensive against al-Shabab militants. Mohamud said he would seek re-election, although he denied he would use any undemocratic means to extend his government's mandate.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Somalia unable to hold full elections in 2016

War-torn Somalia will not be able to hold full elections due next year, lawmakers said Tuesday, although it remained unclear whether some kind of voting process would still be held.

The current President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and parliament were appointed by clan elders in 2012 with foreign backers promising full democracy in 2016, signalling an end to decades of chaos and instability.

But the decision to ditch plans for a full election highlights that progress on key issues - notably security and the threat from al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militants - has not been as quick as hoped for.

"Parliament and the government have agreed... there cannot be one man, one vote elections in the country in 2016," said Abdulahi Godah Bare, parliamentary committee chairman in charge of the election, citing the political and security situation in the country.

Diplomats, who admitted long ago that the timetable for elections was too ambitious, have said that rather than holding a fully democratic poll, alternatives including relying on clan elders to select leaders may be considered.

The Western-backed government is propped up by a 22 000-strong African Union force, which fights alongside the Somali army against the Shabaab.

The Islamists carry out regular attacks. The latest was on Sunday, when a suicide truck bomber killed at least 13 people at a hotel which was popular with government officials and foreign visitors and housed three diplomatic missions.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tanzania: Four-party opposition coalition invites ex-PM to join them

THE Coalition of Four Opposition Parties, Ukawa, on Monday officially invited former Prime Minister, Mr Edward Lowassa, to join them ahead of the general elections in October.

In what appeared like a green light from the outfit to Mr Lowassa to vie for the presidency on its ticket, national chairpersons of all political parties forming the coalition held a fully-packed press conference where they announced that they officially welcomed the former premier to the camp.

The Ukawa statement made insinuations that largely gave indications that it was Mr Lowassa that they would use as their candidate for the presidency.

Mr Lowassa was among the 38 CCM members who recently sought nomination by the ruling party to run for Union president.

However, his name was dropped in the vetting processes as current Minister for works, Dr John Magufuli, was nominated for the presidential race.

Speaking on behalf of his counterparts in Dar es Salaam on Monday, the National Chairman of NCCR-Mageuzi, Mr James Mbatia, said they would announce their presidential flag bearer ‘’with much pomp and fanfare (kwa mbwembwe) next week.’’

He went on to mention some of Mr Lowassa’s attributes in a clear signal to the media that there already was a deal that had been sealed. Mr Mbatia noted that the forthcoming general elections provided the only chance to remove CCM from power.

He noted that if this year’s elections were strategically planned, it can bring real change, adding that Tanzanians were in need of changes ‘’that can bring in a new government with new thinking and creativity for the public’s best interests.’’

The NCCR-Mageuzi Chairman claimed that the country was facing a leadership vacuum that had caused cracks in society, pointing out that Tanzanians needed a leadership with vision, discipline and integrity that would push the country forward. “This election gives us a very good opportunity to build solidarity in the country.

In that regard, we in Ukawa believe that in the broader interests of the people by building solidarity within and outside our parties as we head towards the general elections and thereafter,” he said.

He noted that in order that Ukawa achieves that, it is important that they win the October general elections. “Tanzanians have witnessed unfairness, favouritism in the road towards getting CCM presidential candidate,” he claimed.

He noted that in reflecting on the broader interests of the country, Ukawa needed leaders with the qualities and ability to guard, respect and manage the country’s natural resources for the interest of Tanzanians.

“We take this special opportunity to invite former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa to join Ukawa and we are ready to work with him to ensure we remove CCM.

We believe that Lowassa has the ability to ask people to reject CCM,”he said, adding, “he works hard and follows up closely on implementation in the responsibilities he is given.”

He reiterated that Ukawa would put one contestant at all levels from civic to parliamentary and Union and Zanzibar presidencies.

NLD National Chairperson, Dr Emmanuel Makaidi, fully committed himself before journalists that he supported Mr Lowassa as Ukawa’s flag-bearer for the presidency.

Throughout the press conference, National Chadema Chairman, Mr Freeman Mbowe, sat quietly even as journalists pressed him to go on record as to whether he had now backtracked on his recent statement that Mr Lowassa is a weak leader.

The National Chairman of the Civic United Front (CUF), Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, also spoke, saying that they had invited Mr Lowassa and that it was now up to him whether to accept or reject the offer.

Reports were circulating as we went to press that Mr Lowassa may today announce his next political move at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the city.

Source: Daily New Online

Tanzania: Electoral body uncovers 16,000 double registration

ABOUT 16,000 people have registered themselves twice in the Permanent Voter Register (PVR) through the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system, it has been detected.

Speaking during the ‘Jambo Tanzania’ programme aired by Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), National Electoral Commission (NEC) Director for Information and Communication Technology, Dr Sisti Chriati, said the suspects were easily identified as they were registered in an electronic system.

He said no one was allowed to be registered more than once and legal measures will be taken against those who will be identified in accordance with the laws governing general elections and related process.

Dr Chriati stated in the programme that NEC had also brought to Dar es Salaam about 4,000 BVR kits to curb the shortage of registration equipment that has been facing different parts of the city to ensure every eligible citizen is registered.

“These kits will be supplied to those centres facing a shortage, especially to those areas which are highly populated,” he said, adding that all those who will turn out will be registered before the deadline.

According to him, the voter register will start to be displayed from tomorrow in all areas where the exercise has taken place to allow verification of voter information.

About 2.9 million eligible voters are expected to turn out for the exercise in Dar es Salaam. Some 1.2 million voters are expected to register in Kinondoni Municipality in addition to 811,000 and 896,142 others in Ilala and Temeke municipalities respectively.

Meanwhile, a mini-survey conducted by this newspaper observed long queues of people who thronged the registration centres, as most of them admitted that they have been attending to registration centres for some days with no success.

The survey established that centres that are located in remote areas are faced by serious challenges such as inadequate BVR kits, shortage of manpower and registration forms Among them are Mbagala Kuu, Meo Mtoni Kijichi, Mbagala Mission- Kwa Bruda and Kijichi A as well as Kijichi B Primary School centres at Mbagala area in Temeke Municipality.

At Meo Mtoni Kijichi and Mbagala kuu centres, long queues of people could be seen with some aspiring voters expressing despair whether they would be registered at all, considering the capacity of the BVR kits to cope with the huge turnout.

There seemed no preferential treatment for people with special needs and physical status as pregnant women, the elderly and those with physical disabilities.

“I don’t know when I will be registered…I have been coming to this centre since Thursday last week. Unfortunately, I have not yet been served,” complained Ms Fatina Ngole, a resident of Kijichi who is pregnant.

She said the process has been prolonged by favouritism done by some of local officials, lack of expertise among operators and technical glitches on registration kits.

At Mbagala Mission centre, the absence of registration forms caused misunderstanding between registration seekers and officials. “All this is caused by shortage of BVR kits.

There are about 6,730 people who are eligible to be registered in my area, but they depend on two machines, which in fact are not enough,” said Mr Bakari Masasu, a local government officer for Mbagala Mission area.

He said they have requested more kits from the ward office but, unfortunately, until yesterday they were yet to be supplied with the requested equipment.


Tanzania: EX-PM set to join opposition after failed ruling party bid

FORMER Tanzanian Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who this month lost his bid to become the presidential candidate for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, defected to the main opposition group, its spokesman said.

Lowassa, 61, will announce his decision to join Chama Cha Demokrasia Na Maendeleo later on Tuesday, Tumaini Makene said in a phone interview from Dar es Salaam, the country’s commercial capital. Lowassa didn’t answer two calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.

“He is going to Chadema, joining as a member,” Makene said. “If there is anything to be decided on the leadership structure, it will be after that.”

Tanzania holds presidential elections Oct. 25. The new leader will guide policy on how to develop the country’s 55 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves discovered by companies including Statoil ASA, Exxon Mobil Corp., BG Group Plc and Ophir Energy Plc. The East African nation is also considering building a $15 billion gas-export plant.

Lowassa was Tanzania’s eighth prime minister from 2005 until 2008, when he resigned after being implicated in a corruption scandal. He denied the allegations, describing them as politically motivated.

Earlier in July, Lowassa was one of 37 candidates of the ruling party who failed in their attempt to succeed President Jakaya Kikwete, who is stepping down after completing his second term in office. CCM elected Works Minister John Magufuli as its presidential candidate.

‘Could be a kingmaker’
Lowassa’s switch to the opposition will bring the party “a lot of financial backing and grassroots support and competitiveness” in parliamentary elections, Ahmed Salim, a Dubai-based analyst at Teneo Intelligence, said in a phone interview. The legislative vote will take place on the same day as the presidential ballot.

“He could be one of the king-makers and provide quite a lot of financial and strategic support,” Salim said. “If he is fielded as a candidate, it changes a lot, but we can’t say it clears Chadema to win presidential elections.”

A coalition of four opposition parties known as Ukawa, which includes Chadema, is working on fielding a single candidate in the vote, Chadema’s Makene said.


Burundi: UN observers say presidential vote not credible

(AFP) - A United Nations observer mission said Monday that last week's presidential elections in Burundi were relatively peaceful but had not been "an inclusive free and credible" vote.

Separately, the 15 UN Security Council members plan to hold consultations on the crisis Tuesday.

In a preliminary report, UN observers said Thursday's vote, which saw President Pierre Nkurunziza re-elected, was marred by violence and obstacles to freedom of expression and the press.

"While election day was relatively peaceful and conducted adequately, the overall environment was not conducive for an inclusive free and credible electoral process," the report said.

It said the elections were held "in an environment of profound mistrust between opposing political camps."

"Freedom of expression, assembly and association, essential conditions for the effective exercise of the right to vote, remained severely impaired," the report said.

It faulted the state-run media for failing to provide balanced coverage to all presidential candidates.

"Nevertheless, on election day Burundians in most places went peacefully to the polls to cast their ballots," the report said.

It echoed a separate report the UN mission had already issued in June after legislative and local elections in Burundi.

The mission's latest findings were in line with those of other international observers.

Results made public Thursday by Burundi's electoral commission had Nkurunziza winning a third term as president with 69.41 percent.

His decision to run for re-election in late April plunged the country into a profound political crisis accompanied by violence that left more than 80 people dead.


AU organises forum fo Continental Election Management Bodies (EMB) in Ghana

In a bid to revive the Association of African Election Authorities (AAEA) and “contribute to the emergence of a political environment within and among African countries that is conducive to bringing about sustainable democratic development and integration in Africa”, the African Union (AU) has organised a 2-day forum for the Continental Election Management Bodies (EMB) at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, Ghana.

The 23 and 24 July continental meeting was on the theme: “Promoting Credible and transparent electoral processes in Africa through inter-election management bodies cooperation and assistance”.

It was organised by the AU’s Department of Political Affairs (DPA) of the African Union Commission (AUC), through its Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit (DEAU) to help “facilitate and coordinate the revival of the Association of African Election Authorities (AAEA)”.

The forum was well attended by representatives of electoral bodies across the including the Chairperson of the Election Commission (EC) of Ghana, Mrs Charlotte Osei, immediate past Chair of Ghana’s EC, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan, Dr. Christopher Iyimoga (Commissioner of INEC, Nigeria), among others discussed key issues including:

Historical Evolution of AAEA
The adoption of a new Charter;
The Election of Executive Members;
The Election of a host country or Secretariat; and
The official re-launched of the Association
The financial position of AAEA

Resuscitation of AAEA

The Director for Political Affairs (AU) Commission, Dr. Khabele Matlose, stated that aim of the forum was to resuscitating the AAEA to help sustain and maintain democracy on the continent.

On the final day of the forum, however, was focused on the “The Role of Election Management Bodies in Preventing Election-Related Violence”. This afforded the opportunity to bring together the leadership of all EMBs on the continent to foster interaction amongst them and the AUC for the purposes of sharing experiences, structuring areas of support, share knowledge and cross-fertilization. In addition, the forum helped EMBs to gain practical insight into the programmes and activities of the DEAU with the aim of making effective use its program of support to EMBs and electoral processes of AU Member States.

The AAEA is a professional Organisation of African Electoral Management Bodies dedicated to the professionalism of election administration. The organisation focuses mainly on information exchange, technical assistance and participation in various activities including pre-election assessment and election observation.

Burundi: Opposition attends first parliament meeting after disputed poll

Burundi's parliament sat for the first time on Monday after President Pierre Nkurunziza won a disputed election last week, with a leading opposition figure taking his seat despite having boycotted the vote.

The United States called the July 21 presidential vote "deeply flawed", while regional observers said the poll "fell short" of being free and fair. The opposition, which also boycotted parliamentary elections held on June 29, has accused the government of violence and intimidation against its members.

Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third five-year term plunged Burundi into its worst crisis since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005. The opposition says Nkurunziza's bid violated the constitution and could spark another conflict.

Agathon Rwasa, the leader of the opposition Amizero y'Abarundi coalition, said 20 members of his FNL party would take their seats to represent people who voted for them.

Opposition politicians were split over whether to take up their seats in the parliament. They boycotted the polls but candidates' names were kept on the ballot papers and some of the lawmakers won seats in opposition strongholds.

"Can we leave all those people who voted for us to their fate though elections results are not that realistic?" Rwasa asked, once again rejecting the results of the election.

But Charles Nditije, from the opposition UPRONA party that acts as the junior partner in the Amizero y'Abarundi coalition, said his party's 10 elected lawmakers would not take up their seats in the 121-member chamber.

"How can we take seats while we pulled out from the elections? Its impossible to take seats," Nditije told Reuters.

The United Nations mission in Burundi on Monday said while the polls were broadly peaceful on election day, the "overall environment was not conducive for an inclusive, free and credible electoral process".

The government says the elections were fair and accuses the opposition of stoking tensions. Burundi says it wants good ties with donors but will not let them dictate policies.

Burundi's electoral commission, CENI, said the opposition would be awarded any seats they won.

Last week Rwasa, leader of the opposition Amizero y'Abarundi coalition, said a unity government should be formed immediately to stop Burundi slipping into conflict. He also called for a new election within a year.

A presidential adviser said a unity government would not be opposed, but rejected as "impossible" the idea of cutting short any new mandate.


Burundi: UN observers say presidential vote not credible

(AFP) - A United Nations observer mission said Monday that last week's presidential elections in Burundi were relatively peaceful but had not been "an inclusive free and credible" vote.

Separately, the 15 UN Security Council members plan to hold consultations on the crisis Tuesday.

In a preliminary report, UN observers said Thursday's vote, which saw President Pierre Nkurunziza re-elected, was marred by violence and obstacles to freedom of expression and the press.

"While election day was relatively peaceful and conducted adequately, the overall environment was not conducive for an inclusive free and credible electoral process," the report said.

It said the elections were held "in an environment of profound mistrust between opposing political camps."

"Freedom of expression, assembly and association, essential conditions for the effective exercise of the right to vote, remained severely impaired," the report said.

It faulted the state-run media for failing to provide balanced coverage to all presidential candidates.

"Nevertheless, on election day Burundians in most places went peacefully to the polls to cast their ballots," the report said.

It echoed a separate report the UN mission had already issued in June after legislative and local elections in Burundi.

The mission's latest findings were in line with those of other international observers.

Results made public Thursday by Burundi's electoral commission had Nkurunziza winning a third term as president with 69.41 percent.

His decision to run for re-election in late April plunged the country into a profound political crisis accompanied by violence that left more than 80 people dead.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Burkina Faso on a tightrope key elections near

(AFP) - A serious clash between Burkina Faso's presidential guard and the prime minister has left the west African nation on a political tightrope three months ahead of a key presidential election.

"I shall have done all I can to keep the peace in our country," interim President Michel Kafando recently declared, but he acknowledged being powerless to resolve confrontation.

The former diplomat instead called on "everybody's sense of responsibility... (to) save Burkina from disorder and chaos" before and after the vote in October.

The poverty-striken Sahel nation, whose former president Blaise Compaore was toppled by a popular uprising in October 2014 after 27 years in power, is struggling to get over a crisis triggered by the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP).

The highly-trained corps in February briefly demanded the dismissal from government of Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Zida, its second-in-command, who is prime minister in a transitional regime.

Zida, who briefly served as head of state after Compaore was ousted, had called for the RSP to be disbanded in the interest of national security.

- 'False coup' -

The regiment was widely criticised for brutality during the demonstrations against Compaore, when 24 people were killed and more than 600 injured.

On June 28, the government announced that a plot by RSP soldiers against Zida had been foiled, but army officers accused him of staging a "false coup" to keep his job.

Kafando and Zida are due to hand over to a new executive formed after the presidential election scheduled for October 11 to complete a political transition.

Several civil society organisations have accused the authorities of dirty tactics. "The RSP-Zida crisis they're trying to sell us is a cover for a bid to restore the old regime," one statement said.

Whether or not Compaore has any say in events from exile in Morocco, the anti-Zida movement is real and extends far beyond the crack regiment, which civic bodies want disbanded.

Military chiefs have urged Kafando to form a purely civilian government, thus getting rid of Zida, who also serves as minister of defence.

Zida made himself more unpopular in June for overseeing a reform to the military code making it possible to promote a lieutenant-colonel to general "in exceptional circumstances".

"We've had military men who have been heads of state in this country," a top general staff officer told AFP, recalling that Compaore took power as a captain, like his predecessor and one-time comrade Thomas Sankara. "Nobody has tried to give themselves a higher rank."

A senior RSP officer said that to end the crisis, the regiment was "completely placing itself in President Kafando's hands".

"If he doesn't make good decisions or takes too long, we'll be forced to withdraw and let the soldiers do as they want," the officer warned. "We can't calm them down indefinitely."

- 'Call for help' -

Kafando's "call for help", as political analyst Siaka Coulibaly described his plea to the people, could be a bad omen when troops are restless.

Last Sunday, Kafando dismissed security minister Colonel Auguste-Denise Barry in a move widely seen as a step to appease the army. A key supporter of Zida, Barry became an RSP target in its bid to obtain purely civilian rule.

The government took another blow on July 13 when an African regional court overturned electoral legislation that had banned several individuals and political parties linked to Compaore from standing at the polls.

In a binding decision, the Court of Justice in the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) upheld suits from seven Burkinabe parties and 13 inviduals protesting at rights violations.

Burkina Faso is affected by "much amateurism in government", worsened by frequent "interference" by civil society, Zida's special advisor Abdoulaye Soma acknowledged.

Uncertainties hang over the planned poll. The former presidential party has designated Eddie Komboigo as its candidate, without knowing whether he can stand.

Compaore's former foreign minister Djibrill Bassole has been expected to run for office, but was barred by military code reforms.

However, Burkina's lawyer in the regional court case, Mamadou Savadogo, pledged that the electoral code would be amended to ensure compliance with the ruling. Kafando has already appointed a council of elders to help.

Presidential candidate and former minister Ablasse Ouedraogo is confident. "We may see trouble here and there, but the political maturity of the Burkinabe people will enable us to see through the transition, with clean and transparent elections.

"Nobody is prepared to head into chaos," he said.

Uganda: Democratic Party elects president

Democratic Party delegates overwhelmingly retained Norbert Mao as the party president following a three-day delegates’ conference which ended last night at Katomi Kingdom Resort, in Entebbe.

Mr Mao beat his only challenger in the race, Buikwe South MP Lulume Bayiga in a delegates’ conference, shunned by a faction in DP led by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago. Mr Mao got 898 votes (71.2 per cent) while Dr Lulume got 360 votes.

The Lukwago-group pushed for the delegates meet to be postponed to pave way for major reforms and reconciliation in the party which the Mao-led faction objected to.

All attempts at reconciliation chaired by former DP vice president Zachary Olum failed to yield any fruits prompting the rival factions to hold parallel meetings, one in Luweero by Mr Lukwago and the other by Mr Mao at Katomi.

The DP delegates first passed constitutional amendments to include representatives of members with disabilities, those in the Diaspora, the workers, elders, an additional member from each region. The other amendment passed was to make Karamoja and Sebei sub-regions as per the DP constitution.

Elected leaders
Outgoing DP national vice president John Kawanga was elected presiding officer for the election of new office bearers following the dissolution of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of DP to pave way for the election of a new team.

Voting started at around 1am on Sunday morning. The polls were generally calm.
Some of the DP leaders who were elected unopposed included Mr Fred Mukasa Mbidde as DP’s national vice president replacing Mr Kawanga, and DP national chairperson Mohammed Baswale Kezaala who retained the same post. Mukono municipality MP Betty Bakireke Nambooze was voted as DP vice president for Buganda sub-region replacing Mr Richard Sebuliba Mutumba.

Mr Yusuf Mutembuli also went unopposed as DP vice president for Eastern Region. Voting was done per region starting with the North, West then East and finally Central region.

Bukoto County East MP Florence Namayanja was voted DP Women’s leader after she garnered 693 votes. Her competitors Ms Maxenxia Nakibuka and Ms Lina Zedriga got 395 and 202 votes respectively. In a closely contested race, Ms Ritah Nakyanzi was elected DP secretary for youth with 522 votes beating Mr Elvis Kintu who got 410 votes.

In another hotly contested vote Mr Samuel Muyizzi was elected DP national legal adviser with 780 votes beating his challenger Mr Jude Mbabaali who received only 487 votes.

With 546 votes, Mr Erasto Kibirango lost the DP deputy legal adviser slot to Mr David Lumu who garnered 705 votes.

By press time, the presiding officer was yet to announce the results of DP secretary general and publicity secretary but current SG Mathias Nsubuga was in the lead and was expected to win while the publicity slot was too close to call between Kalungu County MP Joseph Ssewungu and Kenneth Paul Kakande who currently holds the portfolio.

-Daily Monitor online

Burundi: East African regional bloc rejects presidential election

The East African Community (EAC) has slammed last week’s presidential polls in Burundi, saying they failed to meet the EAC’s standards for holding free, transparent and credible elections.

“The election process in Burundi was hampered by insecurity, a tense environment, limited media freedom and the violation of fundamental human, civil and political rights,” Abubakar Zein, head of the EAC’s election observer mission, told Anadolu Agency.

Speaking by phone from Mombasa, Kenya, Zein said that EAC poll observers had found a lack of freedom of speech and press during last week’s controversial poll.

“The boycott by the main opposition parties and unsuccessful efforts to build consensus through inclusive dialogue… were among the other issues that hampered the elections,” he said.

The observer mission released its preliminary report to the EAC Secretariat only days after Burundi’s official electoral commission announced that incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza had won the election with almost 70 percent of the vote.

The EAC is an East African regional bloc comprising Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda.


Burundi: Group rejects President Nkurunziza to head unity government

The chief executive officer of the Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society (FORSC) in Burundi says President Pierre Nkurunziza should not be part of any unity government.

Vital Nshimirimana's remarks follow violent unrest in Burundi since Mr. Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term. Critics charge an Nkurunziza third term violates the constitution as well as the Arusha Accord that ended a civil war.

The country's courts ruled he is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by lawmakers, and not popularly elected, for his first term in 2005. The political crisis has forced more than 140,000 to flee to neighboring countries.

Nshimirimana says he welcomes the international community’s rejection of the outcome of the July 21 presidential election, which Mr. Nkurunziza won with 69.41 percent of the 2.8 million total votes cast.

“The government of national unity cannot go with President Nkurunziza as a member. He cannot because once he decided to break the Burundian consensus that put to an end the deadly conflict ... This means that he does not deserve to be at that bench. He has lost his legitimacy to be part of the Burundian stakeholders since he decided to break all what Burundians have built over the years,” said Nshimirimana.

Opposition groups also rejected the polls after boycotting the vote, saying the prevailing conditions were not conducive for free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections.

Some have demanded a fresh poll conducted only after peace is restored and their concerns resolved through dialogue mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. He was appointed by the East African Community to help Burundian groups resolve the country’s crisis.

Nshimirimana said the administration has refused to heed to calls by the international community as well as the African Union and the East African Community to ensure there is peace and a resolution of the ongoing crisis before an election is held.

“Civil society released a communique where they stated that there has not been an election as such, since there was unconstitutional and illegal candidate who run alone,” said Nshimirimana.

“The election was held in a kind of an environment where security requirement were not met. There has not been the disarmament of the ruling party militia Imbonerakure [meaning those who see far], which is spreading fear in the country, and the opposition did not campaign to actually participate in the election,” he added.

Supporters of the ruling CNDD-FDD say the presidential election was legitimate, arguing it met constitutional requirements, despite the refusal of the opposition groups to participate in the vote. They maintained the election was credible since other opponents of the president participated in the poll. Nshimirimana disagreed.

“As civil society organizations, we have stated very clearly that the president of Burundi will be respected and be treated as our president up to the date of 26th August this year because he has been elected for his second and last term of office,” said Nshimirimana.

“Beyond that date, he will no longer be our president, he will just be an ordinary citizen and he does not deserve regards from the people. He knows that sovereignty belongs to the people and he cannot pretend to be the president of the people who did not appoint him to represent them.”


Burundi: Main opposition leader urges fresh poll

Burundi's main opposition leader has denounced the third consecutive term win by President Pierre Nkurunziza and has demanded fresh elections.

Agathon Rwasa, who won 18.99 percent of the vote despite saying he was unable to campaign properly, said on Saturday he would not oppose the formation of a unity government if its "primary mission is to prepare free and democratic elections".

Nkurunziza's candidacy was condemned as unconstitutional by the opposition and provoked months of protests and an attempted coup in mid-May.

How soon will #nkurunziza be sworn in? Some think "it will happen very soon. No sense in waiting too long" #burundicrisis #Burundi2015

— harumutasa/aljazeera (@harumutasa) July 25, 2015
His victory - taking 69.41 percent of the vote in the July 21 polls and handing him an immediate first-round victory - could prompt donor sanctions against the East African nation.

Although eight candidates were on the ballot for the presidential poll, most had withdrawn from the race after the closure of most independent media prevented them from campaigning.

The election commission insisted, however, that turnout in the polls was a healthy 73.44 percent.

There are also widespread fears the country, situated in the heart of  central Africa's troubled Great Lakes region, could plunge back into civil  war.

Earlier this week, Doctors with Borders (MSF) said that 2,500 Burundians were fleeing the unrest in the country into Tanzania every week, overwhelming aid agencies who say refugee facilities had now reached "breaking point".

Up to 167,000 Burundians have fled the country since April.

Source: Agencies

Friday, July 24, 2015

Burundi: Trouble ahead for as president set for hollow victory

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza is set to win a controversial third term in office, but analysts say his victory will be hollow, with the country divided, isolated and facing aid cuts.
Nkurunziza’s candidacy was branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war in 2006, but the president has succeeded in fighting off street protests and an attempted coup, all the while ignoring international criticism.

Presidential elections were held on Tuesday, but an opposition boycott, coupled with the stifling of debate with the closure of independent media, made it a de facto one-horse race. The results are expected to be released later Friday.

“Now the hard part starts for Nkurunziza, because Burundi is in a pre-conflict situation,” said Thierry Vircoulon, a researcher with the International Crisis Group (ICG).

“There has been an increase in armed violence, splits within the government multiply and show that power is challenged from within,” he said. “Burundians are afraid and continue to leave the country in anticipation of a conflict, the economy has slowed and agricultural production is likely to decline.”

Even before the months of violence that preceded the elections, the landlocked central African nation was ranked among the world’s poorest.

A Burundian analyst and researcher, who asked not to be named, said the president would be starting his third consecutive five-year mandate with a key handicap — his lack of legitimacy.

“The second is economic and social, because the country is already in a recession. The loss of some aid coupled with a decrease in domestic revenue will be very painful,” said the analyst.

“But his biggest challenge will be one of peace and security, given the violence and divisions brought about by his candidacy,” he said. “Part of the opposition has radicalised and increasingly thinks he only understands one language, that of violence.”

In the wake of the failed coup, some section of the army have regrouped, launching a rebellion in the north of the country.

– Going hardline? –

Faced with these challenges, Nkurunziza must choose between offering a gesture of peace to his frustrated opponents, or taking an even harder line.

Diplomats say Nkurunziza will be under pressure to offer concessions to the opposition and key donors, and sources from the ruling CNDD-FDD party have signalled a series of conciliatory measures will be taken.

These could include the formation of a national unity government, the release of demonstrators who were detained during weeks of street protests and the reopening of private radio stations that were shut during the coup attempt.

“For the short-term, Nkurunziza will make concessions, hoping for a softening of the positions of international partners,” said Vircoulon. “But this will not work in practice because there is nothing left to negotiate, and the opposition has radicalised and expanded.”

The Burundian analyst also said that in seeking to maintain his position and fight off coup plotters and defectors, Nkurunziza has purged intellectuals and moderates in favour of hardliners, “who will want to go all the way rather than seek compromise”.

These hardliners mainly include the old guard of the CNDD-FDD, a former Hutu rebel group that came out on top after the 1993-2006 civil war that left 300,000 dead.

According to French academic Christian Thibon, Burundi’s leadership may well choose to follow the path of the isolationist, paranoid and authoritarian Horn of Africa state of Eritrea.

“Burundi has gone from being a badly-managed state of law to being a lawless state,” said the Burundian analyst. “This drift will accelerate, even if the regime will try to make some cosmetic gestures.”


Burundi: US to review relations and aid over poll crisis

The US will review its relations and level of aid to Burundi over the next two months after the central African nation held a disputed presidential election earlier this week, the US ambassador to the country has said.

The US provides training and equipment worth about $80m a year for Burundi's military and security forces, along with other aid, supporting a nation now in crisis after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term on Tuesday.

Critics say seeking a third term was inconstitutional but Nkurunziza, who cited a court ruling saying he could run, is expected to be announced as the winner on Friday after an opposition boycott of the vote.

"Over the next couple of months we will be reviewing very carefully the level of our assistance, what programmes will be continued or not," Ambassador Dawn Liberi told the Reuters news agency on Thursday, adding it would be driven by policy concerns and administrative issues.

"It is a process that will obviously continue depending on what happens politically," she said, calling for steps to ensure full democratic freedoms, disarming militias and lifting curbs on the media after private radio stations were shut down.

"What we are calling for is for all parties to go back to the mediation process and try to forge a way forward that is inclusive," she said. The aim, she added, is to ensure US aid to the health, and other such, sectors is not affected.

Opponents say Nkurunziza violated the constitution by running in Tuesday's race.

The US and other donors had urged the president to stick to the two-term limit laid down in a peace deal that ended civil war in 2005.

'We prefer our dignity'

Weeks of protests in which demonstrators clashed with police preceded the June 29 parliamentary election, while explosions and gunfire erupted in Bujumbura before the presidential vote.

The government says the elections were fair and accuses the opposition of stoking tensions. Burundi, which relies on aid to fund half its budget, says it wants good ties with donors but will not let them dictate policies.

"We prefer our dignity, not people to come to impose their law and their point of view in our country," presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe told Reuters.

Some US aid has already been halted or disrupted, in part because some US personnel were pulled out of Burundi due to the unrest.

Washington's support includes training Burundi troops serving with an African Union force in Somalia.

The US has also imposed visa bans on some Burundian government officials, while not naming them.

European Union states have halted some aid and threatened further punitive steps.

Source: Agencies

Ghana: Electoral body rejects call for new voters’ register

The Electoral Commission has stated categorically it will not heed calls for a new voters’ register ahead of the 2016 elections.

Pressure group, Let My Vote Count Alliance, is on a war path with the electoral body after having raised red flags over the EC’s rejection of proposals for a new voters’ register.

The EC has maintained there is no need for a new register for the 2016 elections.

“The register is credible and accurate and fit to be used for any election in this country,” Christian Owusu-Parry of the Public Affairs section of the Commission said.

But the pressure group has warned the EC against the decision.

Below is the full statement read by the Convener for the group David Asante at a press conference today:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media, the Let My Vote Count Alliance called you here this morning for an important national matter. A matter that can make or break our infant democracy.

We are concerned because we believe the cost of fixing what is wrong is far lower than the cost of not doing it. Every sensible Ghanaian knows that the way we choose our democratically elected leaders has major defects which, happily, can be fixed. Yet, the body responsible for fixing it remains stubborn on perhaps the single most major defect: the electoral roll.

Tuesday, Mr Christian Owusu Parry, the Director of Public Affairs at the EC, said on Adom FM news that the Commission has no intention of changing the existing register. Is this really the position of the Charlotte Mensah-led EC? Ghanaians sincerely hope not. We know that was the position of Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan. But, what we want to know is this: has his successor as EC boss adopted this no new register position as well? If so, then we want to assure Mrs Osei that she should prepare for the ugly consequences.

Ladies and gentlemen, we find this no new register position very unfortunate and potentially dangerous and we hope it is not going to be the official position of the EC under its new boss. The EC, it must be noted, is yet to openly and formally engage the political parties, religious bodies and civil society organisations who are all raising concerns over the current register. Also the EC has not come out with any evidence refuting the case being made for a new register. The PRO's comment also indicates that, as usual, the EC has not learned any useful lessons from its spectacular recent mistakes and wants to conduct the 2016 elections with the same fraud-bewitched register, as we witnessed in the 2012 general elections.

We wish to warn the EC that it risks the stability and democracy of this country. The hard-line path it has taken on the register issue may plunge Ghana into an otherwise avoidable state of conflict if it doesn't listen to the calls for a new credible register to set the bases for credible elections next year.

We are worried also because Mali, Kenya and Cote d'Ivoire were all once the beacons of peace and stability in Africa until doubtful elections brought about conflicts and deaths.

Ghana has no special genetic profile which guarantees our immunity from conflict. The only thing that can guarantee us peace, stability and development is for us to have the courage to do what is just and right to protect and strengthen the integrity of our democracy.

If the EC wants peace it must give the country what the country needs, which is a new voters' register.

We find it difficult to understand the stubborn stance of the Electoral Commission, especially, when all the leading opposition political parties in the country, the NPP, CPP, PNC, PPP and NDP, have in various ways and degrees all stated that there are real problems with the 2012 register.

Moreover, number 4 on the list of the ruling NDC proposals submitted to the EC’s Electoral Reform Committee on 27th January 2014 states, “the Electoral Commission must conduct sustained and continuous voter registration subject to periodic rigorous auditing of the registers to maintain their integrity.” Whether the NDC is for a new register or not, the ruling party also appears to be saying that it is equally for a voters' register with assured "integrity".

Again, the NPP document to the EC Electoral Reforms Committee, dated 21st March 2014, paragraph 3 of it states, “In view of the impending registration of the District Assembly elections, we ask for an early meeting as the cleaning of the current register is of importance to all Ghanaians to ensure that multiple registrations such as were evidenced in court are removed and the continuing validity of the register assured.” Sadly, that meeting never took place.

Subsequently, the NPP's Bawumia Committee presented a comprehensive report on Electoral reforms, in January 2015, with the case for a new voters' register at the heart of it.

Again, just last week in the Daily Graphic, the Chairperson and Leader of the CPP, Madam Samia Yaba Nkrumah, underscored the need for a new register by saying, "In view of the controversies the current voters register has generated election year after election year, there is no doubt that we need to do something about it." She went on to stress, "We cannot go into the 2016 election with the old register."

The underlying statement from all the political parties is that the current register is faulty and must be fixed.

We have also heard some deliberate ploy to reduce the important call for a new register to one for mere "auditing" of the current register. The LMVCA wishes to make it absolutely clear that Ghana does not need a mere auditing of the 2012 register. What we want is a complete jettisoning of that discredited list for a new one. It is the only way to fix it.

Ghana is not ready for any fidgeting of a register which is fundamentally flawed. For those calling for an audit, we want them to tell us what exactly do they mean by that? What are the details and specifics of this audit?

Who will do the auditing? How transparent will that auditing be? Will it identify the estimated 4 million people who registered using a National Health Insurance Card? Can it identify foreigners on the register? Will it fish out the under age? Will it detect and delete all multiple registrations? Is the EC aware that the Supreme Court has ruled the use of NHIS card for the purposes of establishing voter eligibility as unconstitutional? Has the EC, since the ruling, come out to tell Ghanaians how many people specifically registered using NHIS cards? For the nearly one year since the ruling, why has the EC not taken any steps to purge the register of those who registered with NHIS cards in order to give them an early opportunity to register again?

Ladies and gentlemen, Ghana needs a new register. Ghana does not deserve any bogus audit of a bogus register.

Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot sit unconcerned and allow the Electoral Commission to risk the peace, stability and growth of Ghana’s democracy.

In fact, electoral violence is more expensive than a new register.

For our democracy to survive and grow, let us do what is right and just and let us start with a new register. We hope that the new EC boss will stamp her authority and integrity on this hot issue by changing the stubborn attitude of the EC against all legitimate calls for a new register.


David Boateng Asante
Spokesperson, LMVCA

Source: Ghana/

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Central African Republic: Court rules refugees have right to vote

Central African Republic's highest court has overturned a decision by the transitional parliament that would have barred tens of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries from voting in October's presidential election.

The court, in a decision made public on state radio on Tuesday, said parliament's June 30 decision to exclude refugees violated the 2013 Constitution which gives every adult citizen the right to vote.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says there are some 460,000 Central African refugees who fled the religious violence that erupted after the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in early 2013.

Some 80 to 90 percent of the refugees are believed to be Muslims who fled a backlash against Seleka's 10-month rule by a Christian militia, known as the 'anti-balaka'.

"The issue of technical and material organization should not allow us to deny to Central African citizens who fear for their lives, their right to vote," said the ruling by the Constitution Court, seen by Reuters.

UNHCR and other U.N. humanitarian bodies had voiced concern about the transitional assembly's decision. The refugees represent the majority of Muslims from a Christian-dominated population of around 4.5 million people.

Ongoing insecurity prevents many Muslims from going home, rights groups say.

Members of the transitional assembly had argued that allowing refugees to vote could lead to electoral fraud as they said Seleka had distributed Central African identity documents to foreigners.

A common refrain in the 'anti-balaka'-led reprisals against Muslims was that they were foreigners who had no place in Central African Republic.

Interim President Catherine Samba Panza, who is due to step down at the elections scheduled for Oct. 18, had opposed the decision by the transitional assembly and requested the court's opinion.

The court noted that, under the country's transitional charter, there is no appeal against its decisions.

An electoral census is under way in Bangui and has been extended until July 27. No census of refugee populations have been undertaken in neighboring countries, however.

In a sign of the violence still simmering in Central African Republic, the deputy prefect and the mayor of the western town of Baboua - on the main road from Cameroon - were kidnapped on Sunday by armed men, state radio said.

The U.N. mission (MINUSCA) said the rebel Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC) - a splinter group from Seleka led by Abdoulaye Miskine - was responsible for an increase in attacks in the region.

It said the driver of a U.N. food truck was shot dead in an ambush on Saturday.

Burkina Faso reshuffles government 3 months before elections

Burkina Faso interim President Michel Kafando has stripped the prime minister of the defence ministry as part of a reshuffle aimed at ensuring stability three months ahead of elections.

The reshuffle, announced late on Sunday, follows talks with political, religious and civil society leaders intended to resolve growing tensions between Prime Minister Isaac Zida and top military brass.

The tensions prompted the United Nations and African Union to warn against any interference in the West African country's transition ahead of elections on Oct. 11.

Burkina Faso's elite presidential guard, in which Zida was formerly a senior commander, threatened to arrest him last month after he pledged to curtail their influence. Residents also reported gunfire from their barracks last month in an apparent warning to transitional leaders.

"These changes should allow us to resolve the dysfunctional problems and frustration within the army," Kafando said on Saturday. He revealed the details of the reshuffle only on Sunday. Military sources said they had accepted the deal.

As part of the same reshuffle announced on Sunday, Colonel Auguste Denise Barry was dismissed as minister of territorial administration, decentralisation and security.

He was replaced by Youssouf Ouattara. Kafando also gave up his title of foreign affairs minister to Moussa Nebie.

Zida was briefly head of state in the immediate aftermath of long-ruling leader Blaise Compaore's departure from power in October as tens of thousands of people marched to protest a bid to extend his mandate.

The country's revolution last year is seen as a model by other pro-democracy groups across Africa who hope to prevent their leaders from trying to prolong their rules.

Source: Reuters

AU to provide training to Cote d’Ivoire’s electoral commission

The African Union Commission has undertaken to build the capacity of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) of Cote d’Ivoire, APA learns here.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the AU Commission said in accordance with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the Department of Political Affairs will provide training for the Ivorian CEI.

According to the statement, the Building Resources for Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDG) training will take place in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire from 7 to 17 July 2015 on the 25 modules of the BRIDGE curriculum.

“The training is part of the mandate of the African Union to provide technical support to member states in order to consolidate democracy on the continent. The training which uses the BRIDGE curriculum is delivered by international accredited facilitators, the statement adds.

The training programme in Cote d’Ivoire is part of a series of capacity building training programs by the DEAU for African Union member states in year 2015, the statement concluded.

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Cote d'Ivoire: Three concerns ahead of poll

By Alexis Adele:
Five years after Côte d'Ivoire's disputed presidential election threw the country into turmoil and left more than 3,000 dead, its people are set to go to the polls again. Could we see similar unrest this October or will the West African nation turn the page and move forward?

Former president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to quit when declared the loser of the 2010 election to Alassane Ouattara, is now in The Hague charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) with crimes against humanity.

Côte d'Ivoire's economy is booming and Ouattara has gained popularity. Gbagbo - seen as the only viable challenger - is unable to run.

There is every chance the vote will pass off peacefully, but this doesn't mean all has been forgiven between the two camps.

The Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was supposed to forge unity and resolve long-standing political and ethnic divisions, is one of the country's most unpopular institutions and Ouattara is accused by some of presiding over "victor's justice."

With less than three months to go until the election, human rights experts and political analysts identify three key areas of concern:

Political prisoners

The detention of as many as 700 political prisoners remains a deeply divisive issue. Supporters of Gbagbo demand their release, but his opponents say justice must be served.

"The current government is not willing to create the conditions for a peaceful society," Dahi Nestor, president of the pro-Gbagbo opposition's National Youth Coalition for Change, told IRIN. "It continues to keep innocent people in prison. This is an attack on democracy. A normal country cannot go to elections with hundreds of political prisoners in its jails."

Ouattara and his government maintain that those imprisoned were not arrested because of their political affiliation but because they broke the law. "We want reconciliation," the president said, "but we do not want a lawless country."

Selective justice?

The sentencing in March of former first lady Simone Gbagbo and two co-accused to 20 years in prison for "undermining state security" - and of some 65 others supporters of her husband to shorter terms -was confirmation to opponents of Ouattara of a lop-sided justice process.

Both sides were accused of civilian massacres in 2010-2011 and yet only those allied to the former president have been convicted of any crimes.

"Unfortunately, we will not have this equal justice before the next election, because the more we advance towards this deadline, the more that resources and attention are diverted to the polls," Barthélémy Touré, a political analyst in Abidjan, told IRIN.

Too scared to return

Côte d'Ivoire's constitution says no citizen can be forced into exile, but nearly 50,000 Ivoirians, including political and military exiles who fled to Liberia, Ghana, Togo and other countries during the 2010-2011 crisis, still cannot - or will not - return home, according to the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR.

Despite pleas from Ouattara for them to come back, many say they fear ending up in jail or being persecuted if they do.

Franck Kouakou Tanoh, a member of the Young Patriots - a pro-Gbagbo youth movement - has been exiled in Ghana since April 2011. "It is not the urge to return that we lack," he told IRIN by phone, adding that he just don't believe assurances that they will be treated fairly.

The opposition is also demanding the return of its leaders, including Gbagbo and former head of the Young Patriots Charles Blé Goudé, who is also awaiting trial by the ICC. The opposition says it plans to boycott the October elections if its demands aren't met.

Bisa Williams, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, who visited Côte d'Ivoire earlier this month to discuss the electoral preparations, urged all parties to remain involved in the process despite their differences.

"Certainly, Ivoirians have had a difficult time these last four years," she said. "But I have a feeling this negative energy is gone and that there will no longer be this big divide between people. It is true that there will always be disputes, but hopefully not any that will destroy the country."

Peter Kouame Adjoumani, president of the Ivoirian League of Human Rights, noted some progress but still had big concerns.

"There are important issues that have not been resolved and could explode the situation," he told IRIN.

By [This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

Nigeria: INEC promises improved performance in Kogi, Bayelsa elections

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has revealed its intention to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states to showcase its improved processes and rigour.

This was disclosed yesterday by the acting Chairman of INEC, Hajiya Amina Bala Zakari, while delivering a keynote address at the public presentation of the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room report on 2015 general election, with support from British Department for International Development (DFID) in Abuja.

Disclosing that the electoral body would apply lessons learnt from previous elections in raising the bar during the Kogi and Bayelsa exercise, she said: “In conducting elections in both states, the Commission will apply lessons learnt from the previous elections beginning with the stand alone governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States, and the general elections.”

Zakari, noted that the commission will continue to encourage participation in the electoral process, pointing out that INEC will carry out Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in both states. She said that those who registered will have their cards printed in timely fashion and voters’ transfers will also be supported for those two states.

She called for continued support from development partners and civil society organisations towards improving the electoral process, even as she assured Nigerians that: “INEC in partnership with the key stakeholders in the political parties, security and civic organisations will strive to ensure that both elections in Kogi and Bayelsa are transparent and well run.”

The acting chairperson warned that electoral malpractice would not be tolerated, as the commission would continue to drive transparency and effectiveness.

“Any INEC official found wanting in the tribunals will be punished to the full extent of the law,” she said, explaining that the commission’s transitional plans needed to lay the foundation for the future.

The key areas she mentioned include, continued drive for improvement of internal processes, staff re-orientation and training, push for recommendations to the National Assembly on electoral reforms such as ballot access restrictions to reduce voter confusion and diaspora voting, increased use of technology building on the card reader and e-track processes introduced in 2015.

“I am Baba Go Slow, I will be slow and steady” – Buhari
She listed other areas of improvement to include internal and external communications which would drive improved awareness with the public and staff and most importantly, a continued inclusive process with all stakeholders (political parties, civic organizations, security personnel, the NYSC.

-Daily Post Online

South Africa: ANC wins 7 out of 10 wards in by-elections

 In spite of being under fire over the Nkandla controversy and service delivery protests, the majority African National Congress (ANC) won seven out of 10 wards contested in by-elections around the country on Wednesday, according to results released by the Independent Electoral Commission on Thursday.

The party retained Ward 1 in the Makana municipality in the Eastern Cape near Grahamstown, with its candidate Melikaya Phongolo keeping the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) at bay with 77% of the votes in a poll where 44% of registered voters went to vote.

In KwaZulu-Natal's Umshwathi, (Wartburg), the ANC cleaned up with 95% in a 41% poll with its candidate Sbonelo Justice Luthuli, keeping the seat.

But in KwaZulu-Natal, in Ntamba, the Inkatha Freedom Party's Zakheleni Zibuse Xulu snatched the ward from the ANC with 53% of the vote where 55% of registered voters turned up.

In Limpopo's Blouberg (Bochum/My Darling), the ANC's Mmangwako Jonathan Sekgoloane was uncontested in a seat previously also held by the party.

Highly contested Western Cape

In Mpumalanga's Steve Tshwete municipality (Middelburg) where 21.9% of registered voters pitched, the ANC's Doctor Stefaans Khanyile retained the ward with 90.8%.

Kenneth Maluleka also retained a ward in Moretele (Makapanstad) for the party with 91%. Thirty-eight percent of voters voted.

In the highly contested Western Cape, the ANC's Dinah Okhuis took a ward in Matzikama (Vredendal) from the DA with 50.06%. Sixty-two percent of voters in the ward made their mark.

The ANC retained a ward in Langeberg (Robertson) with Benjamin Fanele getting 82% of the vote.

In a ward in Knysna, the DA's Mark Sydney Willemse retained one ward for the party with 68% of the vote and Peter Joseph Meyers getting 99% in another ward.

In a statement relating to its victory in Makana, the ANC's Eastern Cape  provincial spokesperson Mlibo Qhoboshiyane applauded voters for retaining the ''experienced'' party and considered it a taste of what was to come in next year's local government elections.

-Jenni Evans, News24

Burundi: 7 things you need to know to understand the elections

Burundi closed the polls in its controversial presidential elections Tuesday night amidst unrest throughout the country and the US criticism that the elections lack credibility.

Here's what you need to know about the elections:

1. Current President Pierre Nkurunziza is running for a third term. The Burundi constitution only permits two presidential terms.
The nation's constitutional court ruled that Mr. Nkurunziza is eligible because he was not elected for his first term, but rather appointed by legislators.

2. Nkurunziza took office 10 years ago after 12 years of violent civil war.
Nkurunziza was a rebel leader during this civil war. There has been frequent conflict in Burundi between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, since the country gained its independence from Belgium in 1962. Nkurunziza asserts that he needs a third term to maintain the non-violence the country has experienced under his leadership.

3. There has been opposition to the election in Burundi and abroad.
The US State Department said the elections "lack credibility." United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon asked the government to "to refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region." The European Union reduced some aid to the country as a punitive measure. In an unprecedented decision, the African Union did not send observers to the elections.

At home, there have been violent protests since Nkurunziza announced his candidacy in April. Large portions of the Burundian population are refusing to vote. Four of the major rival candidates are boycotting the election, though their names have been kept on the ballot. On Tuesday, two police officers were killed in the capital, Bujumbura, before polls opened. An opposition leader was found dead in a ditch nearby.

4. In May, a Burundi general tried to stage a coup to oust President Nkurunziza while he was out of the country.
The coup was blocked by loyalist troops and was unsuccessful. Coup leaders have gone into hiding, though they are still vocal in their opposition.

5. Independent media has been shut down.
The New York Times reported the government refused a request to reopen an independent radio station during a meeting with Western officials on Monday.

6. Thousands of people are fleeing Burundi amidst fears of more violence.
Dozens of civilians have been killed by police since April, and there are fears that ethnic violence will surge. According to Doctors Without Borders, as many as 1,000 people are fleeing into Tanzania daily, often on foot. "In the last two weeks, the number of people streaming across the border from Burundi has almost tripled. We can only expect that number to increase." The organization said in a statement.

7. Election results are expected to be announced Thursday.

Credit: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Burundi: UN chair urges parties to refrain from violence

In a “worrisome context,” and following the decision of the government of Burundi to hold the presidential election on 21 July, the United Nations chief called yesterday on the authorities to do all in their power to ensure security and a peaceful atmosphere during the polls.

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon further calls on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region,” reads the statement issued by the UN Spokesperson.

Mr. Ban reiterates his appeal for the resumption of a frank dialogue and urges parties to avoid undermining the progress achieved in “building democracy” since the signing of the Arusha Agreements, adds the statement.

The inter-Burundian dialogue that started on 14 July 2015 under the facilitation of Uganda has been indefinitely suspended.

“The Secretary-General notes that the suspension of the dialogue took place without agreement being reached on a range of issues that would have contributed to the creation of a climate conducive to the holding of credible and peaceful elections, as contained in the relevant recommendations of the East African Community (EAC) and the African Union.”

Recalling that the United Nations Electoral Observation Mission has deployed observers countrywide, the UN Chief calls on all parties to facilitate their work and, “in particular,” on the government to ensure their security.

According to the UN, civil unrest erupted on 26 April in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, after the ruling Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) party elected President Pierre Nkurunziza on 25 April as its candidate for the then-scheduled 26 June presidential election. It was postponed to July 15, then July 21.


Burundi: Votes counted as president seeks third term

Votes are being counted in Burundi, where there is tension over President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to stand for a third consecutive term.

Just under three-quarters of the country's 3.8m eligible voters turned out on Tuesday after a night of gunfire and explosions that claimed two lives.

The US State Department has joined critics saying the election lacks credibility.
The government accuses the opposition of provoking violent protests.

President Nkurunziza is running for a third term despite a limit of two terms in the constitution.
Two policemen were shot dead in the capital Bujumbura on Monday night, said Willy Nyamitwe, the president's chief communications adviser.

The body of an opposition official was found earlier on a road.

Election coverage: How it happened

The president's office described the latest protests as terrorist acts intended to disrupt the election.
In opposition areas of the capital, among the few who voted, many tried to wipe off the indelible ink on their fingers, fearing reprisals from opposition supporters.

Who is Pierre Nkurunziza?
Pierre Nkurunziza (16 September 2003)
Born in 1964
Rebel leader-turned president
Born-again Christian
Former sports teacher
Cycles and plays football
Married with two children
Father killed in ethnic violence in 1972

Why Burundi poll matters

Three minor opposition leaders are running for the presidency. Mr Nkurunziza's four main rivals, including Agathon Rwasa, boycotted the poll, but the electoral commission kept their names on the ballot paper.

The African Union (AU) did not send observers - the first time it has taken such a stance against a member state.

The US State Department and the European Union expressed concern that the elections were not free and fair.

At least 70 people have been killed in protests since Mr Nkurunziza announced in April that he was running for a third term.

In May, army generals opposed to his continuing rule failed to overthrow him in a coup.
An election official tallies ballots during counting for Burundi

Tensions between Burundi's ethnic Hutu majority - comprising some 85% of the 10.5 million population - and the country's Tutsi minority have flared up regularly since independence from Belgium in 1962.

Mr Nkurunziza led a Hutu rebel group fighting the Tutsi-dominated army until a peace deal led to him becoming president in 2005.

The Constitutional Court backed his argument that his first term in office did not count towards the two-term limit, as he was elected by MPs.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Burundi: Voting underway amid tension and opposition boycott

Polling stations have opened in Burundi's controversial presidential elections with Pierre Nkurunziza widely expected to win a third consecutive term.

Shortly before voting started on Tuesday, at least two people - a policeman and a civilian - were killed, according to witnesses, in a string of explosions and gunfire in the capital Bujumbura, the epicentre of three months of anti-government protests.

On Tuesday, Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Bujumbura, said that one of the opposition members was also killed overnight in the city's Nyakabiga neighbourhood. The incident prompted a big crowd to gather there in protest in the morning.

#burundicrisis #Burundi2015 man killed in #Nyakabiga. Body still on road. Ple tense. Big crowds on street #bujumbura

— harumutasa/aljazeera (@harumutasa) July 21, 2015
About 3.8 million Burundians are eligible to vote in the polls, which the opposition and civil society groups are boycotting, claiming they will not be free and fair.

The opposition have denounced the candidacy of the incumbent president as unconstitutional and a violation of the 2006 peace deal that ended a dozen years of civil war and ethnic massacres in 2006.

The nation's constitutional court has ruled in the president's favour, however, maintaining he is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by legislators - and not popularly elected - for his first term.

"Despite a facade of pluralism, this is an election with only one candidate, where Burundians already know the outcome," said Thierry Vircoulon, from the International Crisis Group, a think-tank that has warned the situation has all the ingredients to kick-start a renewed civil war.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has called on authorities to do all in their power to ensure security and a peaceful atmosphere during the election.

"He [Ban] further calls on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region," his spokesman said in a statement on his behalf.

More than two months of anti-Nkurunziza protests, which have often been violently repressed, have left at least 100 dead since late April.

Independent media has been shut down and many opponents have fled - joining an exodus of more than 150,000 Burundians who fear their country may again be engulfed by widespread violence.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Monday about a thousand people were fleeing each day into Tanzania, crossing the border "through the forest ... many travelling in the dark on foot and without belongings".

In mid-May, rebel generals attempted to overthrow Nkurunziza in a coup. After that failed, they launched a rebellion in the north of the country.

Last-ditch crisis talks mediated by Uganda broke down on Sunday.

"The government has opted to isolate itself and go ahead with pseudo-elections," said Leonce Ngendakumana, a prominent opposition figure, after talks collapsed.

"They have refused to save Burundi from sliding into an abyss," said Jean Minani, another opposition figure.

A poor and landlocked former Belgian colony, Burundi is situated in the heart of central Africa's troubled Great Lakes region.

Analysts say renewed conflict in the country could reignite ethnic Hutu-Tutsi violence and bring another humanitarian disaster on the region.

The conflict also risks drawing in neighbouring states - much like in the war-torn east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The last civil war in Burundi left at least 300,000 dead.

Source: Al Jazeera And AFP

Friday, July 17, 2015

Burundi: Group displeased with government position on election

The chief executive officer of the Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society (FORSC) in Burundi says President Pierre Nkurunziza’s administration has shown bad faith in the ongoing peace talks.

Vital Nshimirimana made the comment Thursday after the government issued a statement saying the presidential election will proceed on the July 21 rescheduled date, despite the peace negotiations.

Regional leaders recently chose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to help the Burundians resolve the crisis that has forced more than 140,000 to flee to neighboring countries.

The government’s announcement followed Thursday’s peace talks between representatives of the administration and oppositions groups mediated by Uganda’s Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga.

Nshimirimana questioned the impact the peace talks will now have on resolving the crisis, adding that the government’s action undermines efforts to restore peace in the East African country.

“This is to say that the government doesn’t want to listen to other parties and the same being the cause of the crisis. So, this is a message that might say that the government is in bad faith of talking with other parties,” said Nshimirimana.

He said the opposition and civil society groups are disappointed. Nshimirimana said the crisis will worsen if the administration insists on proceeding with the election without resolving opposition concerns. He also said the opposition and civil society groups would consider abandoning the talks.

“People were surprised to see the call from the government to hold the election on the 21st July,” said Nshimirimana. “This might be the [the cause of] the escalation of the conflict, and this is the worse message to send to the people, to the facilitator and to the other parties as well.”

Nshimirimana said the government seems to have dismissed Museveni’s suggestion that the presidential vote be postponed to allow challenges the country faces to be resolved at the negotiations before the election.

Foreign Minister Alan Nyamitwe told VOA the negotiations have been positive, which he said could help reduce tensions ahead of the election.

"It has never been the case that the sides would have to resolve all the issues before the elections…They said some of the issues have to be discussed among stakeholders so that the elections are held in a less tense environment and that is exactly what has been going on. Although we wish that the region and other international actors were here even before long time we entered into this situation," said Nyamitwe.

But Nshimirimana said the government appears to want to repeat the circumstances surrounding the legislative and local elections. Opposition groups boycotted those elections citing security concerns. They contend that Nkurunziza is violating the constitution by his decision to lead the ruling CNDD-FDD party to seek a controversial third term.

Supporters of the administration, however, insist that the CNDD-FDD can choose whomever the group wants to lead the party in the presidential vote.


Rwanda: Opposition decries over leader's jail conditions

 A Rwandan opposition group on Thursday decried what it said was a "sharp deterioration of prison conditions" for its jailed president, Victoire Ingabire, although authorities in Rwanda dismissed the complaint as purely political.

Ingabire was sentenced in December 2013 to 15 years in jail for "conspiracy in harming authorities through terrorism and war" and for playing down Rwanda's 1994 genocide, in which at least 800 000 people were killed by Hutu extremists.

She returned to Rwanda in 2010 to run for election against President Paul Kagame but her party was barred and she was arrested after publicly asking that the perpetrators of crimes against Hutus should also be punished, comments that the authorities said amounted to "genocide denial", a crime in Rwanda.

"Since Friday, July 10, 2015, the management of the central prison in Kigali decided to severely tighten the prison regime of Madame Victoire Ingabire, leader of the United Democratic Forces (UDF), without any explanation," wrote UDF party vice president Boniface Twagirimana.

The party alleged that Ingabire's lawyer had been prevented from meeting with his client, "on the grounds that he had nothing more to do at the prison since his client has already been sentenced".

The letter also alleged that Ingabire's books had been confiscated and she was prevented from speaking with visitors. Twagirimana said the new measures were "draconian" and "amount to mental torture".

But the head of the country's prison service, Paul Rwarakabije, dismissed the complaint.

"This open letter from this party, which is not currently recognised in our country, is a tract," he told AFP in Kigali, explaining that Ingabire's lawyer had been denied access because he had visited the prison outside the normal visiting hours.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tanzania: Meet Magufuli, the man set to take over the presidency

John Pombe Magufuli who was named CCM’s candidate for the presidency will be four days shy of his 56 birthday when the country goes to the ballot in October this year to pick President Jakaya Kikwete’s successor.

If he emerges victorious, Dr Magufuli will become the fifth president of the United Republic of Tanzania, capping a political career spanning 20 years.

He first went into politics during the 1995 elections as MP for Chato, then aged only 36 years.

This was after a short stint teaching Chemistry and Mathematics at Sengerema Secondary School between 1982 and 1983.

Thereafter, he quit his teaching job and was hired by the then giant Nyanza Cooperative Union Ltd as an Industrial Chemist. He remained there from 1989 to 1995 when the political bug bit.

Public records filed with CCM, show that Dr Magufuli was not engaged for the six year period between quitting teaching and getting a job with the Cooperative Union.

The political star of the Works Minister began to shine early, landing an appointment as deputy minister for Works in his first term as MP.

Former president Benjamin Mkapa is credited with putting Magufuli on a strong pedestal, promoting him to a full ministerial position the following election. Interestingly, it was at the same Works Ministry where the minister has cut his teeth as a no-nonsense politician and public servant.

When President Kikwete came to power in 2005, he moved Dr Magufuli to the Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development Ministry. He was briefly moved for two years to the ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries between 2008 and 2010.

President Kikwete would also show faith in the minister when during his last term in office he appointed him to his old docket at the ministry of works. Magufuli said over 17,000 kilometres of tarmacked road was built over the last 10 years.

His appointment to take the baton from Kikwete was not entirely surprising for those who have tracked his career in politics and public service.

In between his political work, Dr Magufuli furthered his studies and obtained his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Dar es Salaam in 2009. Prior to that, he had earned a Master of Science in Chemistry from the same University and a bachelors degree from the University of Salford in the UK in 1994.

He did his early schooling in Mkwawa College of Education where he graduated with a diploma in Education Science. He is an alumni of Mkwawa High School in Iringa, Katoke seminary in Biharamulo and Chato Primary School.

Dr Magufuli is a member of several professional associations and has also published six professional papers in the course of his academic and political career. He has also bagged several awards and earned merit for his work, mainly in infrastructural development in the country and in the EAC region and Africa.

He is married to Ms Janet Magufuli.

-The East African online

Burundian exiles, opposition to form transitional council

High profile exiles of the ruling CNDD-FDD party intend to form a national transitional council in a new bid to unseat embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Burundi’s former second vice president Gervais Rufyikiri, who last month fled to Belgium, is behind the push to establish the National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Accord and the Rule of Law in Burundi.

The new group, formed because of Mr Nkurunziza’s “rejection of any form of dialogue”, is also backed by another Belgium exile, Pie Ntavyohanyuma, a former president of the National Assembly.

In a statement seen by The EastAfrican, the conveners of the council said they were prompted to form the group following the president’s intent “to move forward with flawed presidential elections in an atmosphere of violence”.

“All proposals of political compromise in the interest of the common good have been ignored,” the statement read.

“Not only did Mr Nkurunziza and his clique violate Burundi’s fundamental law in regards to Presidential third term, they have also consistently refused to participate in the fundamental exercise of political dialogue.”

Sources in Burundi say the national council has received the backing of General Godefroid Niyombare, who led the failed coup-bid in May 13 and is currently mounting a resistance against the regime in the country’s north.

The conveners of the council have also asked civil society leaders and the opposition and members of parliament to join them in this new push to remove the president from power.

A meeting in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia will be convened soon to iron out the details regarding the formation of the new movement.

“We invite all political forces and all members of civil society of good faith to urgently meet in Addis Ababa, historical seat of the institutions of the African Union, to agree on the establishment and set up modalities of a National Council,” the statement read.

The Council, which aims to provide alternative leadership in the event the president and his regime leave power, has backed Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni’s mediation efforts, but said it is only open to dialogue within the framework of the Arusha Accord and the country’s constitution.

It has asked the Burundian people and the international community to support this new initiative “based on the need for the reinstatement of the rule of law”.

Other high profile figures that have showed support for the new move include Hussein Rajabu, a former powerful chairman of the ruling party.

Also in the council is Alexis Sinduhije, founder of the popular Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) and leader of the opposition party Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD) that was behind the street protests in the capital Bujumbura.

Pacifique Ninahazwe, a leading civil society leader who also organised the protests, including all CNDD-FDD MP's in exile and former presidents of the country.

Rwanda: US opposed to president Kagame's third term bid

The United States on Wednesday reiterated its opposition to a third term for Rwanda President Paul Kagame.

The US comment, made in response to a query from The EastAfrican, follows the Rwandan Parliament's vote to amend the country's constitution to remove a provision barring a president from serving more than two terms.

"The United States has consistently called for African leaders across the continent to respect term limits," said Rodney Ford, spokesman for the State Department's Africa Bureau.

"We do not support changing constitutions to benefit the personal or political interests of individuals or parties."

Washington said last month in regard to the move to enable Mr Kagame to run again that "democracy is best advanced through the development of strong institutions, not strongmen." The State Department added in June: "We are committed to support peaceful, democratic transition in 2017 to a new leader elected by the Rwandan people."

Despite apparently broad support in Rwanda for Mr Kagame remaining in office beyond 2017, the Obama administration's disapproval is likely to carry weight for the country dependent on development aid from the US.

State Department officials have also criticised Rwanda's human rights record under President Kagame, who first took office in 2003.

"Alongside Rwanda’s remarkable development progress, there have been equally consistent efforts to reduce space for independent voices and to diminish the ability of the media, opposition groups and civil society to operate," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Feldstein recently told the US Congress.

The Rwandan Parliament's move to change the constitution is the first step in a process that also must also involve a national referendum. But the outcome of such a vote would generate little suspense.

More than half the country's enrolled voters are reported to have signed a petition calling for revision of the article in the constitution limiting a president to two terms.

- The East African

Ghana: Ghanaians urged to patronise district level elections

Mr Nana Addo-Aikins, a legal practitioner and former public tribunal chairman, has highlighted the need for Ghanaians to patronise the upcoming district level elections as the surest way to development.

He said the elections should be supported because metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies are closer, more directly accessible to the people and most crucial to their development.

In a statement issued to stakeholders of local governance, he noted that Ghana’s current system of democracy, which surrenders the people’s democratic rights to others who think and act for the people, “has woefully failed the nation and its people”.

“Ghanaians indeed abandon or neglect or avoid the upcoming district, municipal and metropolitan-level elections and others to follow, at their own peril, since this is where their true emancipation from poverty, disease, ignorance and non-development lie,” Mr Addo-Aikins said in the statement.

The former public tribunal chairman called on Ghanaians to avoid any form of political party sponsorship and vote-buying politics as that would result in the surrender of their powers, authority and resources to be used against them.

He also urged Ghanaians to put up “a serious resistance” against attempts by politicians to introduce partisanship into the elections, which could shut out “useful non-partisan elements in society who would want to contribute to nation building on a non-partisan basis”.

The statement said the time has come for the people to use their political power to think and develop themselves by getting involved in local governance, which would win them their fair share of resources for development.

Source: GNA