Monday, October 31, 2016

Vote Counting Underway in Ivorian Referendum

Vote counting is underway in the Ivory Coast where citizens voted on Sunday in a referendum for a new constitution.
The results of the referendum according to the country’s electoral commission would be known by Monday or Tuesday.

The exercise was reportedly disrupted briefly by some youth who destroyed equipment at several polling stations in the Ivorian capital Abidjan.

Eye witnesses and the Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko confirmed the violence at the polls boycotted by the opposition who are against the draft constitution.
In the popular neighborhood of Yopougon, some youths ransacked Sicogi II Public School office, witnesses told AFP

“There are young violent people who are ransacking the polls but it can not stop the voting,” Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko told the media. 

He said the young men posed as voters and took voting materials preventing people from casting their ballots citing neighbourhoods including Yopougon, Gagnoa, Daloa and Dabou in the capital which are popular opposition strongholds.

“We are redeploying security forces to ensure that the election proceeds smoothly. Things are going well overall,” Bakayoko added.
President Alassane Ouattara also mentioned the incidents after voting in Abidjan, saying they were isolated cases. 

“These happened at two or three places … I appeal for a peaceful election. The police did its job. We can vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, it is not worth disrupting it or building barricades,” he emphasized. 

The main Ivorian opposition party, Alliance of Democratic Forces Ivory Coast (AFD-CI), and its allies demonstrated last week and called for a boycott of the referendum vote as well as a total withdrawal of the new draft constitution which they claim is a step backward for democracy.

At the heart of the opposition’s dispute is a clause that relaxes the previous requirement that presidential candidates should have both parents born in Ivory Coast. Also, the removal of the maximum age limit (75 years) for presidential candidates.

The poll results will determine the country’s position on the new constitution which stipulates the creation of a post of Vice President, a Senate, a House of traditional chiefs, compulsory education and five-year term for the President among others.

Voting was expected to end at 18:00 GMT and the results declared by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in a maximum of four days.

This is the second referendum in the West African country and if the ‘Yes’ wins, the new constitution will be the third for the country.



Gambian Opposition Parties Pick Leader to Unseat Yahya Jammeh

Seven out of eight opposition parties in The Gambia have collectively rallied behind one leader to unseat President Yahya Jammeh who is seeking a fifth term in office.

The coalition including the country’s first ever female presidential aspirant Isatou Touray on Sunday unanimously elected the leader of the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), Adama Barrow, to contest on their behalf in the December 1 presidential election.

51-year-old Barrow, who is a businessman, was elected by 308 opposition delegates polling 68% of votes at a convention in the capital Banjul.

The coalition was formed by all the small parties and the main UDP after signing a memorandum this month to put their “differences aside, in pursuance of the supreme national interest of ousting Jammeh from power”.

Yahya Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia for the past 22 years, was selected in February as the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party’s candidate.

The Gambia’s newly appointed Independent Electoral Commission assured political parties last month that the vote would not be rigged.

Campaigning for the election begins on November 16.



Thursday, October 27, 2016

DRC: CENCO calls for renegotiation of 2017 presidential vote, ban on constitutional change

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s influential Catholic Church has urged politicians to renegotiate a deal struck this month to ensure a presidential election is held next year.
They also want President Joseph Kabila forbidden from standing for a third term.

In a country where more than 40 percent of Congolese identify as Catholics and where confidence in other institutions is weak, the Congolese church has long been regarded as a moral compass.
DRC ruling coalition and part of the opposition have agreed to delay the vote from this November to April 2018, citing logistical and budgetary difficulties enrolling millions of voters.

But the vast central African country’s main opposition bloc has denounced the accord.
“In regards to the major (political) differences that we currently face, the bishops have deemed it necessary and urgent to call on all parties involved to come together, when convenient, to address these differences in the interest of the country,” said member of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo Abbot Donatien Shole.

Opponents say the new deal leaves room for Kabila to change the constitution so that he can run again, but the government denies these accusations.

“The final provision of the agreement is that all the other parties that did not participate can at any moment, come and join us and sign the agreement,” said ruling majority spokesperson, Alain Atundu.
Opposition leaders have promised further protests to oust Kabila from power, raising fears of a return to widespread violence in a country where millions have died in civil conflicts since the 1990s and rebel groups continue to wreak anarchy in the eastern regions.

“Why does the ruling majority support this agreement? It’s precisely because it was signed to benefit the ruling majority, as they continue to violate the constitution, as long as there is power sharing. Whereas for us, and the rest of the country,” said Hemery Okunju, national deputy for opposition party.

According to a recent pool conducted, over 81 percent of the respondents oppose changing the constitution to allow Kabila to stand for a third term.
Seventy-four percent say he should leave office this year.

In the capital Kinshasa, opinions are mixed on the merits of the recent agreement between the ruling majority and opposition.

“What guarantees do we have that since this agreement was signed that the people from the ruling majority will no longer come up with other methods to try and change the constitution, especially in regards to the referendum? What assures us that this agreement will be respected?” said one resident Senga Chretien.

Congo has never experienced a peaceful transition of power and analysts fear that the impasse over Kabila’s plans to stay on will lead to widespread bloodletting, especially with the exclusion of key opposition members.

“We did not get the results that we hoped for in this agreement, meaning that in order to have national cohesion and end the political crisis that the ruling majority has created, the artificial crisis that they have created, I think we need to adopt the language of the Catholic church and call for a more inclusive dialogue,” said political analyst, Daniel Safu.

On Wednesday (October 26) Kabila attended a regional summit in Angola, which is aimed at winning the support for this month’s deal between the opposition and government, under which a power-sharing government is to be named.