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Incumbent in Comoros presidential elections on course to win

The opposition fears that Azali, last elected in 2016, could hold power for 10 more years until 2029.

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Thousands of supporters of Comoros Incumbent President and Presidential candidate Azali Assoumani gather for his last campaign rally

The president of Comoros, Azali Assoumani, looks set to win a new term Sunday in an election that rivals say has been hijacked.

Huge campaign pictures of Azali, 60, emblazon the whitewashed walls of the capital Moroni and along roads on the three islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli.

Those of his rivals are minute — a comparison that seems to speak eloquently for their chances.

The Supreme Court has barred the bid of some of Azali’s major rivals, including former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, accused of corruption.

In a pre-election visit to Anjouan, Azali oozed confidence of victory. He burst out laughing when asked about defeat. “That’s a question I won’t answer. When you set out to do something, you do it to win!”

Comoros has suffered more than 20 successful or attempted power grabs since gaining independence from France in 1975. Its first leader, Ahmed Abdallah, lasted barely a month before being ousted.

‘Great masquerade’

Azali is staging the poll after Comorans voted in a referendum to support the extension of presidential mandates from one five-year term to two, rotating among the three islands.

The controversial change shocked a fragile balance of power established in 2001 that sought to end separatist crises on Anjouan and Moheli and halt the endless cycle of coups.

The opposition fears that Azali, a native of Grande Comore last elected in 2016, could hold power for 10 more years until 2029.

The referendum last July led to violent protests on Anjouan, which would have taken over the presidency in 2021.

The head of the Union of the Opposition group, former deputy president Mohamed Ali Soilihi, is one of the candidates who has been barred from running.

“This election is a great masquerade. The plot has been written out in advance. On the evening of March 24, there’ll be an announcement of victory (for Azali) in the first round,” Soilihi predicted. “It’ll be forced through.”

“Everyone is against him,” said the leader of the Juwa Party, lawyer Mahamoudou Ahamada. “If the vote were transparent, he couldn’t win. Azali has no choice but to steal the election.”

‘Rockslide plot

Azali, a former army chief of staff, first seized power in a coup in April 1999.

He toppled an interim president he saw as weak in handling secessionist forces, and then was elected in 2002.

Earlier this month, according to his staff, Azali survived an attempt on his life on Anjouan.

“People at the top of a mountain placed explosives, which they blew up to cause a rockslide” as his convoy passed, his campaign director, Houmed Msaidie, told AFP on March 7. “The president’s car stopped in time.”

Wires connected to dynamite were found at the scene, Msaidie said. Photos sent to AFP by a police official showed tree branches and rocks partially covering a road.

Critics dismiss this account as bogus.

Juwa campaign director Ibrahim Mohamed Soule said Azali’s team “creates fake attacks or fake incidents to deter people from participating in the elections freely”.

In March 2008, Comoran troops backed by an African Union military force invaded Anjouan to put an end to the authoritarian rule of island leader Mohamed Bacar.

The one-time police chief was accused of atrocities including killings, torture and rape, as well as embezzlement, but he escaped.

The Comoros has tried repeatedly to lay claim at the UN General Assembly to the fourth and wealthiest island in their archipelago, Mayotte, whose inhabitants chose in a 1974 referendum to remain a French territory.

The gap in development has drawn many Comoran “boat people” to Mayotte in search of a better life.

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East Africa News & Stories

DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeastern region

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one

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DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeast region
Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

The military in DR Congo said on Tuesday that sixteen militiamen have been killed in the northeastern part of the country, an area where ethnic violence has left at least 160 dead and forced hundreds of thousands to flee in the past two weeks.

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one.

“At the moment, operations are concentrated around the Kpadruma locality where there is violent fighting,” Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a provincial army spokesman, told reporters.

He said;

“The soldiers of the armed forces of the DRC have chased attackers from several localities which they were occupying and sowing insecurity.” 

He also added that four AK47 rifles were recovered.

Lieutenant Tshikudi did not reveal the name of the group that was targeted, but there have been repeated outbreaks of violence between different ethnic groups in that area.

Between 10 and 12 June, there was a flare-up in violence in the Djugu region in DRC’s volatile Ituri Province which led to the deaths of at least 160 people, local authorities said. Earlier death tolls put the figure at somewhere between 50 and around 70.

The UN refugee agency has voiced deep concerns over the developments, which it said had seen “multiple attacks” involving the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups since early June.

The agency has said the recent wave of violence in the area has forced more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, with “large-scale displacement” reported in three of Ituri’s five administrative territories, with people fleeing unrest in Djugu territory especially.

The region which is known to be rich in gold, has experienced extreme violence before, with deaths numbering tens of thousands due to clashes between the Hema and Lendu form the periods of 1999 to 2003.

The DRC counts an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people. Ituri and North Kivu province, just to the south, are battling with a major epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since August last year. Both provinces are in the eastern part of the DRC, where the country shares its border with Uganda.

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Zuma’s lawyer says he will attend ‘prejudiced’ graft inquiry

Jacob Zuma, who was forced out of office last year over corruption allegations, has denied any wrong doings

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Jacob Zuma will attend ‘prejudiced’ graft inquiry -lawyer
Former South African President Jacob Zuma speaks with his lawyers at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg. (Photo by Themba Hadebe / POOL / AFP)

South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma, will attend a judicial inquiry into government graft during his tenure even though he believes it is prejudiced against him, his lawyer said.

Zuma’s lawyer Daniel Mantsha, on Tuesday, said:

“He is going to the commission as invited from July 15-19.”

However, “our client remains of the view that the commission is prejudiced against him and lacks the requisite impartiality,” Mantsha wrote separately in a letter to the inquiry seen by reporters.

It wasn’t specified in the letter if Zuma would testify or answer questions. It described last week’s invitation from the commission for Zuma to attend – in which it said he had been implicated in graft by at least nine witnesses – as part of a “disinformation campaign”.

The primary brief of the inquiry is to investigate corruption allegations, notably at state firms Eskom and South African Airways, which are in serious debt after years of mismanagement.

It is reviewing accusations that three prominent businessmen – brothers Atul, Ajay, and Rajesh Gupta — unduly influenced Zuma during his presidency about political appointments and the awarding of state contracts.

Jacob Zuma, who was forced out of office last year over corruption allegations, has denied any wrongdoings.

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East Africa News & Stories

Kagame calls out the West’s ‘human rights superiority complex’

Kagame said compared to what it was 25 years ago, Rwanda is now a different country

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Kagame criticises West's 'human rights superiority complex'
Photo credit: AFP

In an interview with French TV broadcaster, France24, Rwandan president, Paul Kagame has termed criticisms of his country’s human rights record as “rubbish” and “ridiculous”.

Kagame said compared to what it was 25 years ago, Rwanda is now a different country.

He challenged the host of the program to look at what he called Europe’s failing human rights record, particularly the way migrants have been treated.

“[Europe] is violating people’s rights, with this problem of people being bundled and sent back to sink in the Mediterranean and so many being mistreated in your own country”, he said.

He further added that criticisms from the West were tinged with a superiority complex:

“You really need to stop this superiority complex nonsense about human rights.

“You think you are the only ones who respect human rights, all others are about violating human rights. No, we’ve fought for human rights and freedoms for our people much better [than] you people who keep talking about this nonsense.”

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