Ghana on Monday shelved plans to spend $200 million on a new parliament building following a public outcry over the cost.
An online campaign by cultural figures and civil society under the banner #DropThatChamber drew widespread support that the West African nation had more pressing needs.
Parliament said it had halted the project due to the backlash ahead of a planned street protest on Saturday.
“We are a listening institution and after gauging the views of the people, we decided to shelve the idea,” Kate Addo, the acting director of public affairs of parliament, told reporters.
“People should rest assured that we are listening to their concerns. We’ve realised that people think there is no need for a new chamber now, but it isn’t as if we don’t need a new chamber,” she added.
“Going forward we’ll engage people more.”
Officials said the project was required to expand on the capacity of the current 275-seat facility and would be funded by a loan from the Indian government.
Those planning the protest said they would still hold it unless parliament released an official resolution dropping the project.
“We’re writing to them for a full disclosure about the project and it is only right that they write back to us and inform the public about what informed their decision rather than just shelving the idea,” said Bilkis Nuhu, a member of the organisers told reporters.
“The march is to let our leaders know we can’t be taken for granted any longer in this country,” she added.
Ghana was one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies in 2018, fuelled by a surge in oil and gas production. The country is also a major producer of gold and cocoa.
The World Bank says GDP per capita last year stood at just over $2,200 and that the country had slashed those living under the poverty rate of $1.9 per day to some 13 per cent by 2016.
Ghana — one of the most stable democracies on the continent — will hold presidential elections late next year that look set to see former leader John Mahama take on incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo.
Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma claims he has been vilified
Zuma had struck a characteristically relaxed tone ahead of his televised appearance, which could last for five days
South Africa’s graft-accused ex-president Jacob Zuma said on Monday he had been “vilified”, as he testified at a judicial inquiry into the alleged looting of state funds while he was in power. “I have been vilified, alleged to be the king of corrupt people,” he told the inquiry. “I have been given every other name and I have never responded to those issues. I believe it is important that we respect one another.”
Zuma had struck a characteristically relaxed tone ahead of his televised appearance, which could last for five days, tweeting a video on Sunday of himself dancing and singing “Zuma must fall” before laughing heartily. The former president is accused of fostering a culture of corruption during a nine-year reign before he was ousted in 2018 by the ruling ANC party and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma, 77, was not legally required to appear at the inquiry into the so-called “State Capture” scandal. State capture describes a form of corruption in which businesses and politicians conspired to influence policies to advance their own interests. He denies all wrongdoing and dismissed the concept of “state capture”, while his lawyers have described the inquiry as an attempt to “ambush and humiliate” him.
Zuma, who addressed the commission at the start of the day, said that he had been the victim of “character assassination over 20 years.” His request to see questions in advance was denied by the inquiry commission, which had invited him to appear “to give his side of the story” after other witnesses gave damning evidence against him.
Led by judge Raymond Zondo, the probe is investigating a web of deals involving government officials, the wealthy Gupta family and state-owned companies. “The commission is not mandated to prove any case against anybody but is mandated to investigate and inquire into certain allegations,” Zondo said, thanking Zuma for appearing.
Before Zuma spoke, his lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane told the commission: “The propaganda machine out there has been quite alive. “The former president established this commission and is willing to cooperate.”
Multiple allegations against Zuma
According to Angelo Agrizzi, one of the inquiry witnesses, Zuma allegedly accepted a monthly $2,200 bribe delivered in luxury bags from a contracting firm that was trying to evade police investigation. The money was in theory for his charity foundation.
Agrizzi said his company also organised free parties, bulk alcohol supplies and birthday cakes to keep favour with Zuma’s associates. Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, who was sacked by Zuma in 2015, testified that Zuma pushed policies on nuclear power and aviation that were designed to benefit the Gupta family.
The Gupta brothers are accused of fraudulently profiting from government contracts including energy and transport deals under Zuma. The family-owned uranium mine, which would have seen profits soar from the nuclear deal, as well as a portfolio of mining, technology and media companies.
They allegedly held such sway over Zuma that they were able to select some of his cabinet ministers. Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas told the inquiry that the Guptas offered him the finance minister’s job and even threatened to kill him after he refused to accept a $40 million bribe.
Zuma was forced to set up the inquiry in January 2018, shortly before he left office, after failing in a legal battle to overturn the instructions of the country’s ethics ombudsman. Sitting in central Johannesburg, it has heard from scores of witnesses over 130 days in session since last year.
Zuma has separately been charged with 16 counts of graft linked to an arms deal from before he became president. The Indian-born Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – have left South Africa and are now based in Dubai. They also deny any wrong-doing.
Eager to distance himself from the Zuma era, Ramaphosa has declared his presidency as a “new dawn” for the country and described the inquiry as a “very painful process”.
Army arrests 5 suspects for planning attacks in Algeria
The suspects “planned attacks against peaceful protests across different parts of the country”
The Algerian army has arrested five suspects for planning “attacks” against anti-government demonstrations that have started in the country since February 22, the defence ministry said on Sunday. The suspects “planned attacks against peaceful protests across different parts of the country”, it said in a statement, adding they were arrested in “anti-terrorist” raids last week in the Batna region southeast of the capital Algiers.
It identified the suspects as “terrorists”, a term Algerian authorities use to describe armed Islamists who have been active in the country since the early 1990s. Algeria has been rocked by months of protests since longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced in February he would run for a fifth term.
He quit office but protesters have kept up the mass demonstrations, calling for an overhaul of the “system” and departure of key Bouteflika-era figures. Interim president Abdelkader Bensalah has proposed a “neutral” national dialogue, without the involvement of the state or the military, to prepare for new presidential polls.
His proposals, backed by powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah who has emerged as the country’s key powerbroker since Bouteflika’s departure, have failed to calm protesters. Massive rallies continue to be held weekly on Fridays in Algiers and other key towns.
In recent weeks, police have detained dozens of demonstrators – releasing them at the end of the Friday rallies. Observers say the detentions and other measures including heavy police deployments are meant to discourage protesters from taking to the streets.
Sudanese demonstrators mourn dead protesters, demand justice for June 3 victims
Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed by men in military fatigues on June 3 in a pre-dawn raid that reportedly killed over 100
Sudanese protesters lit candles and released balloons in Khartoum as thousands rallied across the country to mourn dozens killed last month in a brutal raid on a protest camp, correspondents reported.
Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed by men in military fatigues in a pre-dawn raid on a sit-in outside army headquarters on June 3.
Saturday’s commemorative rallies came as mediators said talks between generals and protest leaders to discuss the finer details of a recently agreed power-sharing accord had been postponed to Sunday, at the request of protest leaders.
They were previously scheduled for Saturday evening.
The protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, had called for marches — dubbed “Justice First” — across the country on Saturday to mark 40 days since the raid.
Demonstrators who had camped outside military headquarters for weeks demanding civilian rule were shot and beaten, triggering international outrage.
Chanting “Blood for blood, we won’t accept compensations,” crowds of protesters marched in Khartoum’s northern district of Bahari, a protest hotbed since demonstrations first erupted in December against the then regime of now-ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
Many lit candles and some floated balloons, while hundreds bathed the area in a sea of light — holding their mobile phones aloft as torches, while chanting revolutionary slogans, a correspondent reported.
Hundreds also gathered on nearby open ground, chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule.”
“We must take what is ours, we must free Sudan from its past. We want civilian rule now,” said Abdelqadir Omar, an English teacher at a rally in the Al-Sahafa area of the capital.
Waving a Sudanese flag, an 11-year-old boy said reportedly:
“All the mothers were crying in their homes when their children were killed”.
‘Justice for Martyrs’ –
Groups of protesters sat in circles around Sudanese flags and candles in several neighbourhoods as the sun set over Khartoum.
Earlier, security forces had closed all roads leading to the presidential palace and deployed along the road leading to the airport.
Hundreds rallied and waved Sudanese flags in Omdurman — Khartoum’s twin city — while crowds also marched through the streets of Port Sudan, the country’s main economic hub, witnesses said.
Protesters rallied in the eastern cities of Madani and Kassala and in the central city of Al-Obeid, witnesses told reporters by telephone.
Many protesters reportedly carried banners that read: “Justice for Martyrs” while others held photographs of demonstrators killed in the June 3 raid.
People also took to the streets of Atbara, where the first rally against Bashir’s government was held on December 19 in response to a decision to triple bread prices.
The protests in December swiftly escalated into nationwide demonstrations against the autocrat’s iron-fisted three-decade rule.
Bashir was ousted by the army on April 11, five days after the protesters had first massed outside army headquarters.
Protesters continued their sit-in, demanding that the generals themselves step down, ahead of the brutal dispersal on June 3.
The military council insists it did not order the raid, which according to the protest movement killed more than 100 and wounded hundreds in just one day.
But after intense mediation by the African Union and Ethiopia, a landmark power-sharing deal was reached earlier this month that aims to set up a joint civilian-military governing body.
‘Real partnership’ –
The new governing body aims to install a transitional civilian administration for a period of just over three years.
The agreement stipulates that the new governing body will be presided over by a military nominee for the first 21 months, and by a civilian for the last 18 months.
“We are not an enemy of the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of the ruling military council, told a rally in Nile State, broadcast on state TV.
“We are in a real partnership.”
Dagalo is also the commander of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces which protesters and rights groups allege carried out the June 3 raid.
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