Benin’s former president Thomas Boni Yayi was in Togo Sunday having left effective house arrest in the country for health reasons, representatives said, as political crisis grips the nation following controversial April polls.
Boni Yayi left on Saturday after “his health deteriorated rapidly”, Noureni Atchade, spokesman for his Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) party, said in an interview with Radio France Internationale, without giving details.
The former leader’s surprise departure came after weeks of tension with President Patrice Talon, that saw Boni Yayi confined to his northern Benin home.
Protests first erupted in Benin after April 28 parliamentary elections. Several people have died in clashes with police who resorted to gunfire.
The crisis has stoked concerns of an authoritarian turn in a country once seen as a democratic example in the region.
The voting took place without any opposition candidate, and all 83 members of parliament now come from the only two parties allowed to take part, both allied to Talon.
Changes to electoral rules had effectively barred opposition parties from fielding candidates.
The demonstrators had demanded the lifting of a police cordon around Boni Yayi’s house in the country’s economic capital Cotonou.
The former president left the country without giving an explanation to the authorities, the party spokesman said, while stressing that he was not evading justice.
On Sunday morning, a source close to Boni Yayi said he had arrived in Togo’s capital Lome, without giving further details.
‘War of egos’
In early June, Boni Yayi had received a court summons but his lawyers had refused due to his health problems and the stress of his home being surrounded by security forces.
The republican police on Saturday announced that Cadjehoun, the district of Cotonou where Boni Yayi’s house is, was “free of any police presence” following negotiations between Talon and traditional leaders and officials from Save and Tchaourou, Boni Yayi’s hometown.
Talon on Friday said he had “taken steps” to resolve the political crisis.
“I do not have a personal problem with Boni Yayi,” Talon said, adding he was “a friend”.
Most high-profile opponents of Talon now live in exile, fearing legal action against them if they return.
Boni Yayi had been seen as a symbol of opposition staying put in the country. He had denounced an “electoral coup” following the April polls, calling for the results to be annulled and for the people to rise up.
“The socio-political life of Benin has for a few years been a prisoner in the war of egos between two individuals: Patrice Talon and Boni Yayi,” said political scientist Expedit B. Ologou, president of the CiAAF analysis centre, based in Cotonou.
When Boni Yayi was president (2006-2016), Talon was himself forced into exile between 2012 and 2015, accused of “attempted poisoning” against the head of state.
However political analyst Gilles Yabi, founder of the Wathi think tank, said “it would be simplistic to think that the political crisis in Benin is a fight between two men.”
“There seems to be a systematic and methodical plan to control the institutions and the political scene of the country.”
Anti-graft agency seizes NFF chiefs’ properties in Nigeria
Rasheedat Okoduwa said “many officials of the NFF are under investigation
Nigerian authorities on Monday seized a dozen properties from senior officials of Nigeria’s top football body, including its president Amaju Pinnick, in a fresh corruption probe.
Agents of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) took over 12 properties – half belonging to Pinnick, including a property in London — in the latest investigation to target senior officials of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), accused of laundering millions of dollars.
ICPC spokesperson Rasheedat Okoduwa said “many officials of the NFF are under investigation. What they have is in excess of what they have earned.”
NFF bosses led by Pinnick are currently under three separate corruption probes, including a 17-count charge in courts ranging from failure to declare assets and embezzling $8.4 million (7.5 million euros) paid to the federation by world football governing body FIFA.
The case continues on September 26.
In a separate case, Pinnick, general secretary Mohammed Sanusi and three NFF accountants have also been charged to court over an alleged theft of over $10 million in grants from both FIFA and the African Football Confederation (CAF), meant for the development of football in Nigeria.
In July, CAF sacked Pinnick as vice president of the body following the charges against him, which he denied, with the NFF branding the investigations a “witch-hunt.”
Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S
Kenya, which joins Malawi and Ghana, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the WHO
Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world’s first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day.
The vaccine — RTS,S — targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-born illness.
Kenya, which is rolling-out RTS,S in the western county of Homa Bay, joins Malawi and Ghana, which, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades,” Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO’s co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told reporters before the Kenyan launch, which will expand to other malaria-prone areas of the country.
“Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria.”
The vaccine will be added in these pilot areas to the other routine shots given to young children under national immunisation schedules.
RTS,S acts against ‘Plasmodium falciparum’, the deadliest form of malaria, and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remains high despite some gains.
The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children.
The vaccine prevented about 4 in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.
RTS,S will be considered for use more broadly as a tool to fight malaria, alongside other preventative measures such as long-lasting insecticidal nets.
The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 were children under five.
WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world.
Most of these are in Africa, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s malaria cases — and fatalities — occur.
Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy
Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for democratic transition after the Arab Spring regional uprisings
Tunisia will hold on Sunday its second free presidential election by universal suffrage since the 2011 uprising that toppled an autocratic regime, with growing uncertainty over who will reach the next round.
Twenty-six candidates are in the race, including the incumbent prime minister and a media magnate who was arrested just weeks before the polls, as well as a presidential hopeful put forth by an Islamist-inspired party.
Seven million voters are expected to head to the ballot box after a campaign that largely focussed on social and economic challenges that have plagued the country’s fledgeling democracy.
“There are favourites and everything is possible, but even God cannot predict the results of the first round, let alone what will happen next,” columnist Ziyed Krichen said.
Political analyst Hatem Mrad agreed. “This election is really one of uncertainties,” he said.
Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for democratic transition after the Arab Spring regional uprisings sparked by its 2011 revolution.
Three years later, it held its first post-revolution election, during which the political fault lines were clear, said Mrad, with Islamists squaring off against modernists.
But this time around, the differences are huge, with a plethora of candidates — Islamists, secularists, populists and partisans of the toppled regime — political programmes and issues, he added.
Preliminary results are expected to be announced by the electoral commission on September 17, but the date of the second round, which will decide the presidency, is not yet known.
Heavyweight candidates include Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and his nemesis Nabil Karoui, the media magnate arrested on charges of money laundering just three weeks before the election.
Karoui’s supporters accuse Chahed of orchestrating his arrest, a charge denied by the ambitious prime minister who became the country’s youngest-ever head of government in 2016 at age 40.
A controversial businessman, Karoui has built his popularity by using his own Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.
On Wednesday, the jailed candidate started a hunger strike, according to a member of his defence team, Ridha Belhaj.
Studies suggest that his arrest boosted his popularity, and observers say that if Karoui makes it to the second round of voting, it will be hard for authorities to justify keeping him behind bars without a trial.
Also in the race is lawyer Abdelfattah Mourou, 71, who was selected to run by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, and Mohammed Abbou, who was imprisoned under the ousted regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Candidates also include former defence minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, a technocrat who said he would “restart the social ladder” and make public services accessible to all Tunisians, if elected.
Two women are also eyeing the presidency, including Abir Moussi, a staunch anti-Islamist lawyer and champion of Ben Ali’s regime.
Social challenges –
The presidential campaign wraps up on Friday, but none of the candidates appears to have stood out despite squaring off in multiple debates that were broadcast on radio and television.
Around two to three million Tunisians are believed to have tuned in to three major debates, during which candidates were asked to respond to questions drawn randomly.
The economic and social hardships that undermine Tunisia’s transition to democracy took centre stage during the campaign.
The country, hit by terrorist attacks against its key tourism sector and security forces, has struggled to combat unemployment and bring down inflation.
Unemployment in Tunisia is at 15 per cent, while the cost of living has increased by more than 30 per cent since 2016.
The election was brought forward from November after the death in July of Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia’s first president democratically elected in nationwide polls in 2014.
It will be followed by legislative elections, due to take place on October 6.
Some of the 26 hopefuls have called for the president’s powers to be beefed up in Tunisia, which has a parliamentary system.
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