Vote counting started Wednesday evening in Madagascar where citizens cast their ballots with hopes that a new leader will take this Indian Ocean island nation out of chronic poverty and corruption.
Polls closed at 17:00 local time after a day of generally calm and uneventful voting.
The 36 presidential candidates have all promised to improve the country’s economy, create new jobs and end graft, but the three leaders in the race are familiar faces who offer little chance of a dramatic change, say political analysts.
“I was looking forward to this election because the misery in Madagascar is everywhere! Our country is rich! Why are the Malagasy people, for the most part, poor?” said Judith Rasolofo, 52, a housewife with five children. “I want to see something new in Madagascar!”
Former Madagascar president Hery Rajaonarimampianina has alleged “many voting irregularities” in this week’s election, raising fears of protests and a disputed result.
In a statement on Thursday, Rajaonarimampianina said a number of “anomalies” have been detected, including an “invalid electoral register, intimidation [and] the presence of pre-ticked ballots”.
“All indications are that the votes of the Madagascan people have been stolen,” Rajaonarimampianina, who held office from 2014 to September 2018, said.
“We will not let the people be robbed of their vote,” he added.
As of the latest count, Rajaonarimampianina had won about three percent of the vote based on results from nearly 300 of Madagascar’s 24,852 polling stations.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) opposition leaders have agreed to meet in Geneva to choose a joint candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.
The elections, to take place on December 23, are critical for the future of the DRC, a state that has never experienced a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
“All opposition heads will gather in Switzerland on Thursday to attend a meeting to designate a joint candidate,” one of the challengers, Freddy Matungulu, told AFP news agency on Tuesday.
“The public has high expectations. We, as a group, cannot make any claim on winning the presidential election unless we act together,” he said.
New measures to overcome challenges in the response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are having a positive impact, although the outbreak remains dangerous and unpredictable, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping and the World Health Organization (WHO) said after a joint mission to assess the outbreak.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Pierre Lacroix yesterday travelled with the Minister of Health, Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, to the city of Beni in eastern DRC, the epicentre of the outbreak, where they met health workers, civil society representatives, peacekeeping troops and local authorities.
The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, has recently taken an active approach to armed groups operating in North Kivu, which has contributed to a period of calm in and around the city of Beni, although some attacks have continued in surrounding villages.
The unlawful killing of four unarmed civilians by Burundi troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) must be investigated and the soldiers responsible brought to justice, Amnesty International has said.
The organization has spoken to relatives of those killed and eyewitnesses who saw AMISOM officers open fire on the four men – comprised of three lorry drivers and a rickshaw driver.
“These shocking killings by soldiers who are supposed to protect civilians must be thoroughly and impartially investigated by AMISOM, with those responsible held to account,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“It is deeply disturbing that forces trained to counter threats to civilians have turned against the people they are supposed to protect without any sense of self-control. This simply cannot happen.”
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday met Somali officials in the capital Mogadishu for bilateral and military talks.
Akar and his delegation was received by Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled, some senior government officials and Turkey’s Ambassador to Somalia Olgan Bekar at Adan Adde International Airport in Mogadishu.
Later, he held talks with Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and the Chief Commander of the Somali National Army Gen. Dahir Adan Elmi, and chaired a meeting between delegations.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed also received the Turkish delegation at the presidential palace.
The officials discussed bilateral defense and military cooperation as well as regional issues, according to Turkish defense sources.
Central African Republic
The UN Security Council is weighing a plan that would see UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic offer support to newly-trained national troops as they deploy across the strife-scarred country.
A French-drafted resolution would authorize the MINUSCA mission to “provide limited logistical support” for troops that have been trained by the European Union, according to the text seen by AFP on Wednesday.
The proposal is raising eyebrows, in particular from the United States, which is seeking to streamline peacekeeping operations to reduce costs and make them more effective, diplomats said.
The council will vote on the draft resolution next week.
The European Union has trained more than 3,000 men and women to serve in the Central African Armed Forces while Russia and France have provided them with weapons and other military equipment, with UN approval.
Paris will “soon deliver” 1,400 assault rifles to the Central African Republic, France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has announced.
The weapons will be given to the government’s Central African Armed Forces, which were established after the country gained independence from France in 1960.
Paris will also hand the republic €24.1m (£21.1m) in aid, Mr Le Drian said, which is intended to help pay salaries and build infrastructure.
“France wishes to continue its historical partnership with the Central African Republic,” the minister told journalists in CAR’s capital Bangui.
Human Rights Watch is cautioning the United States against lifting its designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The New York-based watchdog says Khartoum continues to violate basic human rights, with security forces regularly attacking civilians and opening fire on peaceful protesters.
Thursday’s statement comes after Washington agreed to a second phase of rapprochement with Khartoum that includes six criteria, which if fulfilled would qualify Sudan to have the designation lifted.
The State Department says these include expanding counterterrorism cooperation and enhancing human rights protections and practices, including freedoms of religion and press.
The African Union mechanism for peace in Sudan has made clear that amending the Roadmap Agreement does not necessarily mean abandoning the inclusive national dialogue process.
The Germain Berghoff Foundation hosted in Berlin on Wednesday a meeting between the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and the opposition factions of Sudan Call alliance that signed the Road Map agreement for peace in Sudan including the National Umma Party (NUP), Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Malik Agar (SPLM-N Agar).
Following the meeting, JEM leader Gibril Ibrahim who is also the Sudan Call Deputy-Chairperson told Sudan Tribune that the meeting discussed the course of the peace process in Sudan and a letter the AUHIP Chair Thabo Mbeki sent to the opposition umbrella on 25 September.
South Sudan’s ceasefire monitoring body, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) has urged the peace partners to direct their forces on the ground to stop clashes in Yei and Wau areas.
On Wednesday, the head of CTSAMVM Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Abduljelill chaired the 4th meeting of the CTSAMVM Technical Committee (CTC) in Khartoum with the participation of the government and opposition groups.
In his speech to the meeting, Abduljelill regretted that they continue to receive an increasing number of allegations from the parties including reports of fighting, recruitment, displacement, and sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
“We urge parties to clearly and forcefully communicate orders to field commanders at all levels and make your commitments here at the CTC credible and deliverable,” he said.
Thousands of child soldiers dragged into South Sudan’s civil war are unlikely to be freed soon because aid agencies lack the funds to look after them, a UN envoy said on Tuesday.
The government signed a peace deal with rebel factions in September to end a civil war that killed at least 50,000 people, but many children who were forced into the conflict are still stuck in military camps in the bush, Virginia Gamba, UN envoy for children and armed conflict, said.
Gamba, who has spoken to former child soldiers in the country, said a lack of resources to re-integrate the children meant they remained at extremely high risk of abuse.
Since January, 900 child soldiers have been freed and Gamba expects a further 1,000 releases by the end of the year. But there are many more, she told reporters.
Algeria is still silent about the invitation made by Mohammed VI of Morocco, four days ago, to engage in “mutual dialogue in order to solve problems between both sides.” On the other hand, Algerian press described such call as “a manoeuvre,” “a change of tone,” and “rhetoric of appeasement.”
In a speech on Tuesday, King Mohammed VI described the relations between the two countries as “out of the ordinary and unacceptable,” expressing his country’s readiness to undergo a “direct and frank dialogue with Algeria to overcome situational and substantive differences that hinder the development of relations between both neighbouring countries.”
The Moroccan king suggested a mechanism “that could constitute a practical framework for cooperation on various shared issues, particularly about the investment of opportunities and developmental potentials in the Maghreb region.” Such mechanism “will contribute to enhancing mutual coordination and consultation to meet regional and international challenges, especially, counter-terrorism strategies and immigration.”
Middle East Monitor
Building roads and expanding cities, ports and industrial parks — Morocco is pressing ahead with economic development in Western Sahara without waiting for a political settlement on the disputed territory.
The latest sign of the kingdom’s assertive approach to the former Spanish colony was on show last weekend at a business forum organised by Moroccan authorities in Laayoune, the region’s largest city.
“This is a very rich region,” said Rokia Derham, Morocco’s secretary of state for foreign trade.
“There is great potential in industry, fishing, agriculture or the relocation of services. We want to see foreign investors coming,” she told AFP.
Zimbabwean banks urged the government to introduce wide-ranging reforms amid signs the country is facing an economic crisis reminiscent of a hyper-inflationary spiral a decade ago.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube is preparing to announce the 2019 budget later this month. He’s juggling a ballooning budget deficit, foreign-exchange shortages that are fuelling inflation, and an inability to raise foreign loans because of $5.6 billion of debt arrears.
The fiscal shortfall, which was more than triple the amount budgeted in the nine months through September, is the country’s greatest source of economic instability, the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe said in a submission to the Finance Ministry seen by Bloomberg and verified by the ministry.
The deficit is being financed by domestic borrowing and an overdraft at the central bank — essentially printing money, it said.
Two former ministers under Robert Mugabe appeared in court in Harare on Wednesday on corruption charges, nearly a year after Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler was ousted from power.
Mugabe’s successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to crack down on corruption, though critics say his government is still mired in the corruption that marred the Mugabe era.
Former information, communication and technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira faces two graft charges involving $5m.
Harare’s chief provincial magistrate granted him bail of $2,000 and set his trial date for December 10.
Africa in General
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday said Kenya Defence Forces will stay in Somalia until security is restored despite budget cuts signalling the start of the soldiers’ withdrawal slated for next July.
Mr Kenyatta spoke at the Recruits Training School in Eldoret where he presided over the passing-out parade.
Kenya gets a refund for its soldiers in Somalia and expects Sh8.5 billion in the financial year starting next July.
However, the compensation from the UN is expected to drop to Sh5 billion and Sh3.5 billion in the next two years to June 2015, indicating gradual reduction of troops. “To secure Kenya and our region, our forces will continue joint operations with the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom),” Mr Kenyatta said.
Kenya sent 4,660 soldiers to Somalia in October 2011 after incessant attacks and kidnapping of civilians by the militants within its territory.
The two officials of international press rights group, Committee to protect Journalists, CPJ; have been freed by Tanzania’s immigration authorities.
“After arresting them and educating them, we released them the same day… The entry permits forbid employment or business activities.
“If they want to engage themselves in anything more than a normal visit then they have to request appropriate permits,” spokesperson for Tanzania’s immigration ministry Ally Mtanda is quoted to have said.
Late Wednesday, authorities in Tanzania detained two top officials of the United States – based Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ. A viral social media demand for their release kick started through to Thursday when they were released.
As election officials count votes, following Wednesday’s presidential poll, the frontrunners have expressed optimist about their chances of winning.
Incumbent president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, is facing a stiff challenge from two former presidents, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.
“I am optimistic and positive, I do not think there will be a second round,” dairy tycoon Marc Ravalomanana said at his political headquarters, where dozens of supporters gathered.
For his part, former nightclub promoter Andry Rajoelina spoke to hundreds of supporters gathered at the studio of his TV chain Viva, saying he was satisfied the early results “express the desire for change.”
Malawi President Peter Mutharika has reportedly sacked his deputy, Saulos Chilima, in a cabinet reshuffle, ahead of a presidential election next year.
AFP reported in July that Chilima had put his hat in the ring for the 2019 elections against Mutharika, who was allegedly embroiled in a growing corruption scandal.
The vice president broke ranks with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in June when he quit the party citing unchecked corruption and nepotism.
“I am ready to contest… If we follow a process that is transparent and democratic, I will present myself as a candidate,” Chilima was quoted as saying at the time.