Friday, January 29, 2016

DRC: Opposition pushes for elections in 2016

The policemen block our path and one taps on our car window. We roll it down and ask him where the meeting is. We are here for a gathering organised by the political opposition in Ngiri Ngiri, a bustling commune in the centre of Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital.

The police officer, muscular and chewing insouciantly, tells us that we have been misinformed and that no opposition events are being held in the Kimbanguist religious centre 20 metres ahead.

His lie is exposed by a small group of activists who appear at the car's other window and afterwards by the stream of people filing out of the building under instructions from the large police cohort patrolling this otherwise unremarkable part of the city.

It is Tuesday, January 19, and similar scenes are playing out at most of the 44 sites across Kinshasa where Citizen Front 2016 - a large coalition of opposition political parties and civil society organisations formed a month ago - have arranged a series of conferences followed by church services to commemorate the killing, one year before, of opposition demonstrators by security forces. Exactly how many people were killed is disputed; the International Federation for Human Rights puts the number at 42, the government at 27.

It is still unclear how many of the government's political opponents were arrested on the anniversary day - some put the number at around 40; others above 100. But Pierrot Mwanamputu, spokesperson for the Congolese National Police, told Al Jazeera that everyone detained was soon released.

"Early in the morning, the government sent soldiers and policemen to the site allotted to me and my party where they blocked our access and arrested five of my activists," said Martin Fayulu, a leading figure within the Citizen Front. "They told the priest to stop the mass, not only here but at all the other sites too."

Albert Moleka is a founding member of the Citizen Front and a veteran of Congolese politics. He was supposed to attend the conference in Ngiri Ngiri, but says: "The regime wants no opposition demonstrations in Kinshasa at all."

Both Moleka and Vital Kamerhe, a Citizen Front heavyweight who finished third in the flawed presidential elections in 2011, claim that the police were assisted by machete-wielding thugs loyal to the DRC's president, Joseph Kabila, who harangued and intimidated opposition activists.

The United Nations' mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, has not gathered any evidence to substantiate these allegations at this point, but Jose Maria Aranaz, the director of the UN's Joint Human Rights Office, told Al Jazeera that "there was a concerted effort by the police and the ANR [the intelligence agency] to impede the opposition's demonstrations from taking place".

Police spokesperson Mwanamputu justified the clampdown by saying that the organisers had published leaflets of "seditious character calling on the population to rebel against" the government and had not secured proper authorisation - something opposition leaders insist was not required.

Joseph Kabila

Kabila has been the DRC's president since 2001, when he succeeded his father who was shot by a bodyguard during the country's civil war.

He was first elected five years later and renewed his mandate in late 2011. The president's party, the PPRD, often holds public events.

"The double standards in the application of the law when banning opposition rallies is contrary to a level playing field," Aranaz said.

That the clampdown on the opposition gatherings came on the day they were due to mark the one-year anniversary of the protests - and the resulting violent crackdown - in January 2015, gave it added significance.

Protesters took to the streets of the capital and other cities last January to oppose a draft law that would allow Kabila to extend his stay in power beyond his current mandate, which ends in December 2016. The law called for a new, nationwide census to serve as the basis for the voter list and distribution of parliamentary seats - an undertaking that could take years in a country as vast and poorly connected as DRC.

The opposition saw it as an attempt by Kabila and his supporters to buy time during which he could engineer a modified constitution that would allow him to run for a third term in office.

The census provision was removed from the legislation that was subsequently passed, but the opposition says it was only ever one of numerous methods available to Kabila to delay the holding of elections.

The most effective method, some say, has been to undermine the workings of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), chiefly by withholding funds allocated to it in the national budget.

Lambert Mende, the communications minister, told Al Jazeera that it is "completely false" that the government could block the electoral process and that CENI, not the government, is charged with organising elections. But this is the electoral commission that members of the opposition claim is undeserving of the "independent" in its name.

According to Jason Stearns, the director of the Congo Research Group at New York University, the opposition's accusations are justified. "The political influence on the electoral commission has been clear," says Stearns. "While, in theory, the political opposition can nominate members to the body, almost none of those are still recognised by the opposition."

Indeed, a timetable prepared by CENI in mid-January and distributed to embassies in Kinshasa shows that the electoral commission foresees it taking between 13 and 16 months just to update DRC's electoral roll.

At its unveiling just before Christmas, the Citizen Front gave the government an ultimatum: It must "unblock the electoral process" before the end of January and allow CENI to publish an electoral calendar. Should Kabila fail to meet this fast-approaching deadline, the opposition coalition has promised to launch a programme of nonviolent resistance.

But this red line appears largely symbolic, and few expect a meaningful organisation of elections to get under way before February. Even the leaders of the Citizen Front seem to doubt that much will change. "The government won't unblock the electoral process," said Martin Fayulu.

He thinks Kabila may nominate "a weak successor" if he encounters a strong and united opposition, but believes that the president's "first choice is to violate the constitution and carry on as president without elections".

Moleka adds: "Kabila's logic is that it's him or chaos and civil war."

"Elections will not be held because of lack of political will. If President Kabila could run, then elections would take place," says Vital Kamerhe.

The Citizen Front

The leaders of the Citizen Front say they expect what happened on January 19 to serve as a template for the rest of the year.

The opposition coalition has a march scheduled for February 16, but Moleka says he is convinced that "all our peaceful actions will be repressed".

Despite being just a month old, the Citizen Front already finds itself in an uncertain position. On the one hand, it represents a singular achievement for the DRC's famously fractious opposition. The country's largest opposition party, the UDPS, is currently riven by factionalism and it is unclear whether it will join the platform, but all the other main anti-Kabila parties have lined up under the banner of the Citizen Front.

Furthermore, among the founding signatories is Moise Katumbi, a former Kabila confidante who split with the president in September 2015. Katumbi, the former governor of resource-rich Katanga, is wealthy and popular, as well as the owner of the football team TP Mazembe.

For the moment, the Citizen Front appears united and the leading figures have spoken of the importance of the coalition supporting a single candidate for the presidency. Katumbi is currently thought to be best placed to challenge Kabila, but he will need to convince a diverse alliance of party bosses and their followers to lend him their backing.

Yet, as Moleka wryly observes, "The question of a joint candidate really isn't the problem du jour" and such talk is getting wildly ahead of political realities.

The events of January 19 appear to demonstrate the extent to which the game is rigged in Kabila's favour as he continues to control the levers of economic and political power. Furthermore, following an emergency ruling by the Constitutional Court in September 2015, 21 out of DRC's 26 provinces are now ruled by appointees of the president rather than governors elected by provincial legislatures.

It is difficult to gauge how much support the opposition commands on the streets of Kinshasa and across the country. The opposition controls many seats in the national assembly, but will it actually be able to build a mass movement capable of forcing the president to call elections?

The Congo Research Group's Stearns notes that "in the DRC's recent history, there is little track record of mass mobilisation leading to political change".

The opposition has had "a hard time creating leverage in the streets - even after extremely flawed elections in 2011", he adds.

Yet, despite this note of caution, Stearns believes that "We are in new waters now as many political powerbrokers [such as Katumbi] have joined the opposition and we have a new generation of Congolese youths trying to create a new movement around a new social philosophy."

But, however united, popular and energised it is, the opposition faces an uphill struggle in its quest for elections and the first peaceful transfer of power since independence.

Source: Al Jazeera

Morocco: Parliamentary elections to happen in 2016

AEPMorocco’s parliamentary elections have been slated for October 7 according to a government source. This will be the second time since constitutional reforms were adopted in 2011 to address unrest during the Arab Spring that plagued the country.

Though the new constitution gave the elected government more powers, King Mohammed VI, who became King of Morocco after the demise of his father King Hassan II, still holds the final authority.

A government statement read, “The next parliamentary elections will take place on Oct. 7, 2016,”. The ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) that won the 2011 elections is expected to win again in the face of austerity measures the party is currently pursuing.


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Somalia: Leaders accept roadmap for elections

[AEP] Somalia’s political leaders, on Thursday, agreed on a roadmap to organise elections this year after 2 days of intense discussions in the capital, Mogadishu. 

The election is expected to bring peace and stability to the long-stressed East African country. The agreement will lead to the creation of an upper house of parliament which has 54 seats apportioned among Somalia's states.

Meanwhile, a power-sharing system will be used share the current 275 seats in the lower house of parliament among the country's 4 main clans and the smaller ones using the 4.5 formula. 30% of all seats will be reserved for women. This upcoming parliament, when created, will select a president to replace incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who has been in office since 2012.

Dates for the elections are yet to be given.


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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Africa’s 2015 election experiences present dilemmas for 2016 polls

This year, like 2015, promises to be yet another busy year in Africa’s electoral democracy stakes. More than a third of the continent’s 54 countries will conduct polls.

All elections are important, but in some countries they carry particular weight. Key ones coming up are:

Senatorial, state and federal constituency elections in Nigeria. In Africa’s most populous nation elections can serve as a yardstick for advancing electoral democracy. This year’s elections are expected to lead to further governance reforms. They follow last year’s presidential poll which ushered in a new government.

Burkina Faso also experienced fundamental change in 2015 with the departure of President Blaise Compaore. The change must be consolidated with electoral participation of citizens and normalisation of politics in soon-to-be-held municipal elections.

Elections in the Central African Republic will be closely watched. They present an opportunity for stabilising a country that has experienced conflict.

Zambia’s situation is unique. Its recent elections led to a change of government through the ballot — a rare phenomenon in African politics. Presidential and general elections are due in August.

Uganda’s presidential poll will undoubtedly test President Yoweri Museveni’s entrenchment of power. Uganda will face the challenge of adhering to international and African Union election standards by ensuring level playing fields for all candidates.

The DRC presidential election set for November will also be scrutinised because of previous violence and the country’s propensity for instability.

Ghana’s general elections in November might provide lessons on how to trust in the power of the ballot and run elections peacefully. But its leadership faces severe constraints given that the economy is in the doldrums. It has had to turn to the IMF for assistance.

South Africa will arguably hold its most important municipal elections since 1994. To be held between May and August, the elections will test the popularity of the governing African National Congress. Signs are its support is falling in some municipalities.

Elections in the coming year will be held as economic growth shows signs of slowing in Africa. Tougher economic times might heighten electoral stakes.

The good and the bad of 2015

In 2015 almost 20 African countries held municipal, regional, general, presidential elections and by-elections. Two referenda were also held in Rwanda and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).

Rwanda’s citizens apparently voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending President Paul Kagame’s term of office, possibly until 2034. The referendum ostensibly suggests that the incumbent respects the popular will by subjecting the term limit to the vote.

The Republic of Congo’s President Dennis Sassou Nguesso also called a referendum to amend the presidential term and age limits, a move rejected by opposition parties. He thus joined African leaders who devise innovative means to cling to power while opposing the provisions of the African Charter on democracy, elections and governance.

But how significant are elections in Africa?

Regular changes of government through free, fair and democratic elections that reflect the wishes of the majority of voters are critical for democratisation.

The 2015 polls could tempt us to perceive elections as a reliable measure of democratisation. But 2015 presented mixed opportunities and drawbacks for democratisation. A major drawback is that some leaders clung to power and elections simply became rubber stamping exercises for the incumbents. This happened in the DRC, Rwanda, Congo (Brazzavile) and Gabon.

Elections are an essential component of democratisation, but other more important measures include:

narrowing the rich-poor gap,

improving living standards and promoting active citizenship,

freedom of expression and media,

respect for human rights and rule of law, and

accountable public representatives.

Isolated successes were registered in last year’s elections. Some countries for once conducted polls acceptable to local opposition parties, civil society and domestic and international observers. Fewer incidents of violence were seen. Tanzania was a particular case in point.

But, nothing spectacular emerged from Africa’s 2015 elections. Some polls actually perpetuated the usual stereotype of violent elections that threaten peace, stability and democratisation.

They also presented doubts about some incumbents’ legitimacy to rule.

Unfulfilled expectations

There were high expectations about the impending polls early in 2015.

First, they were expected to continue the 1990s trend of further democratisation but with the hope that they would comply with international and African Union standards. Such elections must have integrity, be free, fair and reflect the wishes of the electorate.

Zambia’s presidential elections early in 2015 following the death of President Michael Sataprovided some interesting lessons. The opposition claim that the election results did not reflect the will of the people.

The process therefore remains incomplete. Zambians will hold presidential elections followed by parliamentary and local government polls in August.

Second, Africa’s 2015 elections were expected to consolidate democracy at least in countries that now hold regular polls.

And thirdly, the 2015 elections were also expected to help produce leaders with greater legitimacy and accountability.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ethiopia, Burundi and the DRC produced results where the pendulum swung towards questionable and mediocre ends contrary to election best practices. Thus, this expectation remains unfulfilled.

Ethiopia’s election results suggested a landslide victory for its governing party despite opposition allegations of irregularities. Such scenarios usually create legitimacy crises and may undermine government’s accountability.

For Burundi, the current turmoil is traceable to its questionable elections after ignoring advice that they be postponed to allow for a more conducive atmosphere. The subsequent polls were boycotted by the opposition. They were also shunned by African and international observers.

Third term machinations

Admittedly, citizens have a right to propose constitutional amendments to allow leaders to govern for as long as electorates want. But the tendency by some leaders to extend terms by manipulating national constitutions weakens democratisation and constitutionalism.

President Pierre Nkurunziza’s amendment of Burundi’s constitution and his decision to run for a disputed third term is a case in point.

The era of military coups, dictatorship and authoritarianism might be declining. But leaders who resort to manipulating electoral and constitutional mechanisms and intimidating citizens to prolong their stay in power pose new challenges.

Research suggests that Africa’s elections are struggling to enhance its democratic trajectory. Examining the 2015 elections in Lesotho, Burundi, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger, Sudan, Togo, Benin, Comoros and Egypt hardly inspires confidence. This does not augur well for Africa’s 2016 polls, nor future elections.

Kealeboga J Maphunye: Wiphold-Brigalia Bam Chair in Electoral Democracy in Africa, University of South Africa

This article was first published in The Conversation

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Central African Republic: Court annuls vote

[ Jean-Louis Gondamoyen  Andres R Martinez, Bloomberg] The Central African Republic’s constitutional court upheld the results of the first round of presidential elections last month, while annulling the legislative vote because of “numerous irregularities.”

A vote to choose lawmakers will have to be carried out again, Zacharie Ndouba, the head of the court, told reporters in the capital, Bangui, on Monday. The court rejected complaints of fraud made by five out of 30 candidates in the presidential election because they didn’t provide evidence, Ndouba said.

The war-torn nation held presidential and legislative elections on Dec. 30. The constitutional court was to validate the results that had been announced by the electoral authority within 15 days of the vote, but asked for more time because of the large number of complaints and objections it had received.

The Central African Republic will hold a presidential runoff on Jan. 31 after none of the candidates in the diamond-rich nation garnered more than half of the votes. Former Prime Minister Anicet-Georges Dologuele got the most support, followed by Faustin-Archange Touadera, who also previously served as prime minister.


Monday, January 25, 2016

EC clears Ayariga’s new APC for 2016 polls

The Electoral Commission of Ghana is expected to provide a provisional license to Hassan Ayariga to operate his newly formed political party - the All People’s Congress (APC).

Ayariga defected from the People’s National Convention (PNC) over a month ago when he lost in his bid to lead the party in the 2016 elections.

The EC will be presenting the provisional license to him by Friday, January 29, 2016. His license takes effect from 2015 to 2016.

Reports have it that Ayariga, who lost the PNC bid to Dr Edward Mahama, already has over 150 offices across Ghana.

A Gynaecologist-cum-politician, Dr Mahama beat Ayariga to become the PNC presidential candidate.

Mahama, who led the party in the 1996 elections through to the 2008 polls before being succeeded by Hassan Ayariga in the 2012 elections, polled 492 votes as against Ayariga’s 426 votes.

The defeat did not go down well with Ayariga who then broke ranks with the Nkrumahist grouping.


Comoros: Campaign kicks-start ahead of April election

[Elvis Boh] Campaign has started in Comoros ahead of the country’s presidential election to be held February 21.

Former president Azali Assoumani launched the campaign this Sunday in Moroni.

He reminded citizens that electoral fraud has caused untold suffering in many countries across Africa.

“I call on all competent authorities to ensure that transparency reigns during this election. The choice of the next president should not be contested in any way,” former president Asali Assoumani, who ruled Comoros from 2002 to 2006, said.

Supporters turned out massively wearing t-shirts around the Ajao stadium located in the central town.

The top three candidates are expected to face a run-off on the April 18.

Twenty five candidates have been confirmed by the constitutional court.

Most of the hopefuls come from Grande Comorre which is next in line to hold the post according to a 2001 constitutional provision.

Out of a population of 800,000 people, about 160,000 are eligible to vote.

Comoros gained independence from France in 1975 and has withnessed 20 coup attempts.

The country depends mostly on funds from the diaspora where many migrants live .

Comoros is one of the world’s largest producers of ylang ylang which is used in perfumes.


Niger: 1.5 million cannot vote in February presidential election

[Elvis Boh] About 1.5 million people cannot vote in next month’s election in Niger due to inability to prove their identity.

According to Alkassoum Indatou, spokesman of the presidential majority, the political class has failed to arrive at a consensus .

The leading opposition party linked the situation to the inability to vote by witness.

Other voters have started withdrawing their voters cards . About 8 million cards are being distributed until the 20th of February.

The chairman of the electoral commision has urged voters to withdraw their cards as soon as possible because this will not be possible on voting day.

Niger’s electoral register has been validated by the parties involved in the upcoming election.

Fifteen candidates are expected to start campaigning on January 20.
Opposition parties have decried the arrest of opposition leaders in December last year.

The Nigerien government has defended itself by indicating that some of the opposition leaders were involved in plans to take president Issoufou’s power by force.

The February 21 election in Niger comes at the time when the country is worried about terrorism threats from neighbouring countries.

The country recently joined Nigeria, Benin and Cameroon in a regional coalition against Boko Haram.


Chad: Presidential elections slated for April 10

(AFP) - Chad will hold presidential elections on April 10, the country's Independent National Electoral Commission announced on Saturday.

Current head of state Idriss Deby Itno -- in power since 1990 after overthrowing former president Hissein Habre -- is expected to be designated as candidate by his party, the Patriotic Salvation Movement, on February 6.

Deby, born in 1952, modified the constitution in 2004, scrapping its two-term limit on presidential tenure, and won the following elections by a huge majority.

Two opposition figures, Kassire Coumakoye and Malloum Yobode, have already declared they will run.

Candidates have from February 10 to 29 to file their bid. A runoff vote will be held on May 9 if no outright winner emerges from the first round in April.

An oil-rich central African country with entrenched poverty, Chad is playing a pivotal role in the military campaign against the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram.

On November 9, the government declared a state of emergency in the flashpoint Lake Chad region, which straddles Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Equatorial Guinea: Election census takes off

Equatorial Guinea has began the election census process on Friday in preparation for the Presidential elections.

The official radio station announced that the voters’ census for the presidential election will begin on January 15 and finish on January 30.

The presidential election is planned to take place in November, but according to some sources in Malabo, it could be moved forward to June. The previous election saw a total of 291,000 registered as voters.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has lead the country since 1979. His regime has always been under criticism for its repression to opponents.

In a joint press statement, three opposition political parties – The Social Democracy Convergence(CPDS), the Innovation Citizens (CI) and the right center Union (UCD) questioned the legitimacy of the census and also put forward their lack of transparency to the whole system.

With the discovery of oil in Equatorial Guinea in 1990s, the country has been able to rip big but this has not reflected in lives of its citizens. Low life expectancy, limited access to basic facilities and high child mortality has continued to retard the growth of its citizens.


Congo: Opposition to run against Sassou Nguesso in March election

(Reuters) - Congo Republic's opposition has conditionally agreed to run against President Denis Sassou Nguesso in an election in March, even though it is widely seen as unlikely to secure what would be the first change in leadership in nearly 20 years.

Congo's veteran leader has ruled the oil-rich former French colony for 31 of the past 36 years in two separate spells and is widely expected to run in March and win comfortably, whether or not the opposition participates.

Opposition parties boycotted an October referendum on whether the president could legally seek a third consecutive term, a vote that Sassou Nguesso won by a landslide.

Some observers expected them to also refuse to participate in the March vote.

"We are working on the best strategy on behalf of our political family in order to win the presidential election," said Charles Zacharie Bowao, a former defense minister now in the opposition, at the meeting late on Wednesday.

He added that the opposition, which in the past has suffered from internal divisions, have not yet decided whether they will present a single opposition candidate or several.

View galleryOpposition leaders attend a ceremony honouring people …
Opposition leaders attend a ceremony honouring people killed in protests against a referendum changi …
The two main opposition alliances Initiative for Democracy in Congo and The Republic Front for the Respect of the Constitutional Order and Democratic Transition (FROCAD) will participate so long as there is an independent electoral commission and voter lists are reliable, among other conditions.

Congo Republic is deemed "not free" by U.S.-based democracy watchdog Freedom House. Security forces fired on anti-government protesters during the October referendum, killing at least four people, while some opposition leaders were placed under house arrest by presidential guards.

The government said detentions were necessary to restore order and accused the opposition of planning an insurrection.

Attempts by other veteran African leaders to extend their mandates have also led to unrest such as in Burundi where President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term has sparked violence, killing more than 400 people.

Analysts said that the risk of street violence in Congo's polls would be greater if the opposition participates, since they are more likely to denounce irregularities and provoke public anger.

(Reporting by Christian Elion; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Uganda: EU to analyse Uganda's elections campaign funding

[By Halima Abdallah] In spite of Uganda's failure to implement a host of technical recommendations made in the last General Election, the European Union election observer team has introduced a new criterion in its mission - ascertaining sources and values of funds that candidates are using in the campaigns.

Though being implemented for the first time, analysis of how political campaigns are financed will be henceforth applied at all observer missions to come. Incidentally, EU's observer report following the 2011 elections took note of the funds available to candidates.

In 2011, the EU mission's report recommended that government embarks on electoral reforms because its electoral democracy fell short of meeting international democratic standards.

During the previous election, financial resources and logistics were available to candidates leaning towards the ruling party to the detriment of the opposition who in the aftermath of the polls that saw inflation surge, suggested punitive measures to civil servants for using public resources during elections and the introduction of campaign spending caps for political parties.

"We are going to get campaign finance data including the names of the largest donors," said Jurij Toplak, election campaign finance analyst of the EU observer mission. However, poor financial accountability practices exhibited by various political parties and a weak enforcement stance adopted by the Uganda's Electoral Commission (EC) seem to pose serious hurdles to collection of campaign finance data conducted by independent groups, analysts say.

"It is not only for Uganda but it will be a general application in the coming missions anywhere," said chief observer Eduard Kukan.

The 2011 report also recommended reforms to the EC, changes to the voter registration system, creation of a new voter register and a good code of conduct which commits all parties to avoid violence during and after election processes.

The opposition's attempts to introduce reforms at the Electoral Commission, which they accuse of being biased towards the ruling party, were thwarted in August 2015 when parliament voted against proposals for the transparent appointment of the EC chair and it commissioners. This was intended to create trust in the EC. The ruling party enjoys a parliamentary majority.

"Greater consensus could be achieved by including opposition and civil society voices in the appointment process as well as the presidency and parliamentary majority," reads the first recommendation of the EU report.


Uganda: With change unlikely, Ugandans brace for elections

[By Simone Schlindwein (Ot)] After 30 years in power, President Museveni looks set to win next month's election. But young people still hope for change as the country braces for a potentially violent election season.

On walls, lampposts and entryways, colorful campaign posters are everywhere in Uganda's capital city Kampala. Newspapers are full of campaign speeches while on radio the elections are being hotly debated. All of this talk and commotion in this small East-African country is about the upcoming parliamentary and presidential election on February 18.

Young people are especially hopeful that they will see another president in their lifetime other than President Yoweri Museveni.

"This time we need a fair election and a change in power because we have had the same president for the past 30 years," said Francis Kwizera, an IT administrator.

"So many promises were not fulfilled and we do not see him solving these over the next five years. He is now 71 and I am 28 and I have never lived under another president," he added.

Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, holds himself up as the grandfather of the nation. More than three quarters of the country is under the age of 30 with a high percentage of those without steady work. For many it is almost impossible to find a job.

"People only get work when they come from a specific ethnic group," said geoffrey Murora, a taxi driver. "I am a Muganda but all the people in government are Banyankole. We do not even have a chance."

A powerful challenger

Whether it is the lack of jobs, a crumbling infrastructure, failing public schools or inadequate hospitals, many Ugandans feel left behind. These feelings are exactly what the seven candidates running against Museveni are campaigning on. Among the candidates are two who used to be allies of the president.

Dr. Kizza Besigye was the president's doctor during the civil war that brought Museveni to power in the mid 1980s. He is now the head of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and has run before against Museveni.

The most powerful and newest challenger to the sitting president is the former prime minister and former general secretary of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Amama Mbabazi. He is running for president as an independent.

His candidacy is what makes this election so dangerous as the president utilizes the country's security forces - army and police forces - to help secure the election said Chrispy Kaheru from the Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).

"The security forces are partisan with some of them partaking in the elections themselves. And now we are seeing the opposition training their own militias because they do not trust the state security organs. This is also wrong," said Kaheru.

"Now the elections have become about who has the better 'gang' on their side. The risk is bit that violence will break out," added Kaheru.

Financial control

It is not just the police and army that has been instrumentalized by President Museveni. Other government resources have also been used in favor of the ruling party. During the elections in 2011, envelopes full of money were handed out to secure support and state money was used for campaigning purposes.

This is why the election observer mission from the European Union called attention to the financing of elections in Uganda said the head of the mission Eduard Kukan at its opening press conference.

"We are going to investigate whether the data about the financing of elections here are transparent and if the public has access to this information," said Kukan.

The elections are now entering their most critical phase. And as the February date of the elections nears, people are afraid that there will be outbreaks of violence like in 2011 when business and everyday life was paralyzed for weeks afterward.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Uganda: Police to 'shoot to kill' attackers

Amid rising insecurity in the country, the police says it has recovered eight guns and 1,300 bullets. And now they will take a shoot-to-kill approach to thugs, write ZURAH NAKABUGO and JOHNSON TAREMWA

Police says it has recovered a gun and 600 bullets from five suspected thugs, after a raid on a garage in Bakuli, Kampala, on Sunday.

Denis Mangusho, Yusuf Jingo, Jafaali Ddembe, Fred Matovu, and Frank Jumbe reportedly confessed to using the gun in last month’s theft of Shs 200m belonging to Africana forex bureau on Jinja road, Kampala.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said the suspects stole the money on December 17 from a bullion van on Access road in Kampala. The money was being moved from Bank of Africa to Africana forex bureau.

“The robbers may have connived with some workers inside Bank of Africa because they hit the bullion van and it stopped immediately after leaving the bank. They [stole] Shs 200m out of Shs 300m that was being transported,” he said.

Nobody was hurt during the robbery and the thugs abandoned their vehicles at the scene and fled on boda boda motorcycles.

Enanga said most robberies are happening in the Kampala suburbs of Kyanja, Nakawa and Ntinda. In one week, thugs have robbed three people at a dangerous spot in Kyanja.
On Friday, thugs stole a Toyota Premio car, laptop and Shs 2m belonging to Agatha Atuhairwe, a journalist on The Independent magazine. Earlier, Patrick Mutabwire, the permanent secretary in the ministry of local government, had his valuables taken when thugs blocked his Toyota Harrier UAU 418G.
Jimmy Nganwa, an accountant with Jimtek company, lost $1,200, two TV screens, two laptops and a DVD player, stolen from his home. Enanga said most guns enter Uganda from illegal border entry points of nearby countries like South Sudan, DR Congo, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania.
“Government officials only concentrate on securing legal entries at the border and ignore the border points which are in the bushes,” he said. “We have arrested many thugs from South Sudan and Congo who have confessed to killing drivers and robbing their vehicles.”
Less than a week after three policemen were waylaid in Kampala and their guns taken, a commanding officer at Lukinzi police post in Luweero district was killed on Sunday night.
Sgt Hussein Seweka had just returned from duty when he was gunned down in front of his home. By press time, no arrests had been made. Meanwhile, Herbert Muhangi, the commandant of the police flying squad, said his team recovered seven guns, a pistol and more than 700 rounds of ammunition over the weekend.
They were got from Koboko, where three suspects, including a UPDF officer, were arrested. He added that other guns originated from Rakai and Rukungiri.
“We highly believe they [recovered guns] are the ones captured from our police officers,” he said. “Because the majority have police and UPDF numbers.”

Enanga added that in the wake of direct threats to police officers, the force has resolved that all armed police officers should shoot-to-kill any person who attempts to grab their gun.
“The IGP has allowed all police officers to shoot and kill thugs who intentionally attack them with the aim of grabbing their guns,” he said.


Ghana: ‘Talk and practise peace in forthcoming election’

The President of the Southern Ghana Union Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church, Pastor Dr Thomas T. Ocran, has called on all peace-loving Ghanaians to be agents of peace and unity as the country readies itself for the election later in the year.

Peace-loving people, he said, ought to be seen at the forefront of the campaign for peace and unity.

“We must talk peace, preach peace, pray peace and practice peace,” he said.
Pastor Dr Ocran said this at the end of an annual 10-day fasting and prayer for revival and renewal event held by the church worldwide in the first month of every year.

The occasion was used to launch the “Mission to Families,” an intervention aimed at ensuring the growth, unity and stability of families at the Tema Community 3 branch of the church.

Prayer for the nation

He said during the period, the church prayed for peace before, during and after the elections and added that “we have prayed that God would not only give us peace but also the leader that he has chosen for us”.

The belief of the church, he said, was that God had a say in the affairs of the land such that when beseeched, He would hear and answer.

He said Ghana had been touted both locally and internationally as a country with relative peace but that ought not to be taken for granted.

“Being an election year, [it demands that] we must remain earnest in praying for peace,” he urged.

Mission to families
On the “Mission to Families” intervention, he said the church was of the belief that when families were stable, peaceful and united, men and women of the nation would have the peace of mind to give their best to the nation.

“That is to say, when families are okay, the nation will be okay. That is why the devil is attacking marriages and families because when families and marriages are destroyed, the society is also destroyed,” he said.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Benin: Record 48 candidates file for presidency

A record 48 candidates have applied to contest next month’s presidential election in the west African nation of Benin, the electoral agency said on Wednesday.

“We received 52 nomination papers but only 48 of them were completely filled,” the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Emmanuel Tiando, told reporters.

Among them are the current Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, a French-Beninese investment banker who has been nominated as the ruling party FCBE (Cowrie Forces for an Emerging Benin) candidate.

Some critics claimed Zinzou was “parachuted” in by former colonial power France, where he has spent most of his career.

He has said he has the support of other big political parties, such as the PRD of lawyer Adrien Houngbedji, current head of Benin’s parliament, who came second in the last election in 2011.

Seven members of the FCBE have applied to run in the February 28 poll.

The largest opposition coalition Union Makes the Nation (UN) party has not put forward a candidate but the deputy head of parliament, Eric Houndete, wants to stand as an independent.

Patrice Talon, a cotton tycoon, and food magnate Sebastien Ajavon are also in the race along with four women.

“We have never recorded 48 nominations for presidential election since 1990 (when multi-party politics was introduced after decades of military rule),” political analyst Agapit Napoleon told AFP.

“It is indeed a proof that our political parties have turned full circle.”

The electoral agency has eight days after the filing of nomination papers to study the documents following the payment of 15 million CFA francs ($25,000, 23,000 euros) by each aspirant.

The constitutional court will within 10 days study and give final approval to the candidates who have met the requirements to contest the election. – AFP

US says Uganda’s electoral environment deteriorating

As eight presidential candidates race towards this year’s Uganda’s February 18 elections, the United States (US) has said Uganda’s electoral environment is “deteriorating”.

The US points to reports about the Uganda Police “using excessive force” as well as the obstruction and dispersal of the political Opposition’s campaign rallies.

Through a January 15 press statement, US Department of State Bureau of Public Affairs spokesperson John Kirby also points to the intimidation and arrest of journalists.

These cases, he said, have contributed to a climate of fear and intimidation, and raise questions about the fairness of Uganda’s electoral process.

“Free and fair elections depend on all Ugandans being able to exercise their right to assemble peacefully, express their opinions, and participate in the electoral process free from intimidation and abuse,” Mr Kirby said.

“They also depend on government institutions and security forces remaining neutral, defending the rights of all people and protecting all parties equally.”

Mr Kirby’s remarks come on the heels of a Human Rights Watch report, which indicts the police for intimidating the public’s watchdog – the media.

When contacted to respond the Mr Kirby’s statement, the Deputy spokesperson of police Polly Namaye said police act within the Uganda’s laws.

These include the Constitution, the Presidential Elections Act, the Public Order Management Act and the Electoral Commission (EC) election guidelines.

She said some candidates campaign well past 6pm, which contravenes the EC guidelines.
In other cases, she said, the candidates hold mini–rallies in places where they never informed the EC they would be.

“In case there is a failure to comply with the laws, there is engagement with the candidates but not necessarily violent engagement,” Ms Namaye told the Daily Monitor on Monday.
“If the candidates are well–versed with the law, they should know it is the work of the police to protect property and life.”

EC spokesperson Jotham Taremwa later told this newspaper the electoral environment is safe.
“All indications are that the electoral environment is secure and safe for all stakeholders to participate freely in the upcoming elections,” Mr Taremwa said.

“We are working with the police to ensure the electoral environment remains and will be conducive for free, fair, and transparent, come 18 February and beyond.”


Why Ghana’s 2016 elections will be technology driven

Election is undoubtedly on the mind of almost every Ghanaian as we usher in 2016. Apart from being the bedrock of our ‘progressive’ democracy, elections provide the power and means for the general populace to elect their leaders both at the presidential and parliamentary levels and provide the opportunity for the ordinary citizen to hold political leaders in check and accountable.

The electoral processes involved in the lead up to and the main elections should be a home run at this point in Ghana’s history. After all, per Huntington’s two-turnover test.

Ghana has achieved democratic consolidation and all political actors seem to be willing to play by democratic rules.

However, the 2016 election promises to test how deep Ghana’s supposed consolidated democracy is. With this promise comes the usage of new digital technologies and the possibility of it impacting the election in both negative and positive ways. The election management body, in our case the Electoral Commission (EC), over time, has relied on technology to deliver better elections. In recent times, they have introduced biometric system for voter registration (BVR) and verification, a system for transmission of voter results to their head office for collation using electronic means among others.
However, with the challenges the EC encountered during the introduction of the BVR during the 2012 elections, the key question is whether the EC of Ghana is able to do e-voting?

Electronic voting (e-voting), which has proven to be cost saving, increases participation and voter turnout. E-voting can be defined as using electronic means to record or count votes during voting process. It can take two forms, either at a physical centre supervised by electoral officials using electronic voting machines or through the Internet where the voter does not need to be at a polling station but transmits securely his or her secret vote electronically.

By relying on technology instead of paper ballot and ink, the cost of voting is significantly reduced, however, security concerns, possible electoral fraud and, in our case, the lack of cheap, reliable and a stable Internet connection are key challenges of e-voting.

There are not too many countries in the world, who are currently using e-voting in its totality. Estonia is the only country in the world that relies on Internet voting for legally binding national elections with up to 25 per cent of voters casting their ballots online without going to any polling centre. What makes the implementation of e-voting in Ghana for the 2016 elections far-fetched is the lack of time and unavailability of the resources needed to roll-out such a project.

Also, it will be impossible if not suicidal to consider introducing e-voting in an election year, since there will be no opportunities to test the system and sort out any bugs. E-voting may happen in Ghana, but perhaps not in the near future.

E-voting and media
The media’s role in elections is very critical to ensuring credible elections. Added to that is the lowering costs of digital technologies and widespread usage of mobile phones, providing the media with a thousand and one opportunities for the coverage and spread of information on the elections.
One thing is clear from this: a lot of media houses are going to be rushing to announce both provisional and final results. Technologies which allow them to collate and hopefully predict the outcome of the elections is going to be popular among a lot of media houses for Ghana’s 2016 elections.

Elections generate a lot of data, including results, which provide a great data-driven storytelling opportunities for newsrooms in Ghana. In previous elections, the media did not take advantage of this opportunity, it is expected that this year’s elections will see more compelling stories using data-driven approach during the coverage of this elections.

E-voting and CSOs 
Civil society organisations (CSOs) are also expected to make use of new digital technologies as they play an effective oversight role during the upcoming 2016 elections. One area of their work during elections is undertaking observations, and technology is expected to aid them in this activity.

Also, another valuable tool civil society organisations make use of during observations is the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) which is the process of independently verifying results during vote tabulation. The use of mobile phones, data collation and processing software and other technologies will enable them undertake this activity seamlessly.

Social media is going to be the king of Ghana’s 2016 elections, it will not only allow citizens to partake effectively in the electoral process, but it will come with the baggage of misinformation, rumour mongering, and creating fear and panic. However, it also provides the opportunity for security agencies to monitor and harness various citizen reports on the election to feed their early warning systems to prevent potential violent incidents.

The power of social media, including the popular messaging application, Whatsapp, is manifested in its ability to transmit information very fast without any gate-keeping, therefore the good, bad and ugly get diffused in profound efficient manner.

In conclusion, each election in Ghana record significant improvement in the process, with new digital technologies playing its part. Due to advancement and significant uptake of new digital technologies, especially mobile telephony, Ghana’s 2016 election is not going to be business as usual, since innovations and changes are expected to sweep the electoral process come voting day.

The writer is the Executive Director of

Monday, January 18, 2016

Uganda: Biometric Verification Machines debut in elections

Uganda's electoral commission plans to meet next week with representatives of the country's eight presidential candidates, political parties and stakeholders to explain its decision to use a biometric system to verify voters in the February 18 general election.

This would be the first time that the electoral body employs a biometric system, which uses human body characteristics to confirm a person's identity.

Jotham Taremwa, a spokesman for the electoral commission, says the deployment of the biometric verification mechanism at all polling stations across the country will significantly boost the credibility of the presidential, legislative and local elections. The commission has begun training its officers in how to use the system.

"For the first time in our history of elections in Uganda, we are going to use biometric voter verification equipment at every polling station. When you come as a voter, the machine identifies you as so and your voting status by using either your thumbprint or a barcode on the back of your national ID [identification] or a barcode on the voter location's list that we will be issuing at least two weeks before the polling," Taremwa said.

"We are going to engage with all the parties and the official agents of the candidates to talk about this machine, he said, “but also demonstrate to them on how it would be used and what advantages come with it. And later we will roll out to our districts, sub-counties and parishes. So that by the time we go to the polling, everybody would appreciate and know how the machine works."

‘One man, one vote’

The electoral commission compiled the voter list to be used for the elections using the biometric system to register prospective Ugandan voters.

Taremwa says it would be improper for the biometric system to be used to compile the voter list but not used for the elections.

Civil society and opposition groups have urged the electoral commission to ensure there are backup machines in case there are malfunctions, as happened in some African countries during polling.

"So far we have received about 17,000 out of over 30,000 machines we require," Taremwa said.

"We have about 1,400 sub-counties in Uganda and each sub-county will have at least two machines that we will used in case there is a technical problem on one of the machines within that sub-county."

Opposition supporters have also questioned the timing of the decision to deploy the biometric verification system in this year's polling. They said the electoral commission ignored previous demands that the system be used to ensure credible and transparent elections.

"It is part of our operational reforms as electoral commission to ensure that the principle of one man, one vote holds. And that is why we needed that machine to identify the voter and then we can check that voter in the register, but also ensure that we know somebody's voting status," Taremwa said.

"Previously, when we didn't have biometric voter registration, somebody would vote ... and drive his vehicle and vote 30 kilometers [away]. So there were chances that the process could be rigged. But this time we think we are [stopping] that one."

Meanwhile, the ballot papers to be used for the elections are being printed both locally and internationally. The electoral commission says companies in Uganda, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom are in the advanced stages of printing the sensitive documents to be used at the polls.


Uganda: President assures EU observer mission free and fair elections

The incumbent and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) presidential candidate Yoweri Museveni has assured the European Union (EU) election monitoring team in Uganda that the forthcoming national elections will be free, fair and will be conducted without any form of violence.

The President met the European Union election monitoring team led by their team leader and chief observer Mr. Eduard Kukan who called on him at his country home in Rwakitura in Kiruhuura district.

The delegation was accompanied by the European Union head of delegation in Uganda Mr. Kristian Schmidt.

Mr Museveni who took the delegation through the history of elections in Uganda right from the independence time told the delegation that the National Resistance Movement has done a lot to ensure that the electoral process in Uganda is free, fair and transparent right from the first election held under the NRM to elect the constituency assembly delegates in 1993.

He said unlike in the past elections, new measures to ensure that elections are free and fair were introduced, such as using of a single ballot box for all candidates, counting, tallying and announcing of votes at the polling station on the same day and having agents of all candidates countersign on the results declaration forms before ballots are taken.

Mr Museveni further stressed that the electoral measures implemented, the country's electoral process has greatly improved but admitted that there remain a few challenges.

He for example, noted that in some areas the electoral process depends on the vigilance of the electorate and noted where the citizens are not vigilant criminals engage in multiple voting, while others vote when they are not on the register and also engage in many other electoral offences.

The other challenge the President admitted was the struggle to computerize the voters register so as not to depend on human beings who may sometimes be part of the rigging process.

He said that although the government is making some stride to computerize the register for easy identification of voter and the transmission of results, there are reports of some groups of criminals working underground to interfere with the computerized process to disrupt the election but noted that they have already been detected and reported and the police is investigating the matter.

He assured the European Union observer team that there can't be any violence during the election or post election process in Uganda because the elections will be held in a convincingly free and fair environment that does not warrant violence but stressed that if any one attempts to perpetuate violence, the state of Uganda is strong enough and well equipped to handle such a situation.

On the role of crime preventers in the country, the President said that the crime preventers are a group of citizen volunteers that contribute to community policing.

"They are not armed and they are just in their communities like a reserve and I think whoever is worried about them wants to commit crimes against Ugandans," he said.

The President assured the European Union delegation that Uganda was set to transform into a middle income country in the coming decade and will be a first world country in 30 years if not interrupted.

The President, the head of the European delegation in Uganda and the European Union election observer team also discussed the political situation in Burundi and efforts to bring about lasting peace in the East African country.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Are elections giving democracy a bad name?

One of the most striking developments of the last quarter of a century is the spread of elections. The end of the Cold War created a historic opportunity for the expression of popular demands for more political freedom and representation, and people around the world seized it.

The Commonwealth was both a witness and an agent of this remarkable phenomenon. When it adopted the Harare Declaration in 1991, nine of its members were under military or one-party rule. By 1999, all had become multi-party democracies[1].

Unfortunately, after an initial period of genuine change, rulers learned that elections did not necessarily have to mean democracy: elections could be gamed to remain in power, sometimes indefinitely.

The result is that, today, some elections are merely the lip service that undemocratic leaders pay to democracy.
This deception undermines democracy itself based as it is on three fundamental misunderstandings.

First, it confuses legality with legitimacy. Even if an election respects the formal processes laid down by the law, and even if it is certified by a court, if the majority of the population does not believe in its integrity, the election cannot confer any legitimacy on the winner.

Second, it confuses repression with stability. Bereft of legitimacy, elections cannot afford the peace and stability that usually come with democracy. If your opponents cannot channel their criticisms and ambitions through the institutional mechanisms provided by elections, they will find other means.  This usually leads to more repression, but as we have seen in a growing number of countries in Africa and the Middle East, repression does not afford stability in the long run.

Third, it confuses an electoral mandate with a blank cheque. Some leaders believe that somehow their initial election gives them the authority to close political space, throw their opponents in jail and change their constitutions to extend their reign.

But democracy is not just about one day every four or five years when elections are held, but a system of government that respects the separation of powers, fundamental freedoms like the freedom of thought, religion, expression, association and assembly and the rule of law. Any regime that rides roughshod on these principles loses its democratic legitimacy, regardless of whether it initially won an election.

The spectacular growth in the developing world’s youth population is adding new agency to the need to deepen and extend democratic practice. The Commonwealth’s population, 60 % of whom is below the age of 30, is a good example.

Youth is different. Youth is impulsive, impatient and, most importantly, it has little to lose. It is therefore willing to take risks that older generations would avoid.

From Tunisia to Egypt to Burkina Faso, we have seen that youth are no longer asking for more rights and freedoms the system confers — they question the system itself. With the advent of social media, they have unprecedented ability to organise, mobilise and bypass the security states that oppress them. So governments ignore their democratic aspirations at their peril.

At the end of the day, all healthy societies rest on three pillars: peace and security; sustainable development; and human rights and the rule of law.
Many states today believe they can have the first two without the third, which includes elections with integrity. They are wrong.

The challenge before us today is therefore no longer just to ensure that Commonwealth members hold regular multi-party elections, but to deepen democracy by making sure those elections are credible and legitimate. That is not just what the people of the Commonwealth, and particular its youth, demand: it is the sine qua non for lasting peace and development.

[1] Richard Nzerem (2000), Promoting democracy – the Commonwealth’s contribution.

Photo: A Tanzanian man shows his ink-tipped finger after casting his vote for the Tanzanian presidential elections at a polling station on October 25, 2015 in Dar es Salaam. Daniel Hayduk/AFP/Getty Images


Ghana: Electoral body refutes Nigerian citizenship claims

Ghana's Electoral Commission Chair says she does not qualify to be a Nigerian under Ghana's 1992 Constitution, despite claims to the contrary by her critics.

"My mother was married to a Nigerian – my stepfather. He died after five years in the marriage. So, that makes me Nigerian?

"I went to school in Nigeria; my early education, so that makes me a Nigerian? I also went to school in Canada, so, I guess that makes me Canadian.

"And my stepmother – my father's wife, who is also a mother to me – has been married to my father for more than 40 years. She's an Akyem, so, I guess that makes me Akyem as well. We thank God she's not Chinese, that’ll probably make me Chinese as well," Mrs Charlotte Osei told Nii Arday Clegg in an interview on Monday.

"Under … [the 1992 Constitution] I don't qualify to be a Nigerian," she said.

Mrs Osei also confessed that she wished she had not taken the job because it was "difficult" sometimes also denied ever running as a parliamentary candidate for the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) as had been alleged by her critics. She said she was apolitical and did not even know who to vote for in the 2016 elections.

Additionally, Mrs Osei lauded her predecessor Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, describing him as an icon as far as elections are concerned in Africa and the world.

Source: Ghana/

Ghana: Electoral body assures of credible, transparent elections

The Electoral Commission has reiterated its commitment to ensure a credible, transparent and peaceful election in November.

Ghanaians go to the polls on November 7 to elect a new President and Members of Parliament.

The credibility of the EC to hold a credible election has been questioned by the opposition New Patriotic Party after its calls for a new voters’ register were rejected.

But speaking on Morning Starr Monday, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Mrs. Charlotte Osei called on all stakeholders in this year’s election to play an active role to ensure that the polls are successful.

“I am totally certain that we are going to have elections that are peaceful, that are transparent, inclusive and credible but we need the support and the active involvement of all Ghanaians.

“Elections belong to the people and not just the political parties, we need everyone to work with us to ensure that we deliver a credible elections,” Mrs. Osei told host Nii Arday Clegg.

Source: Ghana/

Ghana: I wish I hadn’t taken EC job – EC Boss

The chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Mrs Charlotte Osei, has revealed sometimes she regrets accepting the job as the first woman chairperson of the election management body.

Speaking to Starr 103.5 FM’s Morning Starr host Nii Arday Clegg on Monday, Mrs Osei said although she “can take the stone”, she gets worried about her family who are always bothered about the flak which comes with her office.

“Yes! It’s difficult on some days,” Mrs Osei confessed.

However, the former boss of the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) emphasised she hardly gives up because she believes it was God who placed her there.

“I think whatever or wherever God places you it’s a ministry and because of that even when the job is difficult you remember that it is ministry,” she stressed, adding, “I get lots of messages of support and prayers from family members.”

According to her, her job is naturally difficult, but her gender compounds it, especially as someone coming from Africa.

“This is not a job that I think is easy anywhere in the world. But I think it is particularly difficult in Ghana and Africa when you are particularly a woman. I can take the stone but I’m worried for my children and on those days you get siblings calling and worrying you. I can take it but for those it is worrying.”

When Nii Arday pushed further whether she would want to throw in the towel, Mrs Osei opined: “I don’t think that is a choice. It’s a ministry.”

Mrs. Osei is the first woman chairperson of the Electoral Commission and succeeded veteran Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan, who retired June 2015 after two decades of serving.

Source: Ghana/

Ghana: Electoral body defends decision to stick with old voter roll

The Chairperson for the Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, has justified the commission’s decision not to compile a new voters’ register before the crucial 2016 election.

According to her “it was the right decision” they made.

The Electoral Commission had earlier rejected calls from the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) and some pressure groups for a new voters’ roll.

The NPP had argued that the current register is flawed with names of minors and over 76,000 Togolese hence the need for a new one.

Meanwhile the EC after holding consultation on the matter said the arguments for a new register were “unconvincing.”

Still holding on to the Commission’s position, Charlotte Osei told Accra based Joy FM that the Justice V.C.R.AC. Crabbe-led panel that held a forum on calls for new register did a very good job.
She insisted that the panel was balanced.

Uganda: Presidential rivals fear election violence

Ugandan political candidates raised fears on Saturday of violence ahead of presidential polls next month, with accusations of police brutality and claims opposition groups are organising militia forces.

Seven opposition candidates are vying to end President Yoweri Museveni's 30-year rule in the February 18 poll.

Museveni, in power since 1986, will face his stiffest opposition from Kizza Besigye, a three-time loser for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart now leading the Go-Forward party.

All sides are accusing each other of arming militias to press their claim to political power.

"We are following up reports that a small group of the radical opposition are talking and planning violent actions during and after the election," Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda warned this week.

"Government has established that some of these groups, under the guise of training agents to protect their votes, are raising semi-militia groups," he said.

"These groups, we have learnt, are being prepared to incite provocation and violent confrontations, starting on polling day until the swearing ceremony in case they lose the elections."

But opposition leaders have dismissed the claims, and in turn accused security forces of backing the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to harass Museveni's rivals.

"The trend of violence has left us worried," Kizza Besigye told AFP, calling on Museveni to "stop using police and other state apparatus to intimidate, harass, arrest our supporters."

"We have seen acts of violence wherever we have been. Police has used teargas and live bullets to stop our rallies," ex-prime minister Mbabazi told AFP.

"We ask President Museveni to stop these acts. If he does not act, then people will be forced to rise up and who knows what comes out. We have seen such situations elsewhere turning violent and Uganda is no exception."

Police have recruited around a million civilians as "crime preventers", police chief Kale Kayihura said, describing them as "part of the police effort to enforce community policing."

Opposition politicians however say the teams are partisan and back the ruling NRM.

All eight candidates are due to hold a live televised debate on January 15.

Source: AFP

Egypt: First parliament convenes in 3 years

Egypt's first legislature in more than three years, a 596-seat chamber packed with supporters of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has convened.

The assembly, elected in November and December, is also the first elected chamber since el-Sisi, as military chief, led the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 following massive protests against the Islamist leader and his Muslim Brotherhood.

Sunday's session is mostly a procedural one, with lawmakers taking the oath in turn. The chamber is also expected to elect a speaker and two deputies.

The last parliament was dominated by Islamists and dissolved by a court ruling in 2012.

The new chamber's first task will be to ratify some 300 presidential decrees issued by el-Sissi since taking office in June 2014 and interim president Adly Mansour before him.

Source: AP

Uganda: Media intimidated ahead of presidential polls - Group

Government intimidation of journalists and activists in Uganda is having a "chilling effect" on free speech ahead of elections next month, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

Seven opposition candidates are vying to end President Yoweri Museveni's 30-year rule in the February 18 poll and there are fears violence could mar the campaign, with all sides are accusing each other of arming militias to press their claims to power.

"Journalists have been suspended under government pressure, and radio stations threatened for hosting opposition members as guests or when panellists expressed views critical of the ruling party," the US-based rights group said in report released on Monday, "Keep the People Uninformed."

Museveni, in power since 1986, will face his stiffest opposition from Kizza Besigye, a three-time loser for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart now running for the new Go-Forward party.

All eight candidates are due to hold a live televised debate on January 15.

"Fair elections require a level playing field in which all candidates can freely campaign and voters can make informed decisions," HRW's Maria Burnett said.

"How can Uganda hold fair elections if the media and independent groups can't criticise the ruling party or government leaders without fear?"


Journalists deemed critical of the government have "received phone calls or visits from government representatives, threatening them with firing or suspension, and closure of their media organisations," HRW said.

Meanwhile, party representatives have also offered "money, trips, and training, in exchange for favourable coverage of the ruling party," the report added.

"Organisations are in a state of self-censorship," one activist quoted by HRW said. "They know things are wrong but people don't want to get onto bad terms with government.They are afraid to question things."

At the head of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, Museveni is widely expected to win another five-year term.

"Freedom of expression and association are under serious threat," said the HRW report, based on 170 interviews across Uganda.

"Political tensions are running high and the government faces public discontent on a range of issues, such as government allocation for health and education services, corruption, widespread unemployment combined with a massive youth population and the rising cost of living."

The government has accused the opposition of organising militia groups and warned of possible violence in the polls.

Opposition leaders have dismissed the claims, and in turn have accused security forces of backing the ruling NRM to harass Museveni's rivals.

Source: AFP

Niger: Jailed Opposition leader cleared for February vote

Niger’s constitutional court on Saturday, January 9, approved 15 candidates for a Presidential election next month, including key opponent Hama Amadou, who was imprisoned two months ago upon return from a year-long exile.

The constitutional court’s ruling is likely to increase pressure on Niger’s government to free Amadou, seen as one of three leading contenders in the Feb. 21 battle for leadership of the impoverished, uranium-producing West African country.

Niger authorities arrested Amadou, a former speaker of the National Assembly, in November in connection with a probe into a ring of elites accused of obtaining new-borns from “baby factories” in neighbouring Nigeria.

Amadou says the charges are politically motivated amid what President Mahamadou Issoufou’s opponents call a broader wave of repression ahead of the vote.

“We welcome this decision which proves that our county is making progress consolidating the rule of law, thereby reinforcing democracy,” said Malam Mahamane Sani, spokesman for Amadou’s Moden party.

He added that judicial authorities are due to rule on Amadou’s appeal for a provisional release on Monday, January 11.

Issoufou and former Prime Minister Seyni Oumarou, the candidate of the main opposition party, were also authorised to stand in the February vote.

Legislative elections are due the same day.

Issoufou, a key Western ally in the fight against Islamist extremism in the fragile Sahara region, is seen as the overall favourite to win next month.

In the last election in 2011, Amadou placed third in the first round and then threw his support behind Issoufou in the second to help him win the presidency, although rifts emerged between them after his inauguration. Oumarou placed second.

Some recent sources of tensions between the government and opposition appear to have been resolved, raising optimism that Niger will follow neighbours Burkina Faso and Nigeria which held peaceful elections last year.

Niger completed changes to its electoral register recommended by the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF), the body said on Thursday, January 7.


Niger: 15 candidates approved for presidential election

Niger's constitutional court has approved 15 candidates for next month's presidential election, the interior ministry announced on Saturday, including imprisoned opposition figure Hama Amadou.

Incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou, elected in 2011, is seeking another term and will also be up against chief opposition leader Seini Oumarou, former president Mahamane Ousmane and ex-planning minister Amadou Boubacar Cisse, among others.

At the start of the week the interior ministry put forward 16 names of potential candidates to contest the February 21 election.

Of these only Abdoul-Karim Bakasso, the leader of a minor party, was deemed "ineligible" by the court, Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou told reporters.

His bid was rejected due to "the lack of a medical certificate," said opposition spokesman Ousseini Salatou.

Amadou, seen as one of Issoufou's strongest opponents, has been in prison since November 14, 2015 over allegations he was involved in baby trafficking.

The former prime minister and national assembly president fled the county in August 2014 to escape charges in the matter but was arrested after he returned last November.

Amadou has proclaimed his innocence and considers the legal process against him to be "political".

A legal decision on his latest demand to be freed provisionally is expected Monday.

Former agriculture minister Abdou Labo, who was also implicated in the affair and is currently out on bail, is also on the list of approved presidential candidates.

- 'Deteriorating political climate' -

The political climate in the arid Sahel state has been tense since Amadou joined the opposition in 2013.

The election commission late last month announced that the first round of voting would be held on February 21, followed by a run-off on March 20 if necessary.

The opposition has rejected the timeline, saying there had been no consensus on the dates.

The government on Saturday banned a march that had been planned by the opposition the following day to rally against what it called the "arbitrary arrests" of some of its supporters and to call for "transparent elections".

According to opposition spokesman Salatou, the authorities said the march posed "a risk to public order".

Niger's influential tribal chiefs on Friday expressed their concern at the "deteriorating political climate".

Last month President Issoufou said the government had foiled a coup plot, a claim rubbished by presidential hopeful Boubacar Cisse.

Politicking aside, whoever wins the race for the top job will have to tackle the pressing issue of Boko Haram attacks from neighbouring Nigeria.

Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, has stepped up attacks on areas of Niger, Chad and Cameroon that border Nigeria while also continuing a devastating campaign of suicide and shooting attacks on home soil.

Electoral campaigning will get under way in Niger on January 30 for both presidential and legislative ballots.


Ghana: Togo's opposition leader: 'I did not comment on Ghana's register'

The President of Togo’s opposition political party, Alliance Nationale pour le Changement (ANC), Mr Jean-Pierre Fabre has denied making any statements about a refusal by the Togolese Electoral Commission to provide its counterpart in Ghana with a copy of its voters register.

Last week Mr Masseme Esse, claiming to be an Advisor to Mr Fabre granted an interview to some Ghanaian radio stations and purporting to be speaking for the leader of the largest opposition political party in Togo, he said the ANC was “bemused” by reports that the Togolese Electoral Commission declined to provide its counterpart in Ghana with a copy of its register for verification of the soft copy of the register used by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in its analysis to back calls for a new voters register.

In a communique signed by Jean-Pierre Fabre and issued in Lome on January 7, 2016, the ANC said Mr Masseme’s presentation in the Ghanaian media as an Advisor and speaking in their leader’s name was false.

Rather, the party said it was aware Mr Masseme lives and works in Germany and even though he was a supporter of the party, he was not an Advisor and does not occupy any position or place in the ANC.

It said Mr Masseme, therefore, does not have any right to speak on behalf of the ANC, as a party, let alone in the name of the President on any subject whatsoever.

It said whatever he has said was therefore only his personal opinion.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Ghana: Police expects the worst in 2016 elections

The Police Service has said it is expecting the worst case scenario in the November 7 polls.

The Service, however says, it is prepared to confront the worst should it arise.

Ghana goes to polls on November 7 to elect a president and parliamentarians.

Election watchers have said the polls will be major test for the democratic growth of the West African country.

The previous elections was marred by post declaration protests by members of the opposition party who subsequently proceeded to the court to challenge the results of the presidential results. The police, however, insists the 2012 polls was the most peaceful in the history of Ghana.

Speaking to Starr News’ Ibrahim Alhassan, Director of Public Affairs of the Police Superintendent Cephas Arthurs said the service will remain extremely alert in the upcoming polls.

“The Police and the other security agencies have their minds on the task ahead… this year being elections year, we expect the worst scenario and we are prepared for the worst scenario. I can assure you that all these hot air that people are blowing will not get anywhere.

“...In fact, we are famed for delivering peaceful elections since 1996 we have maintained a good reputation… even what was most peaceful was the 2012 elections where no finger was raised against anyone,” he said.

Source: Ghana/

Ghana: EC Boss denies collusion with ruling party over voters roll

Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Charlotte Osei, has said the electoral body, under her tenure, will not dance to the tune of any political party or do any politician’s bidding, as far as elections are concerned.

Mrs Osei’s warning follows accusations by the biggest opposition party, of her – in the party’s view – poor handling of certain concerns as were raised by the New Patriotic Party and the Let My Vote Count Alliance about the sanctity of the current register of voters.

At a press briefing organised by the Institute for Democratic Governance, IDEG, in Accra on Thursday, January 7, Mrs Osei said she will not allow the independence of the EC to be toyed with by any party.

The EC came under a lot of flak from the NPP, following the Commission’s rejection of the calls for a new register ahead of the November polls.

The EC boss said an electoral management board should never, under any circumstance, be stampeded into taking decisions that favour one party against others or vice versa.

She said people will try to stampede the EC, but the electoral body will stand its ground and do what is right.

Mrs Osei noted that the EC welcomes inclusiveness in the sense that the commission needs to listen to the views of all stakeholders and examine their views, take it on board, if they can, but it will always do what is right and what is legal, adding: “That is why the law gives you independence.”


Central African Republic: Presidential election heads for a runoff

[Associated Press] Central African Republic's long-awaited presidential election is now headed to a runoff round later this month between two former prime ministers, election officials announced Thursday.

No candidate received more than 50 percent during the first round held late last month, according to final provisional results released by the National Election Authority. The runoff is scheduled for Jan. 31, authorities said.

Anicet Georges Dologuele led the crowded field with 23.8 percent of the vote. The other candidate advancing is Faustin Archange Touadera, who had 19.4 percent.

Thursday's results now must be certified by the transitional government's constitutional court. Other candidates have said they plan to lodge complaints about the first round, a move that can only take place once final results have been handed to the court under the country's electoral code.

Central African Republic is holding the election to replace a transitional government that came to power in 2014 after a rebel leader stepped aside less than a year after his forces overthrew the government.

Sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in the past several years has caused nearly 1 million people to flee their homes, and there have been fears that violence could intensify during the election period.

The front-runner in the first round, Dologuele is a 58-year-old economist who spent more than a decade outside the country before returning to the political scene in 2013. He served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001 under the government of President Ange-Felix Patasse, who was deposed in a 2003 coup by Francois Bozize, who then remained in power until 2013 when the rebel forces overthrew him.

Toudera, who is also 58, served as prime minister under Bozize's government from 2008 until early 2013. He holds a doctorate in mathematics and served as vice chancellor at the University of Bangui before becoming prime minister.

Associated Press

Niger: Electoral roll cleaned ahead of February 21 election

[Reuters] Niger has completed changes to its electoral register recommended by the International Organization of the Francophonie, the body said Thursday, removing a major source of tension ahead of elections next month.

President Mahamadou Issoufou is seeking another mandate as head of the historically turbulent, uranium-producing West African country on February 21. He is the favorite to win, but critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian and repressive ahead of the polls.

The OIF, an organization representing French-speaking nations tasked with overseeing the voter list, had previously recommended the removal of about 300 "ghost" polling stations and 25,000 voters counted twice.

"All of the recommendations for immediate application recommended by OIF experts overseeing the electoral register were put in place," said the OIF's Inoussa Ouedraogo, adding that all parties had approved the changes.

"The register is now reliable, valid and consensual ahead of the 2016 general election," he said.

In December, the opposition rejected the register, or list of eligible voters, saying the process did not meet its demands. The government agreed to the demand for an audit in a bid to ensure a transparent election, but the opposition then temporarily withdrew from the panel selecting a firm to carry out the review, saying no satisfactory candidate had been found.

In another positive sign, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, U.N. special representative for West Africa, expressed confidence in next month's polls and welcomed additional financial resources provided by the government for the electoral commission.

"I am confident that Niger will rise to the occasion and hold successful elections whose results are accepted by all, following the examples of other countries in the region," he said in a statement Thursday following a visit to the capital, Niamey, this week.


Uganda: Group wants inquiry into alleged voter roll tampering

[Peter Clottey] The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda has called for an independent investigation into allegations that the voter list to be used for the February 18 general election is not credible, saying it has been tampered with to benefit incumbent President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement.

The council made the call after former Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who also is an independent presidential candidate, alleged that the police and the soldiers from the Uganda People's Defense Force had teamed up to alter the voter list.      

"They have a register in every village and have been going around trying to ascertain those who are there and who are not. … It is being stealthily done," Mbabazi alleged.

Joshua Kitakule, general secretary of the IRCU, said there is a need for calm.

He also called for dialogue among the government, opposition groups and other stakeholders in a bid to ease tension ahead of next month's presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

"We are calling on the police and the electoral commission to investigate those allegations thoroughly to ensure that we have a credible election,” Kitakule said. “Because if that is not done, it creates suspicion and can lead to mistrust, and then that can turn into violence.”

Accusations abound

Opposition and civil society groups have accused the police and other security agencies of using force to intimidate and harass their supporters in a bid to suppress their campaigns.

FILE - A supporter of Uganda's former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi wrestles with the gun of a policeman, as riot police disperse a gathering in Jinja town in eastern Uganda on Sept. 10, 2015. Opposition groups accuse police of harassing voters.
FILE - A supporter of Uganda's former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi wrestles with the gun of a policeman, as riot police disperse a gathering in Jinja town in eastern Uganda on Sept. 10, 2015. Opposition groups accuse police of harassing voters.
They cited recent instances in which opposition supporters were beaten by police officers after an opposition leader went to visit an Internally Displaced Persons camp.

They also said the recent murder of the head of security or Mbabazi is an indication of the length to which the ruling party will go to maintain power.

Supporters of the NRM have rejected the accusations. They said the opposition parties are making excuses as a pretext to prepare the grounds to reject the outcome of the presidential vote, knowing they would lose to Museveni.

Kitakule says continued interaction between the opposition and the government could help ease tensions.

He says the IRCU has been meeting all stakeholders, urging them to encourage supporters to be peaceful to ensure the country's stability is not threatened.

"We have called for dialogue between the opposition and the government and we are very much aware that the prime minister … has been meeting with the head of the opposition in parliament … to discuss some of the contentious issues in the law, and they have made a lot of progress as far as we are concerned," Kitakule said.

He said the IRCU will continue with its collaboration to help avoid violence during the electoral process.

Source: VOA

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ghana: EC releases 2016 election timetable

Ghana goes to the polls on November 7, 2016. The Electoral Commission has released the full election timetable.

The schedule is below:

  1. * 18th - 27th March 2016 is the date for limited Registration.
  2. * Exhibition is in June 2016.
  3. * Filing of Nominations is from 18th - 19th July 2016.
  4. * Transfer of votes ends in September 2016.
  5. * Election is on 7th November 2016.
  6. * Run off if any will be on 28th November 2016.

The general public is hereby encouraged to take note.


CAR: Presidential vote count shows two horse race

Partial results in the race for president in the Central African Republic (CAR) indicate that two former prime ministers are neck to neck.

Faustin Archange Touadéra and Anicet Georges Dologuélé are reported to be less than 1,000 votes apart according to the Central African National Election Authority (ANE).

Dologuélé, who is being backed by former President Francois Bozize party has garnered 179,236 votes while independent candidate Touadéra has received 178,483 votes so far.

We are compiling the votes and we are releasing provisional results, but in the end it is the constitutional court that will have the final say
Already, over 50 per cent of the results have been counted from the December 30th polls. The elections are anticipated to lead the country out of three years of inter-communal violence that has ravaged the country.

With nearly two million voters registered for the election, the electoral body has stated that the turn out was massive and about 72 per cent of registered voters participated in the polls.

The two former prime ministers are among 30 other presidential hopefuls seeking to revive the nation.

As it is, the polls appear to be a two horse race, as no other candidate has more than 80,000 votes.

Meanwhile, two thirds of the presidential candidates on Monday demanded for a halt in the counting of votes citing irregularities. But ANE president, Marie Madeleine N’kouet Hoornaert requested that the candidates should await the full results which will be released on 8th January.

“Depending on the situation, one can dispute the results. But for us, it is not the ANE’s job to manage the litigation if there is a problem. I would like to take this opportunity to say to those candidates to wait. We are compiling the votes and we are releasing provisional results, but in the end it is the constitutional court that will have the final say,” Hoornaert said.

Since the country broke into conflict late 2012, CAR has been running on a transitional government for close to two years led by President Catherine Samba Panza.

Violence between Muslims rebels and a Christian militia group has led to the deaths of thousands and displacement of nearly one million people. The country still remains in sectarian divisions.


Niger: Over a dozen hopeful to run in presidential elections

A dozen of candidates have submitted their application for the presidential race in Niger

More than a dozen candidates are expected to challenge Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou in February’s election.

Among the candidates include the country’s first democratically elected President Mahamane Ousmane who was ousted in a coup in 1996 and Hama Amadou, a former prime minister and parliament speaker

Others include Amadou Boubacar Cisse, Abdou Labo and Cheiffou Amadou who served in Niger’s cabinet in the past.

Local media reported that most of the applicants had submitted their applications before Saturday’s deadline.

Issoufou was first elected in 2011 in a vote organised by a military junta which in 2010 overthrew president Mamadou Tandja, who was seeking to stay in power beyond the two-term limit set by Niger’s constitution.