Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Long queues, peaceful elections so far in Liberia

Liberians have been at the polls since 8am today to decide who becomes the next president to succeed the first female African President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who has ruled Liberia for the past 12years

Reports reaching AEP indicate voting is going on peacefully without much incidence in most polling stations across the country. Despite the humid and hot temperature this afternoon, huge turnout has been recorded across the country.
President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was among one of the first to cast her vote in her home county of Bomi. She jokingly told reporters “At least the talk shows will stop” and told reporters she was happy to have finally voted someone to replace her.
This elections has so far witnessed a general atmosphere of excitement among several Liberians especially among the over 100,000 first time voters who are voting primarily for peace and calm.
Philimena Mulbah, AEP field officer reporting from District 10 polling station says though it took her less than a minute to go through the process she had to wait in line for a long while before it got to her turn
“Been in line for 3 hours it’s 90 something degrees and the lines are still long!” she said.

“I really enjoyed voting and the process was so smooth, not too much tension as people have been talking about in past elections. I have voted for Liberia and Liberia is what I want to see move forward,” Gabriel Goah reported.
These are some of the key sentiments being reported from across the country as our reporter Robert Finnan reporting from Grand Bassa County saying the process has been very peaceful however turnout was very high when polls opened. “The voters have been very patient throughout the whole process and everything has been orderly”

Meanwhile AEP field officers in some other selected counties in Liberia report of long queues with priority being given to the aged, nursing mothers and the physically challenged. Braille ballot papers are also available for the visually impaired which has been highly commended by observer missions.
Field officers also reported a few isolated cases of logistical issues as well as voters not finding their names in the voter roll. For instance, in Gardenersville, an elderly woman, Anna was frustrated because her name wasn’t found in the voter roll even though she had her card.

20 Presidential Candidates are contesting the process with the challenge being between the governing Unity Party’s Vice President Joseph Boakai who is reportedly in the frontline with close contender ex-football Star George Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change.

Polls will close at 6pm GMT and the final results is expected to be announce within 48 hours after counting of votes.


AEP

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#KenyaElections: Raila Odinga withdraws from October election re-run

Kenya opposition Leader, Mr Odinga has pulled out of the scheduled 26 October 2017 elections rerun saying it would give the Independent Elections and Boundary Commission (IEBC) ample time to introduce reforms that will ensure they deliver a credible elections.

"We have come to the conclusion that there is no intention on the part of the IEBC to undertake any changes to its operations and personnel and all indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one."

Mr. Odinga said it was best he withdrew from the race "considering the interests of the people of Kenya, the region and the world at large"

Mr Odinga further called on citizens to come out in their number and protest on Wednesday, using the slogan "no reform, no elections".


AEP

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#LiberiaElections: ECC commends Liberians for a peaceful election

Proceedings so far since the polls opened at 8am have been generally calm and peaceful. Liberia’s Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) in a statement issued during the voting process assured all voters the queue at 6pm when polls close would be allowed to vote.

After receiving reports from 470 out of its 498 rapid response observers deployed, the ECC reported that all sensitive materials (including the ballots, ballot stamp, indelible ink, the Final Registration Roll (FRR), and the Record of the Count Forms) were available at 98% of polling places at the time of opening (8am).

Some polling stations were however inaccessible to the physically challenged or the elderly as observers had to climb stairs to reach there. There were security personnel stationed at most polling stations to help remedy such situations.

As at 8:30am most polling stations had opened however a few opened later at 10am which could translate to the long queues seen at polling stations now.

Generally, reports indicate that the opening process has been peaceful, orderly, and proceeded smoothly across the country. However, there were a few reported isolated issues of concern at certain polling places. These included tensions at polling places where opening was delayed or where a large of number voters are queued, as well as instance where observers were not permitted to observe at the polling place.

The statement further reports of instances in some polling places where voters with valid voters’ cards could not find their names on the voters’ lists.

The ECC urged all Liberians to remain calm and patient as voting continues till 6pm and encouraged political party agents to continue monitoring the process through closing and counting.
AEP will continue to bring you updates on the closing and counting process.
 
AEP

Get the latest news and updates on elections in Africa by Following us on twitter  @africanelection and like the African Elections Project Facebook page

#LiberiaElections: Sole Female Candidate Cautions Against Violence

MacDella Cooper, the only female candidate in Tuesday's presidential election in Liberia, on Monday joined hundreds of peace advocates at a concert for a violence-free poll.

A News Agency of Nigeria team covering the election reports that the concert ended a three-month prayer and fasting camp by women from across the country.


Speaking to NAN, Ms. Cooper stressed the need for all contestants and their supporters to put the interest of the nation above self and respect the outcome of the exercise.

"We are celebrating the sustainability of our peace over the past 12 years, and its continuation for the next 100 years, we hope.

"We had 14 year-long civil war, we sustained 12 years of peace, and in order to develop this nation and build opportunities for our people - the youth, women, fathers, we have to sustain peace.

"So peace is critical to the next phase of our country. It is critical that we go to the polls and vote and leave the polls with peace in mind.

"When the results come out for all the candidates, especially myself, we should have to accept the results, and not use violence as a way of solving our problems, but to get to the legal authorities to dispute any concerns that we may have."

Addressing the gathering, the Chief Imam of Liberia, Ali Krayee, urged the people to put the message of peace into practice before, during and after the elections.

"Today, we all say we want peace, but peace should not be a mere utterance; peace should be what we think, what we love in our hearts, peace should be what we live; peace should be manifested in the way we interact with one another.

"But there can be no genuine peace in our society without righteousness. As long as a society keeps itself distant from God, that society will not know peace.

"So, we ask all of our people to maintain the peace, no matter the circumstances; no matter the cost. We have to do everything that is required to make this nation peaceful."

NAN reports that for the first time in 70 years, Tuesday's elections will see the transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another.

The incumbent President and Nobel Prize winner, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is stepping down after serving out her constitutional two terms of six years each.

Source: NAN

Sunday, October 8, 2017

ECOWAS & ECONEC gear up for credible #LiberiaElections

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) have pledged their commitment to peaceful and credible general elections in Liberia, scheduled for 10th October.

Head of the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Liberia and former Ghanaian President, Mr. John Mahama and President of the ECONEC governing board, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu made the commitment at a meeting in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital on 6th October.

Leading the 71-member regional observation mission, Mr. Mahama told Prof. Yakubu, who is also Chair of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that Liberia required all necessary support from ECOWAS and the international community at this critical juncture of its political history.

Mahama, who also led the Commonwealth Observation Mission to Kenya’s polls last August said: “It is the first time that an elected government will be transferring power to another since the country’s devastating civil war that lasted for more than a decade.” The Liberian war ended with the ECOWAS-led international intervention.

He described the recent nullification of Kenya’s presidential election by the country’s Supreme Court as a lesson and useful experience for strengthening evolving electoral systems in Africa, especially with the introduction of technology.

He however warned against the entrenchment of a precedent whereby “elections are now settled by the judiciary, instead of at the polling booths.”

Prof. Yakubu, who led the ECONEC Needs Assessment and Solidarity Missions to Sierra Leone and Liberia last July, noted that the “integrity and moral force,” which the former president and his colleagues brought to electoral processes, facilitated the work of election management bodies on the continent, noting that all the 15 ECOWAS countries are now running democratic governments.

He restated his now familiar phrase that “it is cheaper to deploy ECONEC for credible and peaceful elections than to deploy ECOMOG,” the regional military force after flawed elections.

Specifically on Liberia, the ECONEC boss acknowledged the “huge challenge of delivering electoral logistics to the rural areas of the country during rainy season,” and the impact on the electoral process.

He expressed the hope that Liberia’s stakeholders would take another look at the electoral timetable for easy delivery of materials and reduction of the cost of election in the country.

In a separate meeting with the Chair of Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC) in Monrovia on 7th October, Prof Yakubu reiterated ECONEC’s support to Liberia and other network members for the consolidation of democracy in the region.

The ECONEC boss was accompanied to the meetings by a strong INEC election observation team, including two National Commissioners, Prof. Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine and Dr Adekunle Ogunmola among others.

From Liberia, Prof Yakubu will lead an ECONEC delegation to Abidjan for talks on capacity building for Cote d’Ivoire’s elections Commission, at the behest of the Commission.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

#LiberiaElections: Weah refutes claim he is in contact with ex-leader Charles Taylor

Liberian presidential candidate George Weah on Friday denied contact with ex-leader Charles Taylor as controversy erupted over the former warlord's alleged behind-the-scenes role in the country's politics.

After stepping off a helicopter on his return to the capital, Monrovia, from a nationwide tour ahead of elections on October 10, Weah categorically denied speaking with Taylor, who is serving a 50-year prison term in Britain for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"I am not in contact with Charles Taylor, I repeat, I am not," Weah told AFP and France 24 journalists. The BBC quoted him this week as saying he had taken a phone call from Taylor recorded in January.

Weah's vice-presidential pick is Taylor's ex-wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor, who told AFP "Liberia needs to move on" when asked if she maintained a correspondence with her ex-husband.

The union of Weah and Howard-Taylor's parties into the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) for the vote was seen as an unexpected but astute move as the footballing superstar turned politician makes his second attempt at the presidency.

Howard-Taylor is a respected senator in her own right and has built her own political reputation beyond that of Taylor's First Lady during his 1997-2003 rule.

However, the international community remains preoccupied by Taylor's ongoing influence on public life.

The US Congress passed a resolution in late September which "condemns any external interference in the elections, including any communication or action by convicted war criminal and former armed faction leader Charles Taylor to influence the elections from prison."

A UN-backed court convicted Taylor in 2012 of war crimes, crimes against humanity and several other offences for his role in neighbouring Sierra Leone's 1991-2001 civil war in which an estimated 50,000 people died.

- 'Agenda' question -

Howard-Taylor has also faced questions over whether she is fully estranged from Taylor.

But on Friday she said a widely-circulated remark that she wanted to bring back Taylor's "agenda" had been taken out of context.

"That's not what I said, and maybe that's what people wanted to hear. I said the NPP has an agenda, and when the NPP joined the coalition they went with a mandate, our plan of action."

The NPP was Taylor's former party, and Howard-Taylor now represents the NPP in the Liberian Senate.

Taylor rose to power on the back of the rebellion he launched in 1989 against Liberia's then-military ruler Samuel Doe.

In 1997 after seven years of Liberia's own civil war, Taylor was elected president. One of his campaign slogans was: "He killed my Ma, he killed my Pa, but I will vote for him."

His National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) earned a reputation for extreme violence and was among the first to force children, some as young as 10, to carry guns.

He kept a low profile, living in a seaside villa in Nigeria and having a luxury car with diplomatic plates, until the Nigerian government in March 2006 bowed to international calls to extradite him.

Source: AFP

LiberiaElections: Closer look at leading presidential candidates

#LiberiaElections: Closer look at leading presidential candidates
Liberia goes to the polls on 10 October to elect a president to take over from Africa’s first female president and incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Sirleaf will step down after serving two constitutionally mandated 2 terms. The 20 candidates contesting the presidential seat is made up of 19 males and 1 female. The list contains the current vice president, a former war-lord, a fashion model, seasoned politicians and a host of businessmen.
In no particular order, we take a look at the leading candidates:

Joseph Boakai – Unity Party (UP)
The 73 year old veteran politician from the remote village of Worsonga in Foya District, Lofa County is the current vice president having served in that position for 2 terms since 2005. He describes himself as a race car that has been kept in a garage for 12 years, waiting to be set on the track to unleash a wave of change in Liberia. Joseph Boakai
The veteran politician served as agriculture minister under warlord Charles Taylor before becoming vice president on the UP's ticket when the party's candidate Sirleaf beat football star George Oppong Weah in a run-off in 2005.
The standard-bearer of the Unity Party in outlining his vision says he will use agriculture, road inter-connectivity to rebuild the economy

MacDella Cooper - Liberia Restoration Party (LRP)
The 40year old former model and philanthropist lays claim and base her campaign on President Sirleaf’s recent statement that Liberia needs a young president the requirement for the nation call for a generational change.  
"Coming out of the presidency in her 70s, she knows what it takes to keep the stamina of running that office," said Cooper
The Monrovia born only female candidate plans to revive the country’s economy by slashing high salaries for government officials and redirecting the money to important sectors, such as the ailing health sector.  She promises to bring free education, universal healthcare, the decentralization of power, electricity, and land reforms to the people.

George Oppong Weah - Congress for Democratic Change (CDC)
George Weah currently serves as the senator of the northwestern region of Montserrado. In this upcoming election, he will lead a coalition of three parties in a bid to become the next President.
The former African football great and one time world football player of the year will head a coalition in his second attempt to become the president of Liberia.
Mr Weah’s first shot at the presidency was in 2005 losing to Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In 2011 he run as a vice-presidential candidate on the ticket of Winston Tubman but that was also unsuccessful.
Weah claims his presidential ambitions are borne out of patriotism and sees education as the key to transform and develop Liberia he will invest significant resources in the training of teachers and reforming the sector.

Charles Brumskine – Liberty Party
The 66 year old attorney and flag-bearer of the Liberty will be contesting the presidency for the third time in this elections after contesting and losing in both the 2005 and 2011 elections.
“As the leader of my party and the candidate myself, I take responsibility for the lack of success in our first two attempts. And I believe it basically had to do with not having communicated effectively our vision for the country of Liberia,” he said.
His campaign vision is based on what he calls the four Rs – reconciliation, reform, rebuild, and recovery.

Prince Yomi Johnson - Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR).
Prince Johnson, senator of Liberia’s second most populous county Nimba will be contesting in the presidential race for the second time after coming in a surprising third in the 2011 elections.
Affectionately called PYJ, he is seen as a liberator, godfather and preacher man in his stronghold of Nimba. Others see him as a merciless warlord who murdered the  former president Samuel Doe in 1990.
He is not favoured to win the elections but considered a key kingmaker as he can swing the votes in favour of any of the candidates who emerges in the second round should the elections be decided on a re-run.

Alexander Cummings - Alternative National Congress (ANC)
The 61 year old, former Coca-Coca executive turned politician, businessman and philanthropist will be contesting the presidency for the first time.
Cummings is not associated with any known political movement in Liberia and comes to the presidential race on a fresh slate. He has so far garnered support from the grassroots through numerous social interventions such as scholarships for students, soft loan schemes for market women and other philanthropic assistance.
He is campaigning on infrastructure development which he believe is the key for economic growth and job creation
  
Benoni Urey - All-Liberian Party
The 60 year old is considered as one of Liberia's most successful men. He is the founder of Lonestar Cell MTN – Liberia’s largest nationwide mobile network and Wulki Farms – one of the country’s primary indigenous food producers. He has never previously stood for, or held, elected political office.
He entered the presidential race because he is of the opinion that fourteen years of peace and international aid has not transformed the nation and the economy does not show any sign of improvement with high inflation and unemployment.
Urey is campaigning on job creation and an agro-based economy
 
AEP


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Thursday, October 5, 2017

#LiberiaElections Campaigning intensifies

Political activity has stepped up in the runup to the October 10 elections, as candidates make their final push for Liberia’s presidency and 73 House of Representatives (lower house) seats.  
Six candidates have so far dominated the presidential campaign: Joseph Boakai, the incumbent vice president and candidate of the ruling Unity Party (UP); Senator George Weah, standing for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC); Lawyer Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP); Businessman Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP); former Coca Cola executive Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), and former Central Bank Governor, Joseph Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE).
Major parties’ presidential candidates have rallied supporters in efforts to display their prominence, especially in Monrovia and urban centers around the country. Tens of thousands of people have gathered on the streets of the capital, at football stadiums, or at party headquarters. All parties’ rallies are characterized by a festive atmosphere fueled by young people, colorful paraphernalia, vehicle convoys, and blaring music.
All major party standard-bearers are now visiting outlying counties to drum up support for their candidacies as well as their parties’ local legislative candidates.
Enthusiastic attendance at rallies provides a stark contrast to quiet, sometimes empty local offices of political parties, evidence that most parties lack organization outside of their central headquarters.
The campaigns for the House of Representatives have relied more on direct outreach rather than mass rallies, with emphasis on smaller local gatherings, such as community meetings and door-to-door messaging.
While calm overall, on September 20 the campaign was marked with a violent clash between CDC and LP supporters in northeastern Nimba County when a CDC convoy reportedly attempted to drive through a gathering of partisans blocking the main road in front of the local Liberty Party headquarters. The incident was followed a few days later by a skirmish between the supporters of the CDC and Unity Party in Montserrado County (where the capital Monrovia is situated). which resulted in two critical stabbing injuries, as well as property damage. Interlocutors have expressed concern about the involvement of weapons in the clash, as well as the fact that the clash was preventable had parties complied with the requests issued by security forces to inform them in advance of their campaign plans, and also that weapons were involved.  After this incident, the CDC standard-bearer condemned the election violence and asked supporters to refrain from using violence during the campaign. The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) publicly called on the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Liberian National Police (LNP) to take appropriate actions against violations and met privately with political parties to emphasize the importance of their commitment to the Ganta and Farmington River resolutions. The LNP investigation is ongoing.
The Nimba County clash was followed two days later by an altercation between supporters of CDC and UP legislative candidates in Montserrado County. Margibi has seen repeated clashes between partisans in the second legislative district. In Fish Town, in the southeastern River Gee County, a CDC vehicle was damaged during a rally and there were heated exchanges between legislative candidates during debates or local gatherings. In Lofa, there have been recent clashes in both District 1 between supporters of incumbent UP and challenger LP candidates, and in District 4 between supporters of incumbent UP and challenger MOVEE party candidates.
In Maryland County and northeastern Nimba County there have been reports of candidates collecting voter identification numbers from voters,which could fuel tensions among contenders. Collecting voter identification numbers is not illegal, though it is illegal to buy voter cards.
The practice of collecting voter card numbers is largely perceived as a tool to control and assess a candidate’s support. However, it could also act as a means of intimidating voters into supporting a particular candidate.
There have also been several reports of buying voter cards, a tactic for suppressing an opponent’s turnout. Other than a recent arrest in Nimba county of one individual charged with buying cards, reports are widespread but unverified.
There have been an increasing number of reports from Bong county of candidates hearkening back to the Charles Taylor era as a way to mobilize the former president’s base of support.  One CDC legislative candidate said from the podium at a major rally, “Let me borrow from our former President that ‘God’s willing, I will be back’ [an infamous line from Taylor’s farewell speech as he left the country in 2003 for asylum in Nigeria] and Senator Taylor represents former Liberian President Charles Taylor on the ticket.”
Many religious leaders have played a positive role by insisting on the importance of peaceful elections. However, others have spread partisan messages. Across Liberia, interlocutors report religious and other community facilities receiving such gifts as electricity upgrades, furniture and cash from political aspirants.
Most political parties intend to deploy party agents in the polling places on election day, a program that will enable them to identify potential irregularities and independently verify polling place-level results.
Party agents are playing more than a self-interested role; their presence in a polling place during the voting process gives them the chance to count the number of people voting and allows them at the end of the day to compare that number with the number of ballots cast. This will be a critical check on the integrity of the system, since NEC procedures do not include the crucial step of reconciling the number of voters against the number of ballots cast.

SOURCE: NDI

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Upcoming elections will signal Liberia's ‘irreversible course’ towards democracy, President Sirleaf tells UN

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly just 22 days ahead of historic elections in Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf today said the polls will signal the “irreversible course” that the country has embarked upon to consolidate its young, post-conflict democracy.

As she recalled that 11 years ago, in September of 2006, she had addressed the Assembly as the newly elected President of Liberia and the first woman to be democratically elected as head of State on the African continent, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf said the coming elections, which will mark the end of her time in office, will pave the way for the next generations of Liberians to lead the country in to the future.

“The [legislative and presidential polls] will mark the first time in 73 years that political power will be handed over peacefully, and democratically, from one elected leader to another,” she said, adding: Democracy is on the march in Liberia and, I believe, on an irreversible path forward on the African continent.”

She said she had assumed office after 25 years of development reversal which was further compounded by a 15-year civil war. “We have made great progress and laid the foundation for the next democratic government. We have reshaped the Armed Forces of Liberia and the Liberia National Police, professionalized our customs and immigration services and small Liberian Coast Guard.”

Further, previously dysfunctional public institutions now have the capacity to respond to the needs of our citizens through decentralized county service centers with ownership by strong local governments. “And from the tragedy of the health crisis, we are strengthening our healthcare systems, prioritizing prevention and delivering capacity at the community level,” said Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, underscoring that Liberia has enjoyed the benefit of multilateralism through full support provided by the UN, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

“Liberia's transformation was powered by a world community that made a shared commitment to deliver peace to a country, and a subregion, beset by civil conflict and cross border destabilization,” she said, noting that the UN and its partner nations were of “one mind,” and from that global unity, a new Liberian democratic state was born.

“Liberia is a post conflict success story. It is your post conflict success story,” stated Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, urging the UN and its Member States to continue to lead, to spread the values of democracy, human rights, and good governance while strengthening solidarity for economic transformation and social resilience. Such leadership should extend to full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as on UN reform, including of the Security Council.

Source: UN News Centre

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Confidence of African opposition leaders boosted after #KenyaElections ruling

 Opposition leaders across Africa, long frustrated in their campaigns to topple firmly entrenched leaders, are hailing the shock overturn of last month’s presidential vote in Kenya, calling it an example for their own countries to emulate.

“If it happened in Kenya, it can happen in Zimbabwe as well,” Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told thousands of supporters at a rally on Saturday.

Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has made three failed attempts at the Zimbabwean presidency, losing all of them to President Robert Mugabe, who has kept an iron grip on the country since 1980.

Elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by violence, intimidation and charges of electoral fraud.

“This is an unprecedented decision in the whole of Africa and I think it’s a good step towards democracy,” Tsvangirai said.

On Friday, Kenya’s Supreme Court cancelled the results of the August 8 election, which kept President Uhuru Kenyatta in office, over widespread irregularities. The country now has until October 31 to hold a new election.

“Kenyan judges have just given an extraordinary lesson to Africa and to the world,” said Burundi’s opposition leader Charles Nditije.

Burundi has been in the grip of a political crisis since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a third term.

He won elections that July that were boycotted by the opposition, who branded the vote a violation of the constitution.

Nditije, who heads main opposition group CNARED, said the Kenya decision stands in stark contrast to the “cowardice” shown by Burundi’s Constitutional Court, which cleared Nkurunziza’s re-election bid.

Kenya’s Supreme Court is “a model of independence for the judiciary to follow,” Nditije said.

The Burundian government, for its part, qualified the Kenya decision as a “lesson” for those who criticised the country’s Constitutional Court for allowing Nkurunziza to run for a third term.

– ‘Be independent’ –

In Uganda, ruled since 1986 by President Yoweri Museveni, the main opposition leader Kizza Besigye applauded the Kenya decision.

“This is unprecedented in Africa,” Besigye told AFP.

Kenya’s Supreme Court rendered a shock ruling this month cancelling the results of the August 8 election over widespread irregularities © AFP/File / SIMON MAINA
Besigye faced arrest before, during and after the February 2016 presidential election, coming second to Museveni in the controversial vote.

Museveni, who has ruled the east African nation for 31 years, won in the first round with more than 60 percent of the votes, but foreign monitors said the election was held in an atmosphere of intimidation.

Besigye said Museveni’s victory came through cheating and fraud.

“The Ugandan judiciary should learn from their counterparts in Kenya, to be independent,” Besigye said. “I doubt if the same would have taken place in Uganda”.

In Gabon, the office of opposition leader Jean Ping said in a statement that the Kenya decision was “normal”.

“The Kenyan case is simply normal, while Gabon is not,” Ping’s spokesman Jean-Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi said.

Ping, a 74-year-old career diplomat, was narrowly defeated by incumbent Ali Bongo in presidential elections last August.

Gabon’s Constitutional Court ruled that Bongo won 50.66 percent of the vote and Ping 47.24 percent, leading the opposition leader to accuse the administration of electoral fraud.

The court rejected Ping’s bid for a recount, upholding Bongo’s victory, obtained by a winning margin of around 11,000 votes.

For the Bongo government, the Kenyan ruling “is proof that it is the country’s institutions that determine the electoral process and not international observers”.

– ‘Encouraging’ for opposition –

“If a Supreme Court goes through the effort of cancelling rigged elections, I think that electoral commissions charged with organising elections will now pay more attention to the risk of seeming to be sanctioned by a higher institution,” former Guinean prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo said.

Guinea’s former prime minister and opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, left, says he hopes the Kenya ruling will inspire other courts charged with treating electoral disputes in Africa © AFP/File / CELLOU BINANI
Diallo has accused President Alpha Conde of electoral fraud and said he had “stolen” two presidential elections held in 2010 and 2015.

Diallo hopes the Kenya ruling will inspire other courts charged with treating electoral disputes in Africa.

In Tanzania, opposition lawmaker Zitto Kabwe called for amending the constitution: “Kenya has set the bar higher. Tanzania needs a new constitution” so there is a way to challenge an election before a court.

And in Rwanda — where President Paul Kagame was re-elected for a third term last month with nearly 99 percent of the vote — opposition leader Frank Habineza said the Kenya ruling was “very encouraging for the opposition in Africa”.

“The independence of the justice system is important on this continent, and it helps to avoid other destructive choices such as setting up armed rebel groups and violent demonstrations,” he said.

Source: AFP

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Angola chooses 3rd President since 42yrs of independence

Angolans vote Wednesday in an election that will see President Jose Eduardo dos Santos quit after nearly four decades in power, but with his hand-picked successor widely expected to take over.

The longtime leader has laid the groundwork for his designated successor in an oil-rich country where poverty, corruption and human rights concerns are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.

Defense Minister Joao Lourenco is the ruling MPLA party's candidate to succeed dos Santos, who is expected to remain party leader. Lourenco, whose association with 74-year-old dos Santos dates to the war against Portuguese colonial rule, has pledged to fight graft if elected.

He would likely encounter the entrenched interests of an elite partly dominated by the president's family, including daughter Isabel dos Santos, who heads the state oil company Sonangol although media reports have indicated that she could vacate the post.

Isabel dos Santos is reputed to be Africa's richest woman, hailing from a nation with one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Angola endured decades of civil war that ended in 2002, leaving at least half a million people dead, several million displaced from their homes and infrastructure devastated.

Despite evidence of cronyism, the selection of Lourenco as a successor to dos Santos and the avoidance of a "dynastic transition" to one of the president's children indicates "that internal checks and balances may be stronger than many believed," said Soren Kirk Jensen, an associate fellow in the African program of Chatham House, a London-based institute.

"As the process unfolds, it is clear that Angola is following the pattern of gradual democratization from other governments in Southern Africa headed by former liberation parties that led the armed struggle for independence from colonial powers," Jensen wrote in an analysis.

The MPLA, whose Portuguese acronym means Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, is the election front-runner after winning in 2012 with 72 percent of votes amid allegations of irregularities.

The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) party, a former rebel force that fought the MPLA in the civil war, is the main opposition challenger and won nearly 19 percent in the election five years ago.

Heavily reliant on oil production, Angola has since struggled because of the global fall in commodity prices and the opposition seeks to capitalize on what it says is growing discontent in the southern African nation's young population.

About 9.3 million Angolans are registered to vote for the 220-member National Assembly, and the winning party will then select the president. Dos Santos, who has received medical treatment in Spain this year, appeared alongside Lourenco at a weekend rally on the outskirts of the Angolan capital of Luanda.

"I come here just to reiterate my personal support to our candidate" said dos Santos, according to the Portuguese news agency Lusa. "I do not doubt that the MPLA will win the elections, and he, our candidate, will be elected the next president of the republic of Angola."

Lourenco, in turn, praised the president, describing him as "the captain of the team" and saying "he has always been in command."

Dos Santos, who is praised by some Angolans for his role in ending the civil war, has previously indicated that he was considering retirement and then remained at the country's helm, though this time it appears certain that he will relinquish the post of president.

The only other African leader who has ruled longer - by about a month - is President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 75, of Equatorial Guinea. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 93, has been in power since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Angolan critics have alleged that the ruling party has unfairly used state machinery ahead of the election, noting that most campaign coverage on radio and television stations has focused on the campaign of the MPLA.

Election observers from other African countries will monitor the vote, but the European Union is only sending a small team instead of a full-fledged observer mission because it says the Angolan government wanted to impose restrictions, including limited access to polling stations around the country.

In a statement, Amnesty International said Angola's next leader must work to reverse attacks on freedom of expression and other rights. Criticizing the president is considered a crime against state security in Angola, and peaceful protesters, journalists and others have been jailed for long periods or "forcibly disappeared without a trace," the group said.

Source: (AP)

Monday, August 21, 2017

#LiberiaElections: ‘No Amount of Negativity Will Distract Me from the Presidency’ - Weah

In what some are describing as a political tsunami that swept across Monrovia and its environs over the weekend, the leader of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), George Manneh Weah, has called on Liberians and all the country’s development partners to ensure that the October 10 elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere.

Making probably the most anticipated speech in the ongoing elections campaign season at the official launch of the 2017 CDC campaign at the party’s Congo Town headquarters, Weah said that as the country heads to its first, true democratic transition in 74 years, it is necessary for all, including the Liberian government, the European Union, ECOWAS, UN, UNDP and the various diplomatic missions accredited to the country, to “work assiduously to ensure that we conduct a free, fair and transparent election as the party endeavors to make Liberia a better place for everyone.”

Speaking from a prepared speech to the massive crowd of supporters, Senator Weah said: “Fellow partisans, our country is at a crossroad, and the launch of the CDC campaign marks the beginning of the party’s history to sustain the peace. 59 days from today, we will be going to the polls to elect a leader of our choice as we transition from one leadership to another. Nevertheless, as the champion of peace, and in a spirit of true patriotism, I will like to use this occasion to call on all Liberians and stakeholders of Liberia to commit themselves to conducting a peaceful and violence free election.”

Calling Liberia the “common denominator that put us together,” Weah implored Liberians to resist any action that has the propensity to tear the country apart and deride the gain we have made as a people and nation over the years, adding that the “CDC is committed to violence free election.”

Interestingly, thousands of partisans, supporters, and sympathizers patiently waited for Senator Weah over 12 hours at the party’s headquarter as he toured other parts of Monrovia before heading to headquarter. Partisans of the CDC have described the 2017 crowd as a first in the history of Liberia’s politics, with a call from the political leader to put it into votes come October 10.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Four Presidential Candidates Debate ahead of #LiberiaElections

Four major presidential candidates have met at a national forum to defend their individual platforms to lead the country.

All Liberian Party standard bearer Benoni Urey, vice president and standard bearer of Unity Party Joseph Boakai, the Alternative National Congress’ Alexander Cummings, and Charles Brumskine of Liberty Party participated in the debate.

Presenting his platform, Urey said if elected as president, his administration would work to get the country back on its path of progress and development by strengthening the economy, reconcile the population and decentralize the country’s resources.

He said development in the country depends on every citizen, thus making the need for unification a pressing imperative, irrespective of ethnicity, religious and political backgrounds among others.

“We believe the involvement of the entire Liberia and not a selective few will carry us a long way,” he said.

According to him, Liberia will only move forward when its people agree to put aside the past and change their minds and ways towards their country and one another.

Boakai said his government would better manage the country’s resources through the provision of an accountable, responsible, and experienced leadership.

He promised to provide citizens the opportunity to actively participate in the rebuilding of their country by employing a system that would increase youth employment and technical and vocation skills training.

He said he brings to the table a long history of practical experience about the issues that affect ordinary citizens.

“It is about time that we think Liberia, love Liberia, and build Liberia,” he said, evoking his campaign’s slogan.

Also presenting the summary of his administration’s programs was Cummings, who promised to initiate new strategies to move the country forward.

He said after 170 years of independence, Africa’s oldest republic remains among the least developed country on the continent and among countries of the world.

He said as Liberian goes to the polls in October, its citizens must now reflect the country’s high level of poverty and a per capita income that is among the lowest in the world.

According to him, one fundamental truth that must be understood by every citizen is that the country will continue to remain the same if nothing changes about the form of leadership.

“If you keep doing the same thing, you will not get different results,” he said.

He said another fundamental truth is that the best predictor of future performance and future behavior is tied to past performance and past behavior.

Cummings said he has been opportune to work in large corporations around the world, and has delivered results, adding that his experience and achievements puts him at an advantage to provide better leadership for the country.

However, he said to achieve this, his administration under an ANC platform will include other qualified Liberians, scout out resources to groom the private sector and leverage technology.


Citizens and international partners attended the debate. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

For his part, Brumskine promised that his leadership would focus on empowering ordinary citizens, improving health care delivery, building the capacity of Liberian businesses restoring hopes to abandoned youths.

He said to restore the quality of education, his government would fix the problems affecting the education system.

“I thought of young people in Liberia who graduate from high school, some of them with honors. Yet, they fail [the University of Liberia] entrance exams. There is something fundamentally wrong with the education system of our country. That we must fix, too,” he said.

The Liberty Party standard bearer promised that he would work to reconcile the country and restore family values and improve basic infrastructure. All these he promised to do using his integrity, experience, and capacity to get political will from others in government. He also committed to cutting down his salary those of other public officials, including his vice president and cabinet members.

The candidates were speaking on Thursday at Paynesville Townhall during a debate organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition and sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.

The coalition comprises of media and civil society organizations including the Press Union of Liberia, the Liberia Media Center, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia, Transparency International and the Liberia Women Media Action Committee.

The debate focused on key thematic areas, including economy, security and rule of law, peace and reconciliation, agriculture, youth empowerment and development and anti-corruption.

Abdulla Kamara, the Head of Liberia Holding Consortium, said the debate would help inform the judgements of electorate.

Kamara’s organization, in its third survey report released on the elections, indicated that more than 260,000 registered voters, representing 13.6 percent of the total registrants, are still undecided on who to cast their vote for on October 10.

George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment had also been invited to the debate but they were not able to attend. The organizers said Weah had traveled out of the country while Jones had been in rural Liberia, campaigning.

By: Gbatemah Senah

AEP
Get the latest news and updates on elections in Africa by Following us on twitter  @africanelection and like the African Elections Project Facebook page
 


Monday, August 14, 2017

Kenya and Rwanda - a Tale of Two Elections, Two Countries

On August 4, Rwanda held presidential elections, which returned incumbent president Paul Kagame with a 98.63 per cent victory. The other candidates in the race were Dr Frank Habineza and Mr Philipe Mpayimana. This is the background of Rwanda's elections.
President Kagame was constitutionally barred from contesting in this election, but a constitutional amendment was procured for the benefaction of his candidature. The particulars of the procurement of this constitutional amendment are that over 99 per cent of the population demanded that Kagame be enabled to seek re-election (or to be precise, to continue ruling Rwanda).
They petitioned parliament demanding for a constitutional amendment. Parliament was overwhelmed by petitions from over 99 per cent of the population. Since the voice of the people is the voice of God, parliament had no choice but to initiate a process that led to a constitutional amendment. A referendum held to validate the constitutional amendment returned 99 per cent of the voters as supporting the said constitutional amendment. Why then do our experts say president Kagame's 99 per cent victory was eye-brow rising?
The people who 'forced' Kagame to continue ruling them are the same people who voted in the referendum to 'legalise' their 'force'. And these are the same people who voted in the presidential elections to actualise their 'force'. Consistency!
Rwandans don't do things in half measures. In fact, experts on Rwanda say Kagame has not even reached the level of electoral victory enjoyed by former president Gregoire Kayibanda and military ruler Maj Gen Juvenale Habyarimana. Which is why my request to know the percentage of the spoilt or invalid votes was understandably dismissed by a Kagame aide thus: Must there be spoilt or invalid votes?
Kenyans went to the polls on August 8. But as is the wont in these things, it is one thing for one to vote and quite another for one's vote to count (or be counted). As opposed to Rwanda, the number of spoilt votes in the Kenyan poll is annoyingly high that it may take a bronze medal.
In spite of all else, the most important thing in the last three Kenyan elections is that a two-party system has been established. The significance of an established two-party system is that it offers the country the best chance for power to change hands from one political group to another.
Kenya's 'two-party system' is not a de jure, but a de facto situation where political parties have formed grand coalitions that effectively control more than 80 per cent of the votes (or parliamentary seats).
In Rwanda, all political parties (except one) supported Kagame's candidature. Some parties offered to support Kagame even before RPF (his party) declared him as their candidate. That's not a grand coalition, but a grand co-option.
The length of the term of office for which Kagame was re-elected on August 4 is seven years (ending in 2024). After 2024, presidential terms of office will be reduced to five years each.
And after 2024, one can only be a president of Rwanda for only two terms of office.
So, the new term of office (for which Kagame was elected is like a personal gift to him. However, he is eligible to run for office in 2024 and 2029.
I have heard some whispers that president Kagame has said this will be his last term. I have nothing to comment on those whispers because leaving power at that level is a personal matter and calls for depth of character.

In the first place, there will be no constitutional requirement to stop him to seek re-election in the next two elections (2024 and 2029).

#LiberianElection 2017: Will it be a straight contest between UP’s Boakai or CDC’s Weah?


Who will be Liberia’s next president? Will the presidential race this time break away from the past by ending in the first round or like history, be obliged to engage the traditional second round or what’s referred to as run-off between the governing Unity Party (UP) Joseph Boakai and Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah? Or will it be another new comer- a Johnny-just-come from an unfamiliar political background? However, Liberty Party’s Charles Brumskine and the other new faces should not be taken for granted; it appeared this time around they are financially potent and ready for the presidential race.

Fortunately, this election will be won by an influential presidency candidate who has the well-organized political chemistry in place across the country, one who came with the reservoir of ideas and the inspiration to play on the emotions of the exasperated voting population and also be able to make the election people centered oriented; one who will speak thought on issues affecting bulks of the needy populace.

Nevertheless, can the three new comers-Jones, Cummings and Urey pull the votes and viewing both to pride themselves to be first among equals who would create as serious upset cut down the old faces like Boakai, Weah, Brumskine, Prince Y. Johnson, Tipoteh and emerge as winner or will it be the king-maker Senator Prince Johnson this time around upsetting the rest?

Spiraling, some predict the process will end-up into traditional run-off running, between CDC’s Weah on one hand and one of the following persons possibly  UP’s Boakai, LP’s Brumskine, ANC’s Cummings or MOVEE’s Jones.; UP’s Boakai  and CDC’s  Weah are  serious contenders  that should not to be taken for granted.

To elect the new Liberian president, voters go to the polls twice. Unless one candidate can get a majority of more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round (held on October this year), the two candidates who receive the highest scores will face each other in a run-up. The candidates most likely to reach the second round are currently Vice President Boakai and Senator Weah, meaning both candidates will fight for the Liberian presidency after dozens of other heavyweights candidates shall crashed out of the first round.

During these elections, all parties’ candidates and independent candidates campaigned freely across their constituencies while the presidential candidates campaigned throughout the country, presenting their visions and platforms or agenda to the voters by either personal interactions and through the local media. However, the local media on a large scale regularly betrothed into biased reporting by treating some candidates with favor, while the rest are not given free media access to present their cases to the people.

Anyway, the presence of some Johnny-just-come in the process is expected to introduce new dynamism in the race for the 2017 political process considering their financial powers and influences to financially pull electorates in their directions. Will the 2017 General Elections be a referendum on the governing Unity Party-led government or will this democratic process lead to the perpetual dynasty of the UP?

Never has a Liberian presidential election captivated so many national and international interests and commentators before. And the stakes in this race are high. The incumbent vice president, Boakai is poised to name his running mate while Senator Weah has since picked his running mate, senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

But as the world has witnessed in shock over the past year, polls and statistical models do not always come to fruition. If they did, Hillary Clinton would now be president of the United States and David Cameron would still be prime minister of a Brexit-less Britain. And in Liberia, a country that has a huge illiteracy rate in Africa, the voters might go for new faces or an old face and a new comer; the country voters are unpredictable.

Given the evidence of the past year, it would be unwise to discount such a Boakai-Weah in the run-of. It is also true, however, that a new comer triumph would be the biggest political shock yet.

By way of comparison and taking curb from the recent American and French elections, the gulf was never even close to being so large for Trump against Clinton, not even when he was seen as a total outsider upon first announcing his nomination in the summer of 2015.

Two weeks ahead of the election, Trump was between five and 10 points behind Hillary Clinton. In swing states, the margin was only a couple of percentage points. And, of course, as it turned out, Trump did end up losing the popular vote but winning the White House. Therefore the other presidential candidates including LP’s Brumskine, ANC’s Cummings, MOVEE’s Jones, Senator Johnson or Urey cannot be ruled out of the process.

Many are of the conviction that if the presidential election ended into a run-off between CDC and UP, the king-makers in the process would be Cummings, Jones, Urey, Brumskine and Senator Johnson.  But the question is which of the two—CDC and UP, will these political heavyweights give their supports? Will they keep the UP’s longevity for additional six years of 18 year rule or will they go for an opposition win over the ruling party?

It is an indisputable fast that Liberians are yet to see a captivating political character , one whose owns the political chemistry to out rightly win the 2017 presidential election, a character who can removed greater number of poverty-stricken messes from abject poverty to a new level of appreciative livelihood, one that will momentously improve the provisional of basic necessities of life like electricity, paved roads across the country, safe drinking water for a majority of the population, reduce the massive unemployment and create jobs, ensure quality education and available and affordable health care among other necessities of human needs.

But can these essential necessities be visible in the absence of placing state authority in the hands of a  leader-one who lack the political will to conclusively combat corruption and cannot commends greater respect from the population? History tells us that no matter how great a nation is, if the citizens of the nation and other nations began to lose faith in their leaders, that government or leadership could eventually fail as others around the world have in the past.

Will majority of the electorates be prepared to make sound decisions or will voters continue to trade the ever present chronic tradition of their ballots in exchanged for monetary gain coupled with other most essential materials including a ‘tea spoon full of raw rice to pathetically, but just for few minutes ease their immediate quest and livelihood. Otherwise will Liberians use the October elections to punish the political corrupt and egocentric bureaucrats or do the opposite to make wrong choices again?

Majority of these political parties are, and remain fragile, weaken by either poor leadership or the government in order to keep regime dynasty. Nowadays political parties in the country often function as fly-by-night-venture upon only being active during election periods. Immediately after electoral exercises, these political institutions most often and in some cases, eventually disappeared in thin air while craving through reflection by operating from hand-bags and the back seats of some aging vehicles and unidentified offices.

Some of these prime concerns include lack of quality education and improved health delivery system, growing poverty, destitution and hard cost of living, corruption, lack justice for the poor and rule of law for all, lack of decentralize development, economics viability and empowerment of the poor, security for all and reduce the high prices of basic commodities and merchandises.

Currently we have not yet experienced a greater likeability of any of these aspirants either the familiar old faces of the body politics of Liberia despite their declaration to contest the October’s General-Election.  The question on the lips of political pundits is: Will the 2017 General Elections be a referendum on the governing Unity Party-led government or will this democratic process lead to the perpetual dynasty of the UP?   With five-month to this year’s elections, there are major concerns on the lips of political pundits and electorates, but another question is Can any of these political aspirants win on the first ballot?

The 2017 poll should not be used by avaricious politicians and other bureaucrats to exploit the poverty-stricken masses’ vulnerability; these elections shouldn’t be reduced to tribal and regional, instead it should be classed as a precise movement for positivity in Liberia. Our people need to realize that the combination of strength and distance inspired a confidence that any challenge could be overcome after it had prevented itself.

When a group of political individuals vying for elections are so constituted are obligated to deal with one another, there are only two possible outcomes; either one party becomes so strong that it dominates all the other to be the only voice or no political party is ever quite powerful enough to achieve the goal.

Assuming-perhaps as a result of the hardship in the country, the bulk of the electorates is expected to naively make wrong decisions to elect the folks before they realize the consequential backlash of their decisions.

Owing to the poverties and destitution prevalent across the country, the indication is the bulk of the electorates will vote with frustration, fury and resentment, as suffering in the country will overplay in the democratic process in 2017. But let it be made clear that in term of substance, the various political parties come with nothing that give much hopes and aspirations, instead the same old story with empty impracticable promises.

Nowadays in Liberia, every Dick and Tom appeared to have solution to the numerous problems facing this country.  Some of these aspirants have not won a Susu Club or community elections while some these fly by night political parties are being hosted in a shared apartment, but yet they want the people of Liberian to trust them with the nation’s highest office; what a national disgrace.

What a political shame for a country with less than four million populations to have about sixty-five registered political parties in the country; by the time the nation goes to the polls, these political parties numbers are expected to double by half.

Generally, they fall far too below the ability to possess the muscles that will propel them to play a cardinal role in influencing public policy and providing checks and balances wherein the government will not operate as an exclusive authority or law and gospel unto its self and not being answerable to the custodians (the people) of power in keeping with the nation’s constitution. These parties are not able to exercise oversight beginning with their members, moreover to run their offices professionally, effectively and smoothly.

Most of these so-called parties are surviving from individual pockets, a result, political institutions especially parties are built around individuals. The parties that are form in this class include the governing Unity Party, CDC, Liberty Party, ALP, UPP, LAP, and several others. Whenever these individuals whose influences and financial assistance these parties are operating on are no more around, such a party is doomed and definitely will collapse; why? As an evident, this has been the case of several political parties such as the TWP, NPP, UPP, LUP, LAP and NDPL.

For instance, two former ruling parties-NDPL and NPP were exclusively centered on the financial supports and influences of ex-presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Ghankay Taylor;  and true to the hard facts of reality, these two parties no longer possess the political dynamism in this era to occupy the presidency, while the ruling Unity Party likeability among voters has vanished along with its shrinking influence in the political dynamism is gradually melting away, thereby posing a daunting task for the Boakai-driven UP to take state power in 2017. But a question from skeptics is when will that generation of politicians ever learn?

This situation is not only limited to political parties but also extended to organizations and institutions in the country. Many persons have expressed fears that the departure of President Sirleaf from the political scene will ultimately be the end of the ruling Unity Party’s once respected and widely recognized leadership, thus shaping state power to another party.

The question is which party with the political juice and substance to measure up to the eagerly awaited expectations of the wailing for positive and realistic change? Until political parties and institutions in the country can be prepared to smoothly operate outside the sways and pockets of individuals, Liberia’s political system is stuck in a gloomy orbit and properly set to suffer a downward trail.

Unarguably, if Veep Boakai, Senator George Weah, Senator Prince Johnson, Cllr. Charles W. Brusmskine, Alexander Cummings, Simeon Freeman, Benoni Urey and Dr. Mills Jones were to terminate their memberships from their respective parties, these parties will lose their essence, steam and dynamism and would politically succumb from the political scene. However, One of these political heavyweights, in the 2017 presidential election is likely to be the king or the kings-maker, a trophy colonized by Senator Prince Johnson as evident in the 2011 elections.

By: Josephus Moses Gray

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kenya and Rwanda - a Tale of Two Elections, Two Countries

On August 4, Rwanda held presidential elections, which returned incumbent president Paul Kagame with a 98.63 per cent victory. The other candidates in the race were Dr Frank Habineza and Mr Philipe Mpayimana. This is the background of Rwanda's elections.
President Kagame was constitutionally barred from contesting in this election, but a constitutional amendment was procured for the benefaction of his candidature. The particulars of the procurement of this constitutional amendment are that over 99 per cent of the population demanded that Kagame be enabled to seek re-election (or to be precise, to continue ruling Rwanda).
They petitioned parliament demanding for a constitutional amendment. Parliament was overwhelmed by petitions from over 99 per cent of the population. Since the voice of the people is the voice of God, parliament had no choice but to initiate a process that led to a constitutional amendment. A referendum held to validate the constitutional amendment returned 99 per cent of the voters as supporting the said constitutional amendment. Why then do our experts say president Kagame's 99 per cent victory was eye-brow rising?
The people who 'forced' Kagame to continue ruling them are the same people who voted in the referendum to 'legalise' their 'force'. And these are the same people who voted in the presidential elections to actualise their 'force'. Consistency!
Rwandans don't do things in half measures. In fact, experts on Rwanda say Kagame has not even reached the level of electoral victory enjoyed by former president Gregoire Kayibanda and military ruler Maj Gen Juvenale Habyarimana. Which is why my request to know the percentage of the spoilt or invalid votes was understandably dismissed by a Kagame aide thus: Must there be spoilt or invalid votes?
Kenyans went to the polls on August 8. But as is the wont in these things, it is one thing for one to vote and quite another for one's vote to count (or be counted). As opposed to Rwanda, the number of spoilt votes in the Kenyan poll is annoyingly high that it may take a bronze medal.
In spite of all else, the most important thing in the last three Kenyan elections is that a two-party system has been established. The significance of an established two-party system is that it offers the country the best chance for power to change hands from one political group to another.
Kenya's 'two-party system' is not a de jure, but a de facto situation where political parties have formed grand coalitions that effectively control more than 80 per cent of the votes (or parliamentary seats).
In Rwanda, all political parties (except one) supported Kagame's candidature. Some parties offered to support Kagame even before RPF (his party) declared him as their candidate. That's not a grand coalition, but a grand co-option.
The length of the term of office for which Kagame was re-elected on August 4 is seven years (ending in 2024). After 2024, presidential terms of office will be reduced to five years each.
And after 2024, one can only be a president of Rwanda for only two terms of office.
So, the new term of office (for which Kagame was elected is like a personal gift to him. However, he is eligible to run for office in 2024 and 2029.
I have heard some whispers that president Kagame has said this will be his last term. I have nothing to comment on those whispers because leaving power at that level is a personal matter and calls for depth of character.

In the first place, there will be no constitutional requirement to stop him to seek re-election in the next two elections (2024 and 2029).

Source: The Monitor

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#KenyaElections: Votes tally and hacking


Kenyans went to the polls yesterday (8/August) and as results started trickling in through an online portal the incumbent, president Uhuru Kenyatta seemed to take a significant lead over his opponent, Raila Odinga, stabilizing around 1.2 million votes with 90% of presidential election results relayed.

The Odinga team rejected the results, claiming a breach in election law where any results transmitted should be accompanied by a form 34A, signed by agents of the candidates at each polling station.
Around midday today (9/August), the opposition leader (Raila Odinga) claimed their secretariat has identified hacking of the IEBC database using the identity of their ICT manager who was murdered a week to the elections to force statistics to favor the incumbent.

The elections management body reaffirmed that the relayed results on the web portal are not final and that they will be scrutinizing the paper trail of the election (each of the polling station must fill a form34A, which is signed by all party agents present after the vote tally is finalized and relayed over GSM network). This may take 7 days (or less) as required by Kenyan electoral laws.


The election hacking allegations to manipulate figures for the incumbent will take centre stage in the days or months ahead as Kenya tries to reconcile digital and paper trail evidence. This is against the hope that the country will hold together, with Kenya having a history of election related violence, the latest being ten years ago involving the same opposition leader, Raila Odinga.

KenyaElection: Leading opposition party cries foul and claims election systems hacked

Kenya opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga has said the electoral commission's IT system has been hacked to manipulate the election results.

He rejected early results from Tuesday's vote indicating a strong lead for President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The electoral commission has not yet responded to Mr Odinga's accusation, but politicians have called for calm.

Mr Odinga said that the hackers gained access to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) computer system by using the identity of the commission's IT manager, Chris Msando, who was killed last month.

The opposition leader had earlier told journalists the results coming in were "fake", because the authorities had failed to present documents verifying the results.

Electoral officials say that with 91% of results in, Mr Kenyatta is leading with about 54.5%, to Mr Odinga's 44.6%.

These results mean Mr Kenyatta appears to be heading for a first-round victory. In order to avoid a run-off, a candidate needs 50% plus one of the votes cast and at least a 25% share of the vote in 24 of Kenya's 47 counties.

There were eight candidates in all, but apart from Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga none polled more than 0.3% of the vote.

What is Mr Odinga's complaint about the vote?
The opposition has described the results being released online as a "fraud" because they were not accompanied by original result forms 34A and 34B from the polling stations.
"They are fictitious, they are fake," said Mr Odinga.

Many fear a repeat of the violence after a disputed election 10 years ago. More than 1,100 Kenyans died and 600,000 were displaced following the 2007 vote.

Source: BBC

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Penplusbytes’ African Elections Project covers Kenyan Elections


Built to provide accurate and reliable information through an impartial coverage of major elections across Africa using new digital tools, the African Elections Project (www.africanelections.org ) is once again covering the Kenya general elections taking place today August 8, 2017.
As the world watches the people of Kenya decide on who should lead them for the next four years, AEP will keep its lenses fixed on activities happening in Kenya remotely using all our new media assets (live blogging on www.africanelections.org, http://africanelections.blogspot.com Twitter via @Africanelection and Facebook on African Election Project page). Trust us to deliver up-to-minute and factual updates via these platforms.
The Programmes Director of Penplusbytes, Jerry Sam said “The Kenyan elections is yet another test case for Africa and the role of the African media in projecting the continent’s successes globally begins by shunning sensationalism and focusing on impartial reportage which then helps shape Africa’s democracy.”
He further admonished that elections in Kenya hitherto characterized by violent clashes should be a thing of the past as this election indirectly stands as a check on the continent’s tenacity to develop a course of free and fair elections as a show of commitment to sustainable development.
The AEP, a flagship project of Penplusbytes, was established in 2008 and has so far covered 16 national elections in-country and more than 35 elections remotely using AEP digital tools across the African continent. These countries include Ghana (2008, 2012 & 2016), the Gambia, Liberia, Mauritius, Cote D’Ivoire, Malawi, Togo, Namibia and Rwanda (recently held elections) among others; thereby contributing to free, transparent and credible polls.
Through the AEP, over 100 journalists have been trained in the use of digital tools to cover elections in Africa. Over 17 million citizens have been reached across the continent through this project.
We urge all Kenyans to vote peacefully and ensure a free and fair elections!!!!

ABOUT

Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

AEP
Get the latest news and updates on elections in Africa by Following us on twitter  @africanelection and like the African Elections Project Facebook page

Monday, August 7, 2017

#KenyaDecides: Six reasons to dispel fears over extra ballot papers - IEBC

The credibility of any electoral process is judged by the level of transparency, information sharing and involvement of all stakeholders in the process.
From July 27th to 30th, a team of 20 representatives from the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, five presidential candidates, the Political Parties Liaison Committee, the Electoral Observation Group (ELOG), the media and IEBC officials worked from the Al Ghurair Printing Press in Dubai to ensure due diligence in the production of presidential ballot papers.
As many of the members attested, all concerns raised were addressed “with speed” but even with the confidence expressed by the team on the integrity of the process, there has been a lot of misinformation around printing of extra ballot papers.

The Commission was the first to inform Kenyans that as part of the regulations, we are required to print an extra one percentage of ballot papers for each elective positions, not just for the presidential race. This is because, the law provides for a voter who spoils a ballot to be given new ones up to two, translating to three ballot papers in case of mistakes.

This obviously is before the voter places the ballot in the box. In the polling day diary, and in the presence of agents, the presiding officer records this information.

IEBC also been clear that it is not only the one percentage of ballot papers we have, purely due to administrative reasons. Each ballot paper booklet is printed in sets of 50.  This means that for Pumwani Primary School polling station, for instance, there are 319 registered voters, if you add the 1% provision in law, you will have 322 ballot papers. However as the booklets are printed in sets of 50s, if you round off 322 to the nearest 50 you will have 350 ballot papers. This information per polling station has been provided on our website, another novel initiative by the Commission.

There are concerns that extra or foreign ballot papers will make their way to the ballot boxes or be used in other polling stations. There are six reasons why such a scenario would not happen:

First, unlike 2013, the ballot papers and result forms have been customized per polling station that it is not possible to use ballot material not meant for the polling station.

Second, at the opening of the polling station, the presiding officers will show party agents the number of ballot papers issued and record them in the polling day diary, complete with the unique serial numbers. At the end of polling, the presiding officer will record the number of unused ballot papers and provide the same to the agents.

Third,  at three-hour intervals throughout polling day, the presiding officers will report to the returning officer the number of ballots issued and IEBC will track this against the voter turn-out at that particular time. Any inconsistencies will be detected immediately and action taken against the presiding officers, in case of electoral offences.

Fourth, the KIEMS gadgets cannot allow presiding officers to transmit more results than the number of registered voters in a polling station. This ensures that there is no ballot stuffing at any point and that any politician attempting to manipulate the system only stands to fail.

Fifth, the regulations are clear that the Commission will annul results from any polling station that has more than the number of registered voters. This means that even in the worst case scenario of the failure of KIEMS, ballot stuffing is mitigated against.

Lastly, the agents of each party or candidate have a responsibility to ensure that these actions do not take place. As Kenyans call on the Commission to ensure free and fair elections, it is important that we hold accountable agents and observers in each polling station and urge them to carry out their part of responsibility with utmost professionalism.

The writer Dr Roselyn Akombe Kwamboka is an IEBC Commmissioner.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#RwandaElection: Diaspora votes...political campaigns close

Presidential campaigns officially end Thursday morning, 24 hours to the opening of polls across Rwanda.

The three candidates vying for the country's top seat wrapped up their respective campaigns in the capital Kigali yesterday, with incumbent President Paul Kagame, of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi, addressing arguably the biggest crowd on the campaign trails - in Bumbogo Sector, Gasabo District. Some estimates put the crowd at half a million people, dwarfing previous records witnessed in Rubavu and Musanze districts.

Frank Habineza, of the opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, held his last rally in Kigali's business hub of Nyabugogo as well as spontaneous stops in downtown Kigali late Wednesday, while Philippe Mpayimana, an independent, addressed voters outside Amahoro National Stadium in Gasabo District on the final full day of campaign.

"The campaigns have been smooth and successful," Charles Munyaneza, the executive secretary of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), said.

Munyaneza was particularly pleased that the last two weeks were almost entirely incident-free.

"In the first week there were a few cases related to disagreements between some of the candidates (Habineza and Mpayimana) and local leaders, but the issues were ironed out and the last two weeks have particularly gone smoothly."

In the early days of the campaigns, there were back-and-forth accusations between the two aspirants and some local leaders, with the former reporting that they had been barred from holding rallies at certain sites, while the latter insisted they had either not been notified beforehand or the locations were out of bounds for campaign rallies.

According to electoral rules, candidates were not allowed to hold political rallies at certain public installations such as schools and marketplaces.

Arrests, provisional releases

In some instances, local leaders, including the Mayor of Rubavu District in Western Province, Jeremie Sinamenye, were arrested over the incidents.

On Tuesday, Sinamenye and a sector leader in the district were provisionally released by the National Public Prosecution Authority about a week after they were arrested on charges of obstructing campaign activities involving candidate Mpayimana.

"The case is not closed as investigations are still ongoing," Prosecution spokesman Faustin Nkusi said yesterday.

Over the last couple of days, district and sector leaders in different parts of the country were seen at Habineza and Mpayimana's rallies, officially welcoming the opposition candidates to their jurisdictions before the latter started addressing the voters.

Local Government minister Francis Kaboneka hailed Rwandans on their "mature conduct" during the campaigns and urged similar conduct on the Election Day.

"The campaigns were peaceful and, other than a few cases that happened during the first couple of days, all the candidates promoted their manifestoes freely, anywhere in the country," he said.

Speaking to our reporters yesterday, both Mpayimana and Habineza said they were happy with how the campaigns had gone.

Meanwhile, Police spokesperson Theos Badege told The New Times that only two accidents - both of which were minor - had been recorded throughout the campaign period.

He said the first incident took place in Nyamagabe during the first week of the campaigns, while the other one was recorded in Nyagatare.

"One was a case of a fatigued driver, while the other was due to the mechanical condition of a vehicle."

Asked what measures were deployed to avert potential stampede during Kagame's rallies that attracted at least 100,000 people on each occasion, Badege said the candidate's campaign worked closely with local administrations and security organs to ensure that rallies were organised in a way that did not compromise people's safety.

"The weak, including the elderly and disabled, were given special attention; this was one of the specific measures that helped ensure smooth management of crowds".

No more campaigning

Meanwhile, Munyaneza said he expected voters and members of the public in general to observe the electoral rules and desist from any campaign activities past 6a.m Thursday morning.

"We don't expect to see any partisan activities past that time," he said. Also prohibited after 6a.m today until after the elections is any display of campaign materials and slogans in support of a candidate. "We expect that people will not be putting on clothes with campaign messages or drive their cars with stickers promoting certain candidates."

As the candidates were ending their campaign trails on Wednesday in Rwanda, Diasporan voters were preparing to cast their votes on Thursday, with voters in China and other Asian countries the first to go to the polls due to time zone differences.

Polls in the Diaspora were due to open at 7a.m and close at midnight local time. "Diaspora voters have more hours to cast their ballots because we wanted to facilitate every eligible citizen there to exercise their right to vote; even those with tricky work shifts will have a chance to vote," Munyaneza said.

More than 44,000 Diasporans will cast their votes today from 98 polling stations, up from about 17,000 voters in the 2010 presidential poll.

Munyaneza said NEC did not set up polling stations in Burundi and DR Congo owing to the security challenges in the neighbouring countries. However, he said the commission has been facilitating Rwandan citizens in those countries to obtain permission to vote from the nearest polling sites inside Rwanda.

Kagame, who's widely expected to win this week's poll, has traditionally swept the Diaspora vote, winning 96.7 per cent of votes cast in 2010.

Overall, some 6.8 Rwandans will participate in the poll, 25 per cent of whom are first-time voters. Women constitute 54 per cent of the electorate, while 45 per cent are youth.

Source: The Rwanda New Times