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Nigeria’s opposition party retains key oil state of Rivers

Governor Nyesom Wike dedicated his victory to people from the state “killed in defence of democracy”

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Electoral officials collect results at the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on March 10, 2019. - Nigeria's election authorities announced the suspension of activities in volatile opposition-held Rivers State on March 10 citing violence and threats to its staff, as tensions rise in the wake of closely-watched regional elections. Counting is continuing across the country after the March 9 elections for governors in 29 of Nigeria's 36 states, all state assemblies and administrative councils in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Results are expected in the coming days. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Nigeria’s main opposition party has retained control of the key oil-producing state of Rivers, according to official results from a vote marred by violence and delay.

Incumbent governor Nyesom Wike, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was re-elected for a second term after winning 886,264 votes.

His nearest rival, Biokpomabo Awara, of the African Alliance Congress (AAC), polled 173,859 votes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said late on Wednesday.

Awara, a relatively unknown, was backed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which was unable to field candidates due to a court ruling as a result of issues with its primaries.

Wike dedicated his victory to people from the state “killed in defence of democracy”, adding on Twitter: “They came with everything to destabilise us but we conquered.”

The governorship election was held on March 9, two weeks after Buhari clinched a second term of office in a vote that beaten PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar has disputed and is challenging in court.

Collation of results in Rivers was suspended on March 10 because of violence by political thugs sponsored by politicians and intimidation of election officials by security officials.

Roads were blocked around the building where election staff were counting votes, sparking a standoff with police who initially resisted with teargas but ultimately backed down.

Nigeria’s military categorically denied the men were among its ranks and instead accused armed “political thugs” of impersonation to carry out the wishes of their sponsors.

Tensions and violence had already been running high before the vote because of the court ruling that barred APC candidates from standing, due to irregularities in the selection process.

Rivers is always a key battleground for the parties because of the lucrative oil and gas sector that is largely based in the southern delta region.

More than 50 people were killed during presidential and parliamentary polls on February 23, most of them in Rivers, according to election monitors. Regional elections are fiercely contested in Nigeria, where governors are powerful and influential figures, controlling state finances and responsible for key areas from education to health.

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African leaders pay last respects to Mugabe at state funeral

African leaders and senior officials from Cuba, Russia and China all praised Mugabe as a pan-African hero

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African leaders pay last respects to Mugabe at state funeral

Zimbabwe gave former president Robert Mugabe a state funeral on Saturday with African leaders paying tribute to a man lauded as a liberation hero but whose 37-year rule was defined by repression and economic turmoil.

Mugabe, who died in Singapore last week aged 95, left Zimbabwe deeply torn over his legacy as the country still struggles with high inflation and shortages of goods after decades of crisis.

He died on an overseas medical trip almost two years after former army loyalists forced him out in 2017, following a power struggle over what was widely perceived as a bid to position his wife Grace as his successor.

Mugabe’s casket, draped in the green, black, gold and red Zimbabwe flag, was marched slowly into Harare’s national stadium as a military band played and crowds chanted and drummed, though less than half of the 60,000 seats appeared taken.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma (L) bows on September 14, 2019 as he says a final farewell at the casket of late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe during a farewell ceremony held for family and heads of state at the National Sports Stadium in Harare. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

African leaders and senior officials from Cuba, Russia, and China all praised Mugabe as a pan-African hero for his past as a colonial-era guerrilla leader.

“We honour and remember our African icon. He had many allies and followers… Our motherland is in tears,” Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said. 

African leaders pay last respects to Mugabe at state funeral
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (L) shakes hands with Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa upon his arrival to attend a farewell ceremony for late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

Doves were released over the stadium before soldiers fired a 21-gun salute from artillery cannon.

Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe ally who turned against him, praised Grace in a signal of reconciliation and called for sanctions on Zimbabwe to be lifted in the post-Mugabe era. 

“We say give our country a rebirth and a new start. Remove the sanctions now, we don’t deserve them.”

South African leader Ramaphosa’s speech was briefly interrupted by jeers and whistles from the crowds until he apologised for recent xenophobic attacks on African migrants, including Zimbabweans, in Johannesburg.

Bitter legacy

As a former anti-colonial rebel, Mugabe is credited with helping to end white-minority rule in Zimbabwe.

But his nearly four-decade rule was marked by repression, the brutal silencing of dissent and violent seizure of white-owned farms, making him an international pariah.

Though still lauded as an African icon, at home many Zimbabweans will remember Mugabe more for the increasingly tyrannical rule and economic mismanagement that forced millions to flee the country.

Many are struggling to survive despite Mnangagwa’s vows of more investment and jobs in the post-Mugabe era.

“The fruits of his tenure are the shortages. That is what we remember him for,” said Steven, a consultant shopping near the stadium.

“He has made sure there is no opposition and he succeeded. There is no reason to go to his funeral.”

Friends and enemies

A young Mugabe was once jailed in the former British colony Rhodesia for his nationalist ideas. But he swept to power in the 1980 elections after a guerrilla war and sanctions forced the Rhodesian government to the negotiating table.

In office, he initially won international praise for promoting racial reconciliation and for extending improved education and health services to the black majority.

“You can’t talk about Zimbabwe without Bob. Zimbabwe is Bob. It took a man like Bob, his bravery, to get independence,” said Norman Gombera, 57, a school principal in Harare. “Bob did his best under the circumstances. There is no country without a problem.”

Always divisive in life, Mugabe’s funeral arrangements were also caught up in a dispute between Mnangagwa and the family over where and when the former leader should be buried.

His final burial at a national monument will only happen after a new mausoleum is built in about 30 days. That decision was taken after his family ended a dispute with Mnangagwa over the date and place of the ceremony.

His family are still bitter over the role Mnangagwa played in his ouster and had pushed for Mugabe to be buried in his homestead of Zvimba, northwest of Harare.

A former guerrilla who fought alongside Mugabe against colonial forces, Mnangagwa was fired as first vice president by Mugabe in 2017. Mugabe had branded him a “traitor”.

Soon after, protesters took to the streets and military officers pressured Mugabe to step down in what was widely seen as a struggle between Mnangagwa’s faction and loyalists to Mugabe’s wife Grace inside the ruling ZANU-PF party. 

Mnangagwa himself is now under pressure to deliver in the post-Mugabe period.

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Death toll from capsized Cameroon ferry rises to 17

So far, 111 survivors have been rescued, according to state radio and a local leader

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Death toll from capsized Cameroon ferry rises to 17

The death toll from a Cameroon ferry that capsized this week has risen to 17 after more bodies were found, state radio said Wednesday, though the total number of victims was still unknown.

Fourteen more bodies were recovered from the Bakassi Peninsula on Tuesday, two days after the ferry sunk off southwestern Cameroon, Cameroon Radio Television reported.

A source with local authorities confirmed the details to reporters.

State media had initially reported that three victims — of Cameroonian, Nigerian and French nationality — were found and more than 100 people were rescued when the ship went down overnight Sunday to Monday.

The Austrheim, a trading vessel converted into a passenger ship was supposed to carry 75 people, but it was “overloaded,” according to a statement from the defence ministry. 

So far, 111 survivors have been rescued, according to state radio and a local leader. Searches continued on Wednesday for survivors or bodies.

The ship left Sunday from Calabar, Nigeria, and was due to dock at Tiko in southwest Cameroon but hit a sandbar before capsizing, according to the ministry.

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Gambia’s first President, Dawda Jawara dies aged 95

Jawara led the Gambia to Independence on 18th February 1965 until July 1994 when he was ousted in a coup led by ex President Yahya Jammeh

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Gambia's first President, Dawda Jawara dies aged 95
(L-R) Late President of the Gambia, Sir Dawda Jawara and current President, Adama Barrow. (AFP)

Dawda Jawara, the first President of The Gambia following independence from Britain, died Tuesday at the age of 95, officials said.

Current President Adama Barrow, in online comments, described Jawara’s death as “a great loss to the country in particular and humanity in general”.

Fisheries Minister, James Gomez told reporters that “the former head of State Sir Dawda Jawara died this afternoon. Flags would fly at half-mast” and the body will lie in state for mourners to pay their respects.

Jawara, a Glasgow-trained veterinary doctor, led the Gambia to Independence on 18th February 1965 until July 1994 when his reign was brought to an end by a bloodless military coup led by Yahya Jammeh, who went on to rule the country for 22 years.

The Gambian presidency, in a statement on Twitter announced that a state funeral would be held on Thursday.

“In honour of his enduring legacy, President Barrow has ordered that the former President be accorded a befitting state funeral and that flags at all public institutions to fly at half-mast.”

“Sir Dawda has lived a life that epitomises peace, tolerance, respect, and patriotism. His time as president has put the country on the path of development at both human and institutional standards. His legacy as the father of the nation shall forever live on.”

Jawara was born in 1924 into a Muslim family in central Barajally, where his father was a tradesman.

He worked as a vet and it was not until 1960 that he decided to enter politics, joining the Protectorate People’s Party in 1960 while the country was still under British rule.

Gambia's first President, Dawda Jawara dies aged 95

His party, which later changed its name to the People Progressive Party (PPP) won the elections in 1962 and he became the country’s Prime Minister. 

That was the post that Jawara held when The Gambia gained its independence in 1965, ending British colonial rule which had begun in 1888.

It was not until 1970 that he assumed his post as the country’s first President.

Jawara resisted post-independence pressure to become part of neighbouring Senegal, which surrounds the whole country with the exception of its Atlantic coastline. 

Following his 1994 ouster, Jawara sought refuge in Britain where he lived with his family until 2002 when he returned home after President Jammeh granted him amnesty and returned his assets to him.

While in power, his regime was considered one of the most democratic on the African continent.

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