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Mohamed Ould Ghazouani declares himself the winner in Mauritania elections

Preliminary official results had been expected at the start of this week. But according to a source at the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Ghazouani had won 50.56 per cent

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Presidential candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (C) casts his ballot at a polling station on June 22, 2019. He later declared himself the winner at the polls

Government candidate and frontrunner Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has declared himself the winner of the first round of Mauritania’s presidential election, with around 20 per cent of the votes still to be counted. The 62-year-old former head of the domestic security service made the claim in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of current president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, his supporters and journalists.

The ballot is the first in Mauritania’s history that looks set to see an elected president complete his mandate and transfer power to an elected successor, although the opposition has raised concerns the vote could perpetuate a government dominated by military figures. Some 1.5 million people were entitled to vote Saturday in the vast, country, which is about twice the size of France and has a population of just 4.5 million.

Preliminary official results had been expected at the start of this week. But according to a source at the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Ghazouani had won 50.56 per cent of the votes after 80 per cent of the votes had been counted. “There is only 20 per cent left (to count), but that will not change the final result,” journalists quoted Ghazouani as saying.

“Our candidate will win in the first round of voting,” ruling party spokesman Sidi Ould Domane had told reporters just before voting ended.

Alleged Ballot irregularities

The CENI source said leading opposition candidates Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, a former prime minister, and Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid had each garnered about 18 per cent with the count continuing. Both men had complained of balloting irregularities and the expulsion of representatives from some polling stations. However, CENI said no major problems had been reported.

Ghazouani – who campaigned on the themes of continuity, solidarity and security for the Saharan nation – served as Abdel Aziz’s chief of staff from 2008 to last year. The outgoing president is a general who originally came to power in a 2008 coup, won elections a year later and was again elected in 2014 in polls boycotted by the opposition.

Abdel Aziz, who has repeatedly warned that the country could fall back into instability if his chosen candidate is not elected, is credited with reforming the army, clamping down on jihadists and pushing to develop remote regions.

Nevertheless, rights groups have accused the government of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, while calling on the nation to do more to counter violence against women and slavery, which persists in the conservative state although it was officially abolished in 1981.

Authorities rejected an opposition request for foreign observers at the election. All of the candidates promised improvements in the standard of living, though economic growth at 3.6 per cent in 2018 is insufficient to meet the needs of a fast-growing population, according to the World Bank.

The World Bank has welcomed the “macro-economic stabilisation” of the country, where annual growth is expected to average 6.2 per cent between 2019 and 2021. But it has called for barriers to be removed in the private sector as well as difficult access to credit.

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PepsiCo to buy South Africa’s Pioneer Foods for $1.7 billion

PepsiCo has offered 110 rand per Pioneer ordinary share in what would be its second largest deal since 2010

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PepsiCo to buy South Africa's Pioneer Foods for $1.7 billion

PepsiCo has struck a deal to buy South Africa’s Pioneer Food Group for $1.7 billion, the companies announced on Friday, lifting Pioneer’s shares and boosting a sector that has been hit by drought and tough trading conditions.

The U.S. drinks and snack group see Pioneer Foods’ product portfolio as complementary to its own and would help PepsiCo to expand in sub-Saharan Africa by adding manufacturing and distribution capabilities. 

“Pioneer Foods forms an important part of our strategy to not only expand in South Africa, but further into sub-Saharan Africa as well,” PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta said in a statement. 

PepsiCo has offered $7.89 per Pioneer ordinary share in what would be its second largest deal since 2010, the companies said, with the news lifting the South African company’s shares by 29.32% to more than 100 rand. 

Shares in agribusiness investment company, Zeder Investments, which holds Pioneer as part of its portfolio, also rose more than 22%. 

“It’s a vote of confidence in South Africa at a time when we really need it,” Pioneer CEO Tertius Carstens says.

Food producers have struggled amid a slump in retail sales as consumers cut back and dry weather hit maize and other produce. 

Pioneer, which uses maize in many of its products, reported a decline in half-year earnings in May, weighed down by shortages in the staple food. 

“It’s almost a signal to other overseas companies that we are open for business. If PepsiCo is willing to put money down it may lift sentiment of other foreign investors that might come looking at South Africa for bargains,” said Greg Davies, equities trader at Cratos Capital. 

Pioneer, whose brands include Weet-Bix cereal, Liqui Fruit juice and Sasko bread, is the latest consumer goods firm to be the target of a buyout after South Africa’s Clover Industries, which processes products including yoghurt, beverages, and olive oil, began takeover talks with a consortium of companies called Milco SA last year. 

Pioneer was in talks over a potential deal with “a multinational organisation” in 2017, but that fell apart after South Africa’s credit rating was cut to junk status.

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Aid worker, 5 others missing after jihadist ambush in Nigeria

The three-vehicle convoy was returning to Damasak from Layi village when the gunmen opened fire

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Aid worker, 5 others missing after jihadist ambush in Nigeria

Six people are missing following an ambush by suspected jihadists on a humanitarian convoy in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, an aid group said on Friday.

Action Against Hunger (ACF) said in a statement that a member of staff was among the missing after the convoy was ambushed in Kennari, a village outside Damasak Town near the border with Niger.

“One of the drivers was killed, while one Action Against Hunger staff member, two of the drivers and three health workers are missing,” ACF said. 

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident as these are colleagues dedicated to providing life-saving assistance,” they added. 

A statement by the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator, Edward Kallon, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the attack. 

“I call on all who may have influence to do everything they can to keep them unharmed and work towards their safe return,” he said. 

An Islamic State-affiliated group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), has been active in the area, repeatedly attacking military bases.

The three-vehicle convoy was returning to Damasak from Layi village where ACF runs a clinic for locals when the gunmen opened fire, according to a humanitarian source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One of the vehicles veered off the road and crashed into a tree, killing the driver.

“The four were stuck in the vehicle and seized by the attackers,” the humanitarian source said.

“The occupants in the other vehicles abandoned their vehicles and fled on foot to Damasak, eight kilometres (five miles) away,” the source added. 

The jihadist insurgency in northeast Nigeria has been raging for a decade. 

Further complicating the conflict has been a split within Boko Haram. In 2016, ISWAP, a group that has sworn allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, broke away. 

Since 2009, more than 27,000 people have been killed, some two million have fled their homes and milliions are dependent on aid. 

NGOs have increasingly been targeted by jihadists.

Two female aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were murdered by ISWAP last year and an aid worker with the UN children’s agency Unicef is still being held by the group.

The trio were seized during a raid in the remote northeast town of Rann where three UNICEF staff were killed along with eight soldiers.

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Guinean teen delivers child during exam and returns to finish

She was rushed to the local hospital where within 10 minutes she swiftly delivered a baby boy

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Guinean teen delivers child during exam and returns to finish
(File photo)

The 18-year-old, from the town of Mamou in eastern Guinea, realised she was just about to give birth as she sat down for the physics part of her baccalaureate, a high-school diploma that entails exams in a range of subjects.

She was rushed to the local hospital where within 10 minutes she swiftly delivered a baby boy.

Just 40 minutes after leaving the examination room, she was back at her desk, stunning her family who had rushed to the clinic as well as the invigilators.

Her tale, recounted by the local media, was confirmed by the head of the exam centre, Mohamed Diakite.

Conde told reporters that she had told no-one, including her husband, that childbirth was imminent “out of fear that they would ask me to stay at home or go and see my doctor.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to imagine missing a single exam for my baccalaureate, which I have been studying for the whole year,” she said.

One of her relatives said that her husband, a corporal in the police, was delighted and was telling everyone who would listen about “this terrific woman”.

“Everyone in Mamou is congratulating them, and we are praying to God that Fatoumata gets her baccalaureate,” said the relative, expressing the hope that the baby is named Espoir, “Hope” in French.

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