Monday, February 29, 2016

Gambia: President to seek fifth term in office

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, has given a clear indication that he would be running for a fifth term as president of the tiny West African country during presidential elections slated for December 1 this year.

According to reports from the state broadcaster, Jammeh who has been in power for a little over two decades (22 years) had his candidacy approved by his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party late last week.

The 50-year-old military officer came to power through a coup in 1994 and has ruled the country with an iron fist, Jammeh’s government have been criticised for human rights violations and a bad diplomatic record in the recent past.


He sharply criticised suggestions that his tenure should be limited and pledged to continue being at the service of Gambians.

“This is a democracy and yet they speak of term limitations. Whichever western head of state or other leader wants to speak about term limitations… let them come to Gambia to talk to me,” Jammeh is quoted to have replied western leaders and rights groups.

The presidential election will take place on December 1 and will be followed by general elections on April 6, 2017.

As a result of growing concerns over human rights and governance issues, Gambia was stripped of about 22 million euros ($27 million) in budget support by the European Union in 2010.

Gambia, a former British colony; has a population of nearly two million, 90 percent Muslims. eight percent are Christian and the remaining two percent having indigenous beliefs.

Jammeh flaunts his Muslim identity as he is often seen holding a Koran and/or prayer beads, promoting an aura of mysticism, he recently declare the Gambia an ‘Islamic Republic.’


Uganda:Elections were not credible - Botswana

The re-election of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for another term as president of Uganda has continued to elicit mixed reactions the world over, with the latest being refusal by an African country to recognize him as the duly elected leader of the East African nation.

Botswana is the only African country that has so far refused to accept Museveni’s re-election, saying it is going by the report by international observers like the European Union and the Commonwealth.

In a statement by Botswana Ministry of Foreign affairs and International Cooperation, the South African nation says that it has taken note of the reports of international observer groups on the recent general election, and therefore does not believe that Museveni was genuinely elected as president.

“The Government of Botswana has observed that based on the findings of some international observers, the elections were characterised by, amongst others; lack of transparency, reported incidents of intimidation and harassment, social media restrictions, as well as continuous arrests and detention of a prominent leader of the opposition,” the statement said.

Botswana further said that it is appalling that the elections were conducted amid sabotage of democratic rights and freedoms, and is concerned that the outcome is not true and authentic.

“Government of Botswana remains deeply concerned that such conduct during an election would have deeply undermined the norms of best practice governing democratic elections, as well as, the continent’s efforts towards consolidation of democracy,” the statement read further.

During the election, Uganda police closed down social media platforms, arrested key opposition leader Kizza Besigye and cracked down on the opposition for protesting the manner in which the election was being conducted.

There were also claims of massive rigging and closing down of polling stations in opposition strongholds to sabotage Besigye’s possible win.

Museveni was eventually declared winner by the Ugandan electoral commission, garnering over 60% of the total votes cast. Besigye had 35.4% of the votes.

A number of African leaders have since congratulated Museveni. Among the countries include Kenya, Burundi, South Africa and Rwanda. Russia has also congratulated the old man.

President Uhuru Kenyatta found himself in the centre of a storm after congratulating Museveni. Angry Kenyans took to social media to disown his congratulatory message, saying he only did it as an individual and not on behalf of Kenyans.

Museveni has been in power since 1986 when he took over through a rebellion. He has also said that he does not subscribe to term limits, indicating he is likely to remain in power as long as he lives.


Niger: Incumbent Issoufou faces run-off against jailed opposition leader

Issoufou will bid for a second term on March 20 on a promise to clamp down on Islamist militants in what is one of the poorest countries in the world.

His opponent is a former prime minister who came second to Issoufou's 48.4 percent with 17.8 percent. Amadou has been in prison since November on charges relating to baby-trafficking. He says he is innocent and a victim of political repression.

Critics say Amadou's imprisonment is part of a crackdown by the government over the election season. The government says it respects the law and such criticisms are politically motivated.

Following the results, Issoufou congratulated the people of Niger for the peaceful election. "I also salute my adversaries in the first round and congratulate them for the quality of the debate," he told journalists.

A coalition of four parties agreed before the election to back the candidate that came second in a bid to defeat Issoufou.

Those parties gained a cumulative vote of about 38 percent, though it was unclear which side had an advantage ahead of the second round or how Amadou would campaign from prison. Turnout was nearly 67 percent, the National Electoral Commission said.

Niger is under threat from Nigeria-based Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which has staged a series of cross-border attacks in the southeastern Diffa region, forcing the government to impose a state of emergency there.


Comoros: 19 candidates demand recount of ballots

Nineteen out of the 25 candidates who contested presidential elections in the Comoros Islands are demanding a recount of the ballots.

The 19 includes former Head of State, Colonel Azali Assoumani, who was third in last Sunday’s polls.

A spokesperson for the 19 aggrieved candidates told a news conference there will be no second round voting if their demands are not met.

“We want a recount of the votes. There will be no second round before the recount”, Ibrahima Hissani said.

Vice president Mohammed Ali Soilihi who won the first round of voting with 17.61 percent appears to be the target of the 19 other candidates.

Ibrahim Hissani told reporters that the Governor for the Island of Grande Comore, Mouigni Baraka, who came second in Sunday’s polls had also signed a petition demanding a recount of the ballots. This claim could however not be immediately verified.

“Only one candidate cannot be right… He received 17 percent of the votes and we sum up the remaining 83 percent,” Hissani insisted.

Vice President Mohammed Ali Soilihi will face Colonel Azali Assoumani and Grand Comore Governor, Mouigni Baraka in the presidential runoff scheduled for April 10.

Fahmi Said Ibrahim, considered a favourite ahead of the polls, came in fourth place and has alleged that his low vote count was due to fraud.

An African Union observer mission led by former Tunisian President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki noted that “apart from a few isolated incidents, the entire election took place in an orderly and peaceful manner”.

He has also urged “all political actors to keep (their) calm and to respect the results of this first round of the elections. “

The first round of voting last Sunday only took place in Grande Comore, in accordance with electoral rules that ensure the president is chosen on a rotating basis from one of the country’s three main islands.

Twenty-five candidates, all from the island of Grande Comore contested the polls.

The rotating presidency, created by the 2001 Constitution has stabilized the archipelago which has been rocked by separatist attacks and more than 20 coups or attempted coups in the years following the country’s independence from France in 1975.


Benin celebrates 26 years of multi-candidate presidential elections

Benin is marking its 26th anniversary of the National Conference of Active Forces of the Nation.

On Sunday the West African country will celebrate multi-candidate presidential elections just a week before voters head to the polls.

After an agreement on constitutional reforms in 1990, Benin put an end to 18 years of authoritarian regime.

“The first achievement of the National Conference of Active Forces of the Nation, it is primarily the preservation of social peace in preserving national unity,” Houdou Ali a Former minister said.

On March 6th the country will hold presidential elections in choose the fourth democratically elected leader.

A number of candidates including prominent businessmen are contesting to become Benin’s next president.


Niger: Incumbent president leads in election results

[Dan Joseph, Nicolas Pinault] The latest results from Niger's presidential election released Wednesday showed incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou maintaining his lead.

Niger's electoral commission said Issoufou had about 37 percent of the vote.  Opposition candidate Hama Amadou was in second place with 22 percent, followed by Seyni Oumarou with 14 percent.

The results from Sunday's election included ballots from 82 of the West African country's 308 voting districts.

On Tuesday, a coalition of opposition parties rejected the official tallies as fraudulent. The head of the coalition, Amadou Cisse, said the government invented "thousands of polling stations" to skew the results.

Issoufou ran for a second five-year term on a promise to crush Islamist militants and step up development in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Critics said the president used political repression during the campaign, arresting opposition supporters, politicians, journalists and even a singer who released a song critical of him.

If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote in the first round, the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff election on March 20.

Source: VOANews Online

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ghana: President vows not to overspend before election

President John Mahama has vowed to exercise strict fiscal discipline in 2016.

The country has been battling for years to contain its spending during election years with its expenditure during this period going overboard.

Ghana’s budget deficit projection for 2016 has been pegged at 5.3 percent.

Early this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned the country may not be able to contain its deficit being an election year.

A number of civil societies have also expressed similar fears.

President Mahama however last year said his government will not over spend despite labor agitations among others.

Reiterating his assertions on Thursday 25th February, 2016 when he was delivering his state of the nation address to lawmakers, President Mahama said his administration will exercise strict fiscal discipline this year to transform the negative narrative of Ghana.

‘Ghana is expected to achieve a budget deficit as low as 5.3 percent to GDP under the IMF which provides a tighter fiscal space than originally anticipated; it is within this contest that we must practice an even greater degree of fiscal prudence in 2016, the bane of our economic management has been the cyclical huge election year budget deficit; it is an unfavorable narrative for which Ghana has become famous,”

“I have assured the nation and our partners that my administration will exercise strict fiscal discipline even in this election year in order that we can transform this negative narrative of our country,” President Mahama said.

By: Vivian Kai Lokko/

Uganda: Low turnout hit local elections

Unlike the last week's tense presidential election, which was marred by late delivery of voting materials and election-day unrest, local elections got off to a mostly smooth start Wednesday in Kampala.

At most voting centers, materials arrived within an hour or two of polls opening. And although minor problems were reported, voters said, for the most part, they were happy with the process.

However, polling agents noted that voter turnout was low, despite President Yoweri Museveni urging Ugandans to vote for local mayors and council members.


Gloria Paga, an observer at one polling station, said she thought some people were disappointed with the presidential vote, in which Museveni was re-elected to a fifth term.

A polling station located near Uganda's Electoral Commission headquarters in Kampala remained largely empty during voting, despite President Yoweri Museveni urging citizens to vote for their local leaders.
A polling station located near Uganda's Electoral Commission headquarters in Kampala remained largely empty during voting, despite President Yoweri Museveni urging citizens to vote for their local leaders.
“The [turnout] is very low, I think it has been a setback from the last presidential elections. I'm not even certain if half of the people that voted last time are coming to vote today," Paga said. "Last time the queues were very long, but today you can see practically at this time there is no one on the line. So probably people are disappointed with what occurred in the presidential elections, but we are optimistic.”

At one station in Nakesero, nearly 600 people were registered to vote, but only 83 had cast their ballot by noon.

Police presence

One Ugandan named Desmond said he feels intimidated by the heavy police presence in the area.

“The regime is succeeding at controlling the people's anger and the hope. It's holding people's hopes at bay. Ugandans have accepted that this regime maybe sort of is here to stay, I can't do anything with it. Unless I come out to say a thing or two, everything of mine will be gone and the last thing I have in my life will be lowered into a grave," he said.

The police presence in Kampala, Uganda, during local elections was high. Public Order Management vehicles were parked at the city's main intersection, Feb. 24, 2016.
The police presence in Kampala, Uganda, during local elections was high. Public Order Management vehicles were parked at the city's main intersection, Feb. 24, 2016.
Many within Uganda noted on the distinct lack of reaction when Museveni's victory was announced by the Electoral Commission last Saturday.

The usually bustling streets of downtown Kampala were deserted, as many worried violence could erupt. Although protests never took place, and city life has returned, residents are still uneasy.

Opposition leader arrested

Such feelings are compounded by the continued house arrest of main Museveni's rival, Kizza Besigye, with many Ugandans wondering how long he will be held without charges.

Besigye has called his detainment illegal and said officials are keeping him from challenging the election results.

However, officials in Uganda contend that Besigye's call for protests at the Electoral Commission amount to plans to disrupt public order. They say he has been put under “preventative arrest” to keep the peace.

Source: VOA News Online

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Comoros and rotation of its presidency

The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros has held its first round of presidential elections.

Voters took to the polls over the weekend to look for a successor for outgoing president Ikililou Dhoinine.

Three candidates of Grande Comore, Mohamed Ali Soilihi, Mouigni Baraka and Azali Assoumani will face off in the second round of voting in April.

In line with a constitutional provision, the presidency of the union rotates between three islands.

This method was adopted in 2001 after voters backed a new constitution keeping the islands of Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan as one country.

With a population of less than one million, Comoros has had more than 20 coups or attempts at seizing power since gaining independence from France in the 70s.

This method of voting is meant to ensure peace and stability in the autonomous islands.


Comoros: VP wins first round, 3 to contest April 10 run-off

(AFP) - The vice president of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros, Mohamed Ali Soilihi, won the first round of the country's presidential elections with 17.61 percent of the vote, preliminary results released late Tuesday showed.

Soilihi edged ahead of Mouigni Baraka, the governor of Grande Comore island, who garnered 15.09 percent, ahead of Colonel Azali Assoumani, who placed third with 14.96 percent.

The three candidates will now face off in a second-round of voting on April 10, with the winner succeeding outgoing President Ikililou Dhoinine.

Some supporters of Fahmi Said Ibrahim, who had been one of the favourites but trailed in fourth place, alleged his low count had been due to fraud.

Police dispersed a small group of Ibrahim supporters who gathered at the party's headquarters on Grande Comore.

An African Union observer mission led by former Tunisian president Mohamed Moncef Marzouki said "apart from few isolated incidents, the entire election took place in an orderly and peaceful" manner.

The first round of voting on Sunday only took place on Grande Comore, in accordance with electoral rules that ensure the president is chosen on a rotating basis from one of the country's three main islands.

The system was established in 2001 after more than 20 coups or attempted coups in the years following independence from France in 1975.

Dhoinine's completion of his five-term term has been seen as a sign of growing stability in the Comoros.

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

Monday, February 22, 2016

Niger elections raise hopes of citizens amid opposition outcry

As voters cast their ballots in Niger’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, rising insecurity and hunger were main concerns.

The country is endowed with natural resources, including uranium and oil, but is one of the poorest countries on earth.

Also, defence remains a top budget priority with the remote north threatened by jihadists operating out of Mali and Libya while the southeast tries to fend off attacks by Nigeria-based Boko Haram.

In the polls, a total of 7.5 million people were eligible to vote at 25,000 polling stations across the impoverished country.

However, the opposition party has denounced the election saying there had been vote rigging and a problem with duplicate voter cards.

Also, there was heightened tension as voters were allowed to cast their ballots without proper identification papers following a ruling by the country’s top court.

Nonetheless, President Mahamadou Issoufou has promised a knock out blow to his opponents in a crowded presidential race.

He is seeking to secure a second term in the west African nation.


Congo: EU decides not to send observers for March 20 election

[Dibie Ike Michael] The European Union has decided not to send observers to the Republic of Congo to monitor a controversial presidential election set for March 20.

AP reports the EU decision is coming ahead of its dismissal of recent electoral reforms in the country, including the introduction of an independent electoral commission.

The EU said the reforms are insufficient to guarantee a transparent election.

“The current context does not allow the EU to envisage setting up an electoral observers’ mission for the March 20 vote,” spokesman for the EU, Federica Mogherini said in the statement.

He said the Union considers that “the reforms to the electoral law that were introduced in January 23 appear limited” and do not fulfil the recommendations made by an EU mission to the country.

The controversial new charter removed a 70-year age limit and a ban on presidents serving more than two terms.

The charter was approved through a public vote, but opposition has dismissed it.

The 72-year-old Republic of Congo president Dennis Nguesso, has been leading the country from 1979 to 1992 and has since served two consecutive seven-year mandates. He said he wanted to bring the election forward to usher in a “new dynamic” after the referendum.

The Congolese government has responded through the Information Minister Thierry Moungalla saying: “I think the EU is free not to send observers. But this decision will prohibit them from judging the process when it comes to an end.”

“Whoever does not observe cannot judge,” he added.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Comoros: UN boss calls for peaceful elections

[Xinhua] -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday asked for peaceful, credible and transparent elections in the Comoros.

Ban welcomed the progress made by Comorian people in preparing for Sunday's presidential and gubernatorial elections, said a statement of Ban's spokesman.

"The Comorians have the collective responsibility to ensure that these elections are peaceful, credible and transparent," the statement said.

The United Nations, together with other international partners, will continue to support the Comorian people in their efforts to consolidate democracy and peace, and promote socio-economic development, it said.

The Union of Comoros is an island country in the Western Indian Ocean. It has a population of 780,000 people and is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Comoros: Polls open in presidential election

[AFP] - Voters in the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros began casting their ballots for a new president Sunday from a crowded field of 25 candidates, with a struggling economy and poor infrastructure high on the agenda.

Polling stations in the country of less than one million people officially opened at 0400 GMT, although some were delayed by the late arrival of voting materials.

Among those competing in the first-round poll are a former coup leader and the vice president.

Only voters on Grande Comore island will cast their ballots on Sunday under an unusual electoral system that decrees the president is selected on a rotating basis from one of the three major islands.

The three leading contenders will then compete in a nationwide vote on April 10 that will decide the successor to President Ikililou Dhoinine.

Dhoinine comes from the smallest island, Moheli. The other island is Anjouan.

The system was established in 2001 in a bid to bring stability after more than 20 coups, or attempted coups, in the decades following independence from France in 1975.

Among the prominent candidates are Vice President Mohamed Ali Soilihi, Mouigni Baraka, the governor of Grande Comore, and Azali Assoumani, who led a coup in 1999 and is a two-time former president.

Moinaecha Youssouf Djalali, a businesswoman, is the only female candidate, in a country where the vast majority of people are Sunni Muslims.

Dhoinine's completion of his five-year term has been seen as a sign of growing stability in Comoros, though many candidates have raised fears of electoral fraud when voting gets under way.

"Real efforts are being made by the election commission and international actors to ease any political or social tensions," said European Union representative Eduardo Campos Martins.

Nadia Tourqui, consultant to the UN, added however that there were "a lot of suspicions" surrounding the poll.

In order to calm tensions, the electoral commission on Saturday agreed to a request from 20 candidates to ban proxy voting, seen as a possible source of fraud, "to preserve the peace".

On Sunday, voters will also be forbidden from leaving the island's capital Moroni or moving between villages unless they have an official pass "to avoid double voting", the interior ministry announced

Niger: Tough choice country goes to the polls

The election season is in full swing in Africa and other parts of the world.

Polls have already been held in Uganda and the Central African Republic. A few other countries are expected to follow suit later this month.

One of such countries is Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa bordered by Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Algeria.

15 candidates including the incumbent president are gunning for the country’s top job. But what are the odds in this election?

Mahamadou Issoufou, the incumbent President is hoping to not only get another shot at the presidency but to avoid going for a second round of polls.

During his final rally at the Niamey Sports Stadium, the President told teeming supporters that he was confident of a “knock-out” victory in the first round.

Failing to secure a first round victory could effectively narrow his chances for a second term because the opposition candidates have agreed to rally behind the top 3 who will make it to the next round in case there’s no clear winner after Sunday’s polls.

But if Issoufou succeeds in fending off a runoff poll, he would be Niger’s first president to have been elected during the first round of voting.

Issoufou run his campaign with the slogan “promises met”, an indication that he has kept his pledge of economic growth, infrastructure development and improved security in the face of terrorist attacks form Islamic militant groups in neighbouring Nigeria, Mali, Algeria and Libya.

But his achievements may not seem to matter much to the opposition who accuse him of becoming autocratic and arbitrarily arresting his perceived opponents.

Opposition presidential candidate, Hama Amadou is probably one of the many victims of this accusation leveled against the president.

He has had to run his entire campaign from prison. He was jailed in November last year for baby trafficking – a charge he has denied. Although he has been refused bail, he has been cleared to contest the elections. A move some analysts say puts him at a pole position for Sunday’s election.

Amadou, a former Prime Minister and former Speaker of Parliament helped the then candidate Issoufou to win the runoff polls in 2011 to become president. Now, the former allies are contesting each other.

There are two other favourites in the race. A former Prime Minister, El Hadj Seini Oumarou who was the runner up in the 2011 polls. The 65-year-old served under President Mamadou Tanja who was overthrown in a coup in 2010. He is on the ticket of the National Movement for the Society for Development.

And then there is Niger’s first democratically elected president, Mahamane Ousamane who has tried unsuccessfully since being toppled in 1996 to become president. The 66-year-old is hoping to be lucky this time around.

But irrespective of who emerges victor at the end of the day, there are several issues he will have to deal with, key among them – the incursions of Islamists groups operating in Niger’s neighbouring countries.

Education and healthcare facilities will also have to be made available as they are practically nonexistent in the country.

The country’s mineral-dependent economy could also suffer some external shocks as commodity prices keep fluctuating on the global market.

Source: africannews,com

Friday, February 19, 2016

Comoros: Meet the only female candidate in Sunday's presidential poll

Moinaecha Djalali, the only female candidate that will be vying for Comoros’ presidential elections has decried the poor state of the country and said it was time for a woman to lead the archipelago.

“No water, no electricity, no roads. Forty years of independence led by men, this is the result,” joked the only female presidential candidate in Sunday’s poll.

Clad in a purple cap and matching small white heels, she harangues the crowd at Moroni market.

“I’m number 11 (on the ballot). 11 is the number of Drogba, the striker, the winner,” said Djalali, to applause, referring to Ivorian footballer Didier Drogba.

At 54, this woman of Franco-Comoran Affairs is playing her cards differently from the two dozen male candidates running for the top job. Her posters present her as “the mother of the archipelago” while her campaign song promises a change for the Comorian women.

“The country has almost fallen into a coma. It’s dilapidated. At the Moroni hospital, nine infants died (two years ago) due to power cuts of incubators. The men who have been leading this country have failed,” she told AFP just days before the first round of presidential elections on Sunday.

“If you can not run the country, let go of the steering wheel and entrust it to me,” asserted Djalali before a crowd at Volo Volo market, who were predominantly female.

Comoros, a Muslim country in the Indian Ocean, advocates a tolerant Islam but only one woman holds a ministerial post.

Djalali is the second woman to run for president. In 2010, a physical education teacher, Zaharia Said Hamed, participated in the elections and ended up obtaining less than 1% of the vote.

The first round of voting will take place on February 21, with the top three candidates to face off in a second round on April 18.

Since gaining independence from France in 1975, the impoverished archipelago has witnessed more than 20 attempted coups, four of which were successful, but it has enjoyed relative stability in recent years.


Uganda: Rigging claims and arrest mar election

Uganda's opposition leader was briefly arrested as the country wrapped up voting in a presidential election his supporters claim was rigged in favour of long-time leader Yoweri Museveni.

Al Jazeera witnessed police detaining Kizza Besigye, the main opposition candidate, as he and his supporters tried to show journalists what they said was a vote-rigging operation in a suburban house.

When Besigye's supporters turned up at the house, several people fled before fighting with the opposition members, who then held them at the scene.

The men were carrying guns stamped with police insignia and they also had handcuffs.

Besigye demanded that he be allowed into the house to check for vote-rigging, and was then arrested.

Police later told Al Jazeera that the building was an intelligence facility.

Earlier, police fired tear gas at voters furious about delays at polling stations. Voting was scheduled to begin at 7am local time, but was held up for hours in several polling stations in the capital, Kampala, and the surrounding Wakiso district after ballot boxes and papers did not arrive on time.

Kampala traditionally shows strong support for the opposition.

"There was a bit of a delay at some polling stations because of logistical problems," Jotham Taremwa, an election commission spokesman, said.

At one Kampala polling centre, hundreds of frustrated voters shouted and gesticulated at election officials.
"They are denying us our constitutional right," said Elias Bukenya, a 27-year-old teacher who suspected foul play.
Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, were largely inaccessible on voting day, although internet-savvy Ugandans dodged the apparent shutdown using virtual private networks.
The government regulator, the Uganda Communications Commission, said the shutdown was for "security reasons".

Museveni, a former rebel who seized power in 1986, is widely expected to win a fifth term, which would extend his power into a fourth decade.

Elections in 2006 and 2011 were marred by violent and occasionally deadly street protests and a liberal use of tear gas by heavy-handed police.

But, apart from an outbreak of protests when police prevented Besigye from campaigning in the centre of Kampala, campaigning was mostly peaceful.

"Whoever will try to bring violence, you will see what we shall do to him. Those who want violence should play somewhere else, not Uganda," Museveni told thousands of supporters in his final rally on Tuesday.

Some who attended that rally told Al Jazeera that they had been paid about $1 to be there. The NRM, the governing party, denies that it pays people to attend political events.

Besigye, who has contested the presidential election three times, says he is confident of a first-round win.

"The voice from the people is that they have been failed in the last 30 years, and what could not be done in that long period, could not be done in another five years," he said.

Voter turnout has followed a downward trajectory in recent elections, with nearly three-quarters of eligible voters casting a ballot in 1996, during the country's first competitive election.

However, only three-fifths bothered to turn out in 2011.

Museveni's share of those votes has also declined but most 2016 opinion polls give him more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off.

He won his last five-year term in 2011 with 68 percent.

The other main challenger, Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart, has also accused the NRM of planning to stuff ballot boxes.

"My main worry is the use of state machinery to support one candidate against all the laws," Mbabazi told Al Jazeera.

"And, two, the planned interference with the electoral process and the possibility of rigging."

Ofwono Opondo, a government spokesperson, dismissed the claim as the "cry of a  loser", according to the country's Daily Monitor newspaper.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Uganda Elections: Polls Open Amid Delays and Social Media Shutdown

Voting has begun in Uganda's presidential and parliamentary elections on Thursday, marred by delays because of the late delivery of voting materials in many places, especially in the capital Kampala.

Voting was due to begin at 07:00 am (0400 GMT) but, despite queues forming outside polling booths, many had still not opened over an hour later.

There are already long lines at many polling stations in Kampala and many parts of the country, with many voters complaining about the delays. Also some ballot boxes had missing lids.

There are reports of Facebook and Twitter being shutdown meaning citizens are not able to access social media to report incidents around the elections.

The presidential race is seen as a three-way battle between long-term incumbent President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement and two top opposition candidates – Kizza Besigye (Forum for Democratic Change) and Amama Mbabazi (Go Forward). There are 8 candidates in the presidential race with only 1 female.

Over 15 million Ugandans are registered to vote, casting ballots in over 28,000 polling stations for both a president and members of parliament, with 290 seats being contested by candidates from 29 political parties.

Over 150,000 police, soldiers and other security forces have been deployed to ensure tight security, election officials have said.

Polls are due to close at 04:00 pm (1300 GMT).


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Uganda: AU deploys observer mission for Thursday’s elections

[AEP] The African Union, yesterday, deployed a Short Term Observer's team to monitor Uganda’s presidential and parliamentary elections slated for Thursday.

The 41 short-term AU Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) to Uganda is made up of observers from some 28 African Union Permanent Representatives' Committee, Election Management Bodies, Civil Society Organisations, the Pan-African Parliament, and Independent Elections Experts. The observers, using computer tablets, will collect and convey election observation in real time.

“On the ground in their areas of deployment, observers will be expected to consult with the Electoral Commission, the Police, and other relevant stakeholders,” said the AU.

Polls will open on 7am local time and will close at 4pm. However, voters in queues at the polling stations before the 4pm deadline will be allowed to vote.


Uganda ready for ‘peaceful’ polls: election commission

[AFP] Ugandan election officials on Wednesday said they were expecting presidential and parliamentary polls to pass off peacefully, the final day before seven candidates challenge veteran leader Yoweri Museveni’s three-decade grip on power.

“The stage is set. We have dispatched electoral materials to all polling stations throughout the country and are ready to kick off the exercise,” national electoral commission spokesman Jotham Taremwa told AFP.

“We expect a peaceful exercise. Security is on the ground and we have put out messages calling on voters to come in big numbers on Thursday and cast their votes.”

Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party are widely predicted to win a fifth term, with the 71-year-old former rebel leader entering his fourth decade in power.

“Whoever will try to bring violence, you will see what we shall do to him. Those who want violence should play somewhere else not Uganda,” Museveni told thousands of supporters in his final rally on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper.

“There are people spreading fear, but let them know that nobody should intimidate Ugandans, and nobody is going to disrupt the peace in Uganda.”

Key opposition candidate Kizza Besigye, a three-time loser who was briefly detained by police in chaotic protests on Monday, said he is still confident of a first round win.

All sides have accused each other of arming militias to press their claims. At least one person was killed Monday as police fought running battles with Besigye supporters from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.

But Taremwa said campaigning, which ended on Tuesday, had passed off largely calmly.

“Save for few isolated incidences, the campaigns have been largely peaceful,” he said.

Over 15 million Ugandans are registered to vote, casting ballots in over 28,000 polling stations for both a president and members of parliament, with 290 seats being contested by candidates from 29 political parties.

Museveni, who seized power in 1986, is one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, after Equatorial Guinea’s President Theodore Obiang Nguema, Angola’s Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and Cameroon’s Paul Biya.

African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday called for “peace and calm before, during and after” the polls.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

IOF announces observer mission for CAR, Niger, Comoros, Benin elections

The International Organization of the Francophonie (IOF) have named the its election monitoring mission to the forthcoming elections within Africa, according to a statement issued by the organization.

The delegation which is led by Michel Kafando, former President of Faso, includes Dileita Mohamed Dileita, former Prime Minister of Djibouti, Boukar May Manga, former Minister of Niger and Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, former Foreign Minister of Senegal. The delegation is also composed of parliamentarians and senior experts in electoral matters.

The Central African Republic will hold elections on 14 February 2016, Niger and Comoros will vote on February 21th and Benin will vote on the 6th March.

A statement said that at the invitation of the Central African authorities, Niger, Comoros and Benin, the Secretary General of the Francophonie, Michaëlle Jean is sending missions of information and contacts in the elections to be held in these countries, respectively 14 February (Central African Republic), February 21 (Niger and Comoros) and 6 March (Benin).

The statement said the mission forms part of the moves by the International Organization of la Francophonie in the process of strengthening democracy and the rule of law in the Francophone world.


Comoros: Ex-Tunisian president heads AU observer mission for elections

The former Tunisian President Dr. Mohammed Moncef Marzouki has been selected by the AU to lead an African Union Electoral Observation Mission (AUEOM) to the presidential elections in Comoros.

The AU Observer Mission are expected in the country on February, 17 and will remain there until February 27.
Elections in the Union of Comoros is scheduled for 21 February 2016. 25 candidates are vying for the presidency.

The AU team is made up of 40 personnel from the Pan African Parliament, the Permanent Representative Committee of the African Union, election management bodies, civil society organizations, think tanks, media and academic institutions.

They will be “deployed throughout the electoral constituencies of the country to monitor the electoral process and provide a critical assessment of the conduct of election”, the AU said in a statement on its website.


Niger: Archbishop admonishes christians to shun ethnicity in elections

Archbishop Laurent Lompo of the Catholic Archdiocese Niamey has called on faithful to, "vote in complete freedom, without ethnic or sectarian influences," in the February 21 General Elections.

"During Lent there will be elections in our country. As voters, activists and candidates, we must take care to put in first place the truth, where fraud seems to triumph, and respect the voice of others," Archbishop Lompo said in a pastoral letter for the beginning of Lent, reported Fides.

"Our policy choice will be made in conscience and in freedom, far from any sectarian, clan, ethnic and regionalist spirit," the Archbishop said, adding. "As Catholic Christians we have a duty to take part in the future of our country, without being manipulated."

Archbishop Lompo further said that civic commitment is a dynamic where one exercises mercy and quoted Pope Francis stating that "mercy is the pillar of the Church".

"May this time of Lent therefore be a moment to become aware of God's mercy," he said. The general elections in Niger will be held on February 21 in which voters will be electing the President and members of the National Assembly.

The President is elected by two-round votes. If no candidate is elected in the first round, a runoff will be held on March 20. 15 candidates have been cleared by the constitutional court to run during the elections, among them President Mahamadou Issoufou the incumbent, who is running for a second term.


Uganda: Indian nationals warned of attacks ahead of elections

The Indian High Commission has warned its citizens to keep away from heightened political activity following the robbery of valuables and beating of an Indian national in Kampala at the weekend.

In a statement released Monday, the Commission claimed “Mr Deepankra Gupta of Joshi Electricals in Namuwongo, Kampala was attacked and severely injured by a procession escorting a political candidate on February 13 near Kitgum House as their procession moved from Nakawa into Kampala”.

“Mr Gupta was robbed of his belongings and also sustained serious injuries. After initial treatment in Kampala Mr Gupta has flown to India to receive specialised treatment,” a statement signed by Shri Rajesh Gawande reads in part.

In a telephone interview Tuesday Mr Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed a case of assault had been brought to their attention but “I have no details”.

“It is true (Dr) Kizza Besigye’s supporters assaulted an Indian and I think he has been flown out for treatment,” Mr Onyango said.

Daily monitor could not readily establish whether it was indeed Dr Besigye supporters who assaulted Gupta. However on the said date, supporters of Dr Kizza Besigye held from Namboole where they had gone to launch their candidate’s song dubbed: Toka Kwa Barara (get out the way).

The statement comes at a time when there has been mounting tension as Ugandans go to the polls this Thursday.

Many fear the elections could turn violent, however, the government, especially, Mr Yoweri Museveni, the NRM candidate has assured Ugandans that the elections shall be peaceful.

“Nobody, nobody can disrupt the peace of Ugandans,” Mr Museveni said at Kololo Independence Grounds at the close of last year.

It is not the first time the Indian community has been a target of violence.
In April 2007 during demonstrations to save Mabira Forests, Indian citizens became a target of attacks as more than 40 nationals had to be rescued from a Hindu temple after mobs tried to attack them.

"We were inside the temple and the protesters started attacking us from outside," Mr Dipaul Patel told Reuters then, adding "It was very frightening."

Source: Daily Monitor

Kenya: Voter registration begin ahead of 2017 elections

Kenya launched a voter registration drive Monday for elections in August 2017, in a bid to push numbers to a record 25 million voters.

“We are urging Kenyans to turn up in large numbers and register as voters,” Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chief Isaack Hassan said at the launch in Nairobi.

“Currently we have 14.3 million voters in the register,” he said, adding the commission was holding a month-long drive to boost numbers but that registration would still be possible after that.

President Uhuru Kenyatta won the March 2013 polls by more than 800,000 votes ahead of his nearest rival, outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Odinga and civil society groups filed legal challenges alleging the polls were marred by a series of irregularities that skewed the results.

The 2013 polls were peaceful apart from isolated incidents, avoiding a repeat of the ethnic killings and widespread violence that followed the 2007 polls, when more than 1,100 people were murdered and several hundred thousand forced to flee their homes.

Both Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto faced trial at the International Criminal Court over the violence.

However, crimes against humanity charges against Kenyatta were dropped in December 2014, in a case littered with allegations of witness intimidation, bribery and false testimony.

On Friday, Ruto celebrated an ICC ruling barring the use of recanted testimonies in the crimes against humanity case brought against him, which many believe will pave the way for the case to now also be dropped.

Kenya’s next elections are due on August 8, 2017.


Uganda: EC causes stir with move to ban on phones at polling stations

An advisory issued on Friday by the Electoral Commission banning the use of mobile phones and other handheld gadgets at polling stations on polling day has provoked jitters from the public, civil society groups and political parties, who are questioning its motive and logic.

EC chairman Badru Kiggundu neither provided reasons for the ban nor quoted any specific law but simply said voters, representatives of political parties and observers should just switch off their phones once they enter the polling area.

“When you reach the polling area switch the phone off, vote and leave, do not start negotiating or making calls within the polling area,” he told journalists, claiming it is an international practice.

The advisory issued four days to the polls, has left a bitter taste especially against the backdrop of the “credibility crisis” that the electoral body is suffering from.

Constitutional lawyer Wandera Ogalo, argued yesterday, the advisory “reinforces what the public already knows that [Mr] Kiggundu has never been and is not independent.”

“He issued that order on behalf of someone,” Mr Ogalo said. “It is only intended to limit information flow because they want to achieve a certain agenda. The ban infringes on many rights of the voters, journalists, and candidates’ agents.”

With a mobile phone or any other internet enabled gadget, he argued, the EC knows the people and candidates’ agents are going to photograph declaration sheets and tally sheets , and share them with the polling agents to take record of the results bit by bit and this is in their disfavour.

“In otherwards if phones are banned, it means everyone will have to rely on the results as disseminated by the EC.”

Opposition candidates had already urged people to take photographs of people they suspect are not voters at polling stations and also use mobile phones to record every action at the polling stations during voting.

Mr Crispy Kaheru, the Coordinator of Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), said if the EC has embraced technology in the electoral process by introducing the Biometric Voter Verification System and Electronic Transmission, then it defeats logic to ban mobile phones.

“That ban doesn’t auger well at a time like this. Disallowing phones is unfair; the electoral process being a delicate one and I think EC knowing it well should only ensure that everything runs smoothly without being seen as if hiding something.”

Ec spokesperson Jotham Taremwa told Sunday Monitor the ban “strictly” applies during the voting process but during tallying, mobile phones and other handheld devices will be allowed.

Why it applies to only voting, Mr Taremwa said, “it is to avoid circumstances of exposing the voters’ choices.”

The press and outreach officer of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Uganda, Ms María José Gámez, said they will adhere to the advisory but added, “since we will do an assessment of the EC after the elections, this will be reflected in the report on any impacts if any.”

A spokesperson of presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi’s Go-Forward camp, Maggie Lukowe, described the EC advisory as an extension of the “everyday impunity.”


Monday, February 15, 2016

DRC: Opposition leader arrested ahead of planned strike

A prominent opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been arrested ahead of a planned general strike against President Joseph Kabila on Tuesday.

According to the United Nations, Martin Fayulu, President of the ECIDE (Engagement for Citizenship and Development) party was on Sunday afternoon detained together with one of the organisers of Tuesday’s strike.

The government has however not commented on the issue.

Opposition leaders in the country have called on all Congolese to stay home on Tuesday in a strike aimed at forcing the President to step down this year.

President Kabila who has been in office for 15 years is required by the country’s constitution to stand aside in December.

Critics however accuse him of trying to delay a presidential vote slated for November in order to stay in office.

The Director of the U.N.‘s Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in Congo, Jose Maria Aranaz said it is not clear if the opposition leader had been detained by police or the military.

But a parliamentarian from the ECIDE party said Fayulu was in the custody of the country’s intelligence services.


Uganda: Presidential hopeful arrested ahead of elections

Police arrested leading Ugandan presidential candidate Kizza Besigye as he was along one of the main highways in the capital, Kampala, eyewitnesses say.

Police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of supporters, who were escorting him, the eyewitnesses added.

Mr Besigye is one of seven opposition candidates seeking to end President Yoweri Museveni's 30-year rule in Thursday's election.

Source: BBC

CAR: Vote counting underway in presidential runoff vote

[Nii Akrofi Smart-Abbey] Voting counting in underway in the Central Africa Republic where voters on Sunday queued to elect a new president.

The election is expected to bring an end to a four-year-old religious violence which saw the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels topple then President Francois Bozize and return the country to constitutional rule.

Two former Prime Ministers, Anicet Georges Dologuélé and Faustin Archange Touadéra, victors from the first round poll on December 30 contested Sunday’s poll.

Voting ended at 16: 00 local time and was followed by vote counting.

Both presidential candidates have pledged to restore security and boost the economy.

Earlier on Sunday, the two candidates cast their ballots in the capital Bangui.

Touadera after casting his vote said he hoped for a large turnout.

“We have presented our party projects for the people, and we hope that people will come out to vote in large numbers for our bid because our candidacy is one of togetherness and confidence,” he said.

His contender Dologuélé on the other hand said “the sense of duty and joy to vote in this second round has been an accomplishment, so I participated in ending this transition and starting a new era for the Central African Republic.”

Turnout was however said to be low but no security incidents were recorded as UN peacekeepers policed the polls.

Results of the polls are expected within two weeks.

Source: Africannews

Central African Republic: UN boss calls for "peaceful and credible elections"

(Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday called on all Central Africans, including the candidates, to ensure that the presidential run-off and the new round of legislative elections, scheduled to take place Sunday, are conducted "in a peaceful and credible manner."

"The secretary-general calls on all stakeholders to maintain an environment conducive to peaceful and credible elections, in keeping with the spirit of the Code of Conduct signed by the candidates and political parties," said a statement issued here by Ban's spokesman.

Ban urged them to resolve any dispute that may arise from the elections through established legal channels, while warning that those who instigate or perpetrate acts of violence would be held accountable.

Voters in the Central African Republic will go to the polls Sunday for the delayed second round of presidential elections.

None of the 30 presidential candidates secured the required 50 percent majority in the first round of voting on Dec. 30, 2015.

The elections are expected to be conducive to ending the long chaos in the Central African Republic.

A civil war in the African country broke out on Dec. 10, 2012 between Seleka rebel coalition and government forces. Seleka took power from the then president Francois Bozize in March 2013 and the rebel's leader Michel Djotodia declared himself as president.

"Sunday's polls will bring the country closer to the end of the transition and a return to constitutional order. These are important steps towards political stability and long-term economic recovery," said Ban, who commended the Transitional Authorities for their efforts to complete the transition process by March 31, 2016.

The secretary-general also recalled the significant support provided by the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) to the electoral process, reiterating the Mission's determination "to take all necessary measures to prevent any disruption of Sunday's elections."

Source: Xinhua

Friday, February 12, 2016

Uganda: Police to remove effigies presidential candidates

Uganda Police Force is out to remove effigies of all presidential candidates from the streets.

“I have got orders from the chairman [of the] Electoral Commission to remove them [effigies],” General Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police, says.

“When the police removes them, don’t start crying foul.”

Gen. Kayihura was speaking an hour ago during a press conference at the Electoral Commission headquarters in Kampala.

He added that the public could as well consider helping the police to remove the effigies to lessen the police’s load.

EC spokesperson Mr Jotham Taremwa later told the Daily Monitor the commission banned the use of effigies in 2010.

“They are not allowed,” Mr Taremwa said.

In 2010, then police commissioner in charge of community affairs, Mr Asuman Mugenyi,said al Shabaab, al Qaeda and the Allied Democratic Front terrorists could use effigies to attack Uganda.

Supporters of the different presidential candidates place effigies of their respective candidates by roadsides or on verandas to indicate their liking for them.

It is mostly common parts of Wakiso District and even Kampala Capital City.

Here, one will find effigies of either the Forum for Democratic Change presidential candidate Kizza Besigye or the National Resistance Movement presidential candidate Yoweri Museveni.

Some supporters go ahead and even put soft drinks or even money besides the effigies.

Aside from banning effigies, Gen. Kayihura added the police are not stopping presidential candidates who campaign well past 6pm because police do not want to be accused of brutality.

“We’ve tried to be restrained. Initially, we wanted to enforce the law as it should be enforced. And where there was resistance, sometimes we do the inevitable, otherwise how do you enforce the law in the face of resistance? But then we saw that some of them were doing it [breaking the law deliberately]. We could see they were courting that,” Gen. Kayihura said.

He said some candidates were disregarding the electoral laws and guidelines to nudge the police to disperse them so that they cry victim, which could bolster their support.

Uganda: Worries of violence plagues elections

With only a week until national elections in Uganda, a number of human rights advocates are concerned about increasingly violent rhetoric coming from the nation's leaders.

Ugandans were shocked last month when Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura was quoted by a local newspaper saying that if the opposition wanted war, they would give crime preventers — a youth force created to supplement the police — guns. Then, not long after, the secretary-general of the ruling NRM party, Kasule Lumumba, was heard on the radio telling citizens the state will "kill your children” should they protest election results.

Threatening rhetoric

Although both Kayihura and Lumumba say they were misquoted, many feel the official response to these statements has been inadequate.

Supporters of Uganda's main opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party march through Gaba Road during a campaign rally in the capital Kampala Feb. 10, 2016, ahead of the Feb. 18 presidential election.
Supporters of Uganda's main opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party march through Gaba Road during a campaign rally in the capital Kampala Feb. 10, 2016, ahead of the Feb. 18 presidential election.
Patrick Tumwine, a program officer with the Human Rights Network — Uganda said such rhetoric has also been made by resident district commissioners, who are appointed by the president to oversee local communities.

“If this is not stopped, if the Electoral Commission does not come out strongly to condemn and also stop different camps and different candidates stop making hate speech and statements, these are likely to cause violence...The Secretary General of the ruling party NRM making serious statements, saying they will kill and shoot people...and the voice is not only hers, most of the RDCs in different parts of the country have made same statements. And so that is a cause for worry, stated Tumwine. “The Jinja RDC for example gave the same statements, warned people they would shoot their children if they took to the streets. So it's a threat that they're trying to do. Is it a warning? Is it planned?”

Talk of war

The potential for violence, however, has been hotly contested by the police who say local media have misquoted and latched onto certain issues to inflate the problem.

“We really meet every other day to evaluate how our deployment actually is. Are there any early warning signs? And we've managed to carry out very very peaceful political activities,” explained Fred Enanga, spokesperson with the Ugandan Police Force. “As we talk now we've policed over 900 presidential and parliamentary campaigns and out of those we've had less than 10 cases where violence was registered...those ones who have fallen off are using the politics of fear and trying to discourage certain sections of the voters, please don't go there is going to be violence, you need to stock sugar, don't come out of your homes Even on social media which is very damaging.”

Yet controversial imaging in campaign ads, such as skulls, and talk of war have citizens on edge.

Human Rights Watch has called on President Yoweri Museveni and other high ranking officials to unambiguously call for peace and reaffirm the right to freedom of assembly. So far, the nation's leaders have not commented on the issue.


Benin: Bishops’ conference calls on prime minister to resign

As Benin prepares for a February 28 presidential election, the nation’s bishops sponsored a conference that denounced corruption and called upon Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou to resign because he is a presidential candidate.

The conference’s statement, published on the bishops’ website, also exhorted President Thomas Boni Yayi not to use public funds to support government-backed candidates.

Benin is “characterized by corruption and particularly menaced by the scale of electoral corruption,” according to the statement, which was published on February 7.

The statement also called upon citizens to reject electoral bribes and vote “according to their conscience and in the fear of God.”

The West African nation of 10.9 million is 34% Catholic and 24% Muslim


Uganda election: Issues, candidates and the poll

Ugandans vote in presidential, parliamentary and local elections on 18 February, in the third polls since the restoration of multiparty politics in 2005.

President Yoweri Museveni is seeking to extend his 30-year rule and, in vying against seven opposition candidates for a fifth term, he faces his toughest challenge yet.

There are just over 15 million registered electors, out of an estimated population of 37 million.

Who are the main presidential candidates?

President Museveni has been in office since winning a five-year guerrilla war in 1986. At the age of 71, he is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, and has brooked little opposition to his rule.

His final term was meant to end in May 2006, but in 2005 he won a campaign to lift the constitutional term limits.

Mr Museveni faces criticism from the West over the country's worsening human rights record, and has responded by accusing Western donors of interfering in Uganda's internal affairs.

Kizza Besigye has stood against his former comrade-in-arms President Museveni in the last three presidential elections on behalf of the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

Amama Mbabazi is another veteran of the governing National Resistance Movement (NRM) to fall out with President Museveni.

He served as prime minister in 2011-2014, when he was dismissed after announcing he would launch a rival presidential bid. He is standing as an independent for the GoForward pressure group.

Ugandan media reports say the government is concerned at Mr Mbabazi's challenge, as he is an insider with extensive connections who could possibly siphon off votes from NRM supporters looking for fresh faces at the top.

The other candidates are unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the outcome of the elections.
Incumbent veteran leader Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, did not attend the debate, as all seven opposition candidates vye to end President Museveni's 30-year rule in the February 18 poll.

How does the voting system work?
The president has executive power as head of state, and is elected for a five-year term.
A candidate is required to win 50% plus one vote in order to win, or else face a run-off with the second-ranked candidate within 30 days.

Parliament has 418 seats, following the creation of 43 new constituencies in 2015.
Members are elected by the first-past-the-post system, with some seats reserved for women, the disabled, and other groups.

Opposition parties allege that the electoral commission has failed to update the voters roll since 2011, which could have an impact on the result if true.

What are the main election issues?

The persistently high unemployment rate, corruption, and the quality of public services are major issues for voters.

Not surprisingly, the top three candidates have highlighted infrastructure development, fighting corruption, job creation, better and affordable health care as their priorities.

How best to exploit the country's oil reserves, discovered in 2006, has also been a subject of debate.
Has the election campaign been free and fair?

The Human Rights Network-Uganda and the international group Human Rights Watch have reported an intensifying government crackdown on opposition leaders, their supporters and the media.


Benin: Court delays presidential election to March 6

The first round of Benin’s presidential election that had been scheduled for February 28 has been postponed to March 6, following delays in distribution of voters cards.

“The court has authorized the postponement of the date of the 2016 presidential election from Sunday, February 28, 2016 to Sunday, March 6, 2016,” said the Constitutional Court in a statement Thursday night.

Opposition candidates have been calling for a postponement because of delays in the production and distribution of the cards to the 4.6 million voters.

The election in the west African nation is considered open with several candidates jostling to succeed Benin’s president Boni Yayi who is barred under the country’s constitution from standing for a third term.

Yayi has been president since 2006, when he took over in a peaceful transition of power after 28 years under Marxist coup leader Mathieu Kerekou, who gradually came to embrace multiparty democracy.


Benin: Campaigns itensify ahead of March 6 election

Benin is scheduled to hold presidential elections on March 6, in which 5 million voters are expected participate.

A number of the country’s top businessmen vying for the presidency and as the campaign trail gets busier, analysts say it is a keenly fought wide open contest.

They a seeking to take over from President Thomas Boni Yayi who has ruled the west African nation for the last 10 years.

Yayi is barred under the country’s constitution from standing for a third term and has decided not to change the constitution.

Despite Yayi’s efforts to stamp out corruption and boost economic growth in the country, some Beninois are of the opinion that business people will rule the country better than the political class, which has failed in developing the economy.

The IMF says that economic growth in the cotton producing country will ease to 5.5 percent in 2016 due to a sharp slowdown in its giant West African neighbour Nigeria.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Chad: President to seek fifth term, promises term limit

[VOA News] Chad's President Idriss Deby said Tuesday that he would run for a fifth term in April's election and promised to restore term limits if he wins.

Deby seized power in a 1990 coup.

Term limits were scrapped in 2005 just as a civil war between Muslims and Christians erupted.

"The principles of presidential term limits in the constitution must be reintroduced," Deby told a political party convention Tuesday. "Today, nothing requires us to remain in a system where changing leaders becomes difficult."

He said the "life of the nation was in danger" when term limits were ended in 2005.

Chad has become a key Western ally in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists in neighboring Nigeria.

VOA News

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Uganda: Youth choosing peace hashtags over violence as elections loom

At a bustling Kampala market, Desire Karakire listens to a group of young men express their frustrations over the state of their country. Like most of their peers, they’re underemployed and extremely poor—and they feel the only way the situation will change is through violent revolution.

“Leadership involves blood,” says Richard Ssenyoga, 23.

With Uganda’s Feb. 18 national election approaching, these sentiments of violence are exactly what youth activists like Karakire are trying to mitigate.

“If violence broke out, we all have so much to lose. Violence is not going to pick a side… we will all be affected,” she says.

Uganda: Presidential candidate promises Idi Amin museum

[By AFP] A top challenger in next week’s Ugandan presidential election has promised to repatriate the remains of dictator Idi Amin and build a museum in his honour, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ex-ruling party stalwart now challenging veteran President Yoweri Museveni in the February 18 polls, made the pledge while visiting Amin’s ancestral home in northwest Uganda, where he was welcomed by the former dictator’s uncle.

Josephine Mayanja-Nkangi, Mbabazi’s spokeswoman, said “one of the critical building blocks” of the party was “reconciliation” to help “the process of forgiveness for any real or perceived wrongs in the past” that once divided Uganda.

“The issue of Idi Amin is one of them,” she told AFP.

Amin died in exile in Saudi Arabia in 2003 where he is buried and had lived since being overthrown in 1979. His eccentric eight-year rule was characterised by buffoonery and brutality, helping his name become a shorthand for African dictatorship and violent misrule.

Museveni, believed to be at least 71, and who took power in 1986 after Milton Obote and Tito Okello were toppled, is eyeing a fifth term in the elections.

“We must bring an end to the labelling of Ugandans that those are Amin’s people, those are Obote’s people and those are Museveni’s people,” Mbabazi said, according to the state-owned New Vision newspaper.

Mbabazi is the second presidential candidate to vow to repatriate Amin’s remains and erect a museum in his honour if he wins.

Abed Bwanika, a three-time election loser who garnered less than one percent of the vote in 2006 and 2011, made the same declaration during a campaign visit to Amin’s homeland.

“Amin is very good for our tourism in Uganda,” Bwanika told AFP. “Let’s have his remains here, so tourists who just hear about him can actually come and see where he was born and bred.”

Amin had multiple children, and some of them are believed to be running as parliamentary candidates.


Uganda: 20,000 voters on voters roll unaccounted for

[AEP] Polling station voter counts released by the Electoral Commission (EC) shows that some 20,000 voters on the voters register are unaccounted for barely 9 days to the general elections.

According to the EC, that notwithstanding, everything is place for to guarantee free, fair and credible elections come February 18. Some 15,297,197 voters (8,027,803 Female and 7,249,394 Male voters) are eligible to cast their ballot in the poll. However, figures from the document for male and females combined falls short of the 20, 000 (the ghost names or voters) which were unaccounted for.

Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni faces the biggest test ever in his 30 year rule as he comes up against 7 other candidates on February 18.


Uganda: Church urges police to be impartial ahead of polls

[AEP] The Catholic Church in Uganda has entreated the police force to be impartial in their work as the country heads to the polls on February 18.

The letter, signed by Archbishop John Baptist Odama, the chairperson of the Uganda Episcopal Conference was also addressed to religious men and women, citizens and people of good will. The church said the onus lies on it to guide the East African nation as it prepares for the general elections.

The Catholic Church called on the police to be accountable to the people and not to any political group. This call comes at a time when allegations have been made against the police of bias towards the governing National Resistance Movement (NRM).


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Uganda: General Sejusa charged, jailed after criticising long-ruling president

[By Reuters] A Ugandan general arrested after criticising President Yoweri Museveni and voicing support for the opposition was charged in a military court on Tuesday and sent to a maximum security prison, according to his lawyer.

Museveni aims to extend his 30-year-old rule and is facing perhaps his toughest challenge yet ahead of an election on Feb. 18 which pits him against veteran opposition leader Kizza Besigye and his ally-turned-rival, Amama Mbabazi.

Human rights groups have accused the government of using state security to stifle criticism in the east African state and intimidate Museveni's rivals, charges the government denies.

General David Sejusa, 61, was charged with being absent from the army without official leave and participating in politics in violation of army laws, Ladislas Rwakafuzi, one of his lawyers, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"He pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was remanded. He will be brought back to court on (Feb. 9)," Rwakafuzi said.

Sejusa, who has been detained at a military facility since his arrest early on Sunday, was sent to Luzira maximum security prison on the outskirts of Kampala, after being charged.

In 2013, Sejusa angered the government by alleging a government plot to kill officials opposed to a plan by Museveni to hand power to his son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi, a brigadier in the Ugandan military.

Sejusa fled to Britain after making those allegations and while there also alleged that Uganda's 2006 elections were rigged in favour of Museveni.

Sejusa was allowed to return to Uganda in December 2014 in what analysts said was a move by Museveni to prevent cracks in the military.

Since his return, the general has expressed frustration at the army's apparent delay in retiring him despite persistent pleas, and maintained frequent criticism of the government.

Uganda: Presidential candidates promise improved land rights

[Reuters] As candidates canvass for votes in Uganda's Feb. 18 presidential election, contenders are promising sweeping reforms to resolve land conflicts, one of the country's hottest political issues.

Elton Joseph Mabirizi, an independent candidate hoping to unseat President Yoweri Museveni, says he would set up a tribunal to settle land conflicts, particularly in the north of the country, where millions have been displaced by an insurgency, and in western oil frontier districts.

"We've gone to every part of Uganda and the stories are the same," Mabirizi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "People are living in fear of their land being grabbed by rich, powerful people."

Uganda's land conflicts date back decades. Illegal land acquisitions from the poor, unequal access to property rights and mismanagement of public land have all contributed to the disputes.

Museveni, who has led the East African country since 1986, is facing his most formidable contest in years ahead of next week's vote, which will see him face off against his former prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, longtime opposition figure Kizza Besigye, and others.

In his manifesto, Besigye of Uganda's main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change, has pledged to implement a public lands audit and review all land laws to ensure the rights of vulnerable members of society are better protected.

He has also promised to return all land grabbed to the rightful owners.

Other presidential candidates - including Museveni himself - have made similar promises on land reform. In his manifesto, the president outlined plans for addressing land conflicts, including the systematic registration of land and strengthening institutions for dispute resolution at local government level.

"The land question is one of the most important issues in this country, that is why it is emerging everywhere during the campaigns," said political historian Ndebesa Mwambutsya, of Makerere University.


But making promises is easy, the academic said, much more challenging will be their implementation in a country where corruption around land ownership is deeply rooted.

"These are just glossy pronouncements that do not address the fundamental question of the problem at hand," Mwambutsya said.

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Niger: Presidential candidates urged to reject the politics of insults

[AEP]  Niger’s outgoing president, Mahamadou Issoufou, has counselled all candidates to avoid politics of insults and stick cogent issues days after the presidential campaign officially started.

“I wish that all the candidates use these debates to discuss ideas and programs that will help the people of Niger. I wish there would be no insults against one another,” President Mahamadou Issoufou said.

15 candidates are contesting in for the presidency in the February 21 polls.


Niger: Campaigns start ahead February elections

[AEP] Campaigns for the February 21 Nigerien elections officially started on Saturday. The country’s capital, Niamey, was awash with the paraphernalia of political parties and candidates. In all, 15 candidates are gunning for the premier post.

While huge billboards of the President Mahamadou Issoufou, running for a second term, were dominant, other candidates also had loads of their campaign posters splashed around the city. A leading opposition figure and former prime minister, Amadou Boubacar Cissé, who lost to the incumbent in a runoff in 2011, is also running.

Meanwhile, Hama Amadou, a presidential aspirant and former speaker of parliament, who has been in prison for 2 months will not be able to campaign. Four main opposition candidates, including ex-President Mahamane Ousmane, who ruled from 1993 to1996, Mr Oumarou, and Amadou M. Cisse have formed an alliance to block Mr. Issoufou in the second round of the polls.

Source: AEP

Monday, February 1, 2016

Uganda: Dissident general arrested ahead of elections

(AP) — A military general who opposes Uganda's longtime president was arrested ahead of presidential elections next month, his lawyer said Sunday.

Gen. David Sejusa, who has called President Yoweri Museveni a dictator, is being detained at a military barracks in the Ugandan capital Kampala, said Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi. Sejusa's home was surrounded by armed military police early Sunday, he said.

Sejusa's arrest is likely to raise tensions ahead of presidential elections on Feb. 18.

It was not possible to get a comment from the government or military.

Museveni, who is campaigning for re-election, has ruled Uganda since 1986, when he led a group of rebels who had waged a bush war against a government they accused of rigging elections.

Sejusa was one of the senior commanders of those rebels and eventually became a four-star general, was on the military high command and led Uganda's domestic and external spy agencies.

Now Sejusa openly accuses Museveni of violating the ideals for which they waged that guerrilla war.

In 2013, Sejusa wrote a letter to the domestic spy chief urging him to investigate allegations of a plot to kill high-ranking government officials seen as being opposed to the political rise of Museveni's son, a brigadier who commands the country's special forces. Facing likely arrest, Sejusa, who, was traveling in Europe at the time, sought asylum in London. He quietly returned home in Dec. 2014.

"It is thought that the Museveni regime, which has ruled Uganda for nearly 30 years, and may be facing defeat at the coming elections ... has a plan to arrest top Uganda pro-democracy activists, like General Sejusa, so as to forestall possible mass uprising that is seen as inevitable should Museveni refuse to hand over power to the victorious political opposition," Free Uganda, a pro-democracy group, said in a statement.