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Opposition party candidates cry foul over ruling party victory in Mauritania elections

“We reject the results of the election and we consider that they in no way express the will of the Mauritanian people,”

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Mohamed Vall Ould Bellal, president of the Independent National Electoral Commission, attends a press conference

Mauritania’s ruling party candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has won the presidential election with 52 per cent of the vote, the electoral commission announced Sunday, with opposition candidates crying foul. Ghazouani easily beat main opposition opponents Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid (18.58 per cent) and Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar (17.87 per cent), according to the official figures from Saturday’s polls.

Former prime minister Boubacar, addressing a news conference along with three other candidates, charged that “multiple irregularities…eliminated any credibility” in the election, which was to be the first democratic transfer of power in the country.

“We reject the results of the election and we consider that they in no way express the will of the Mauritanian people,” he said, vowing the opposition would use “every legal means” to challenge them.

The CENI electoral commission said voter turnout was 62.66 per cent. With a clear majority, the 62-year-old Ghazouani, former head of the domestic security service, has won outright with no need for a second-round runoff election.

Appeal to the people

Ghazouani had already declared himself the winner in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of outgoing president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, his supporters and journalists. Second-placed Abeid, an anti-slavery activist, told the opposition news conference: “We are launching an appeal to the Mauritanian people… to resist, within the bounds of the law, this umpteenth coup d’etat against the will of the people.”

Incidents broke out between protesters and police following Ghazouani’s declaration in the capital and in northwest Nouadhibou, the only province where he did not come in first. The opposition said they were planning protests from Monday afternoon.

“We will organise protests, this is our constitutional right,” Mohamed Ould Moloud, who got 2.44 per cent of the vote, told the news conference late Sunday, stressing they would be peaceful. Baba Hamidou Kane, who polled 8.71 per cent, said the four opposition candidates would lodge an official protest with the electoral commission on Monday.

Although the vote 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, the opposition has raised concerns that the vote could perpetuate a government dominated by military figures.

Some 1.5 million people were eligible to vote in the predominantly Muslim state, which is estimated to be twice the size of France but has a population of just 4.5 million.

Alleged irregularities

CENI advised all candidates “to show prudence and restraint”, and hoped the calm during the campaign and on the voting day would prevail. Both Abeid and Boubacar 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 – 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. He won elections a year later and was again elected in 2014 in polls boycotted by the opposition.

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

Nevertheless, rights groups have accused Mauritania’s 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 even though 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, pointing in particular to corruption, as well as difficult access to credit.

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Herve Renard resigns from Morocco coaching job after AFCON flop

The Frenchman had been in charge of Morocco since February 2016 and led the nation to the 2018 World Cup in Russia

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Herve Renard resigns from Morocco coaching job after AFCON flop
Morocco ex-manager Herve Renard. (AFP)

Herve Renard has announced his resignation as Morocco coach after a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations campaign that saw his side knocked out by Benin in the last 16.

“It is time for me to close this long and beautiful chapter of my life, not without some emotion and sadness, but it is an inevitable decision taken well before AFCON 2019,” said Renard in a statement. 

“Yes, we had all hoped better for this AFCON 2019. But this is football.”

The Frenchman had been in charge of Morocco since February 2016 and led the nation to their first World Cup in two decades in Russia last year.

However, their shock penalty shootout defeat to Benin came against a side reduced to 10 men in extra time and after Ajax star Hakim Ziyech slapped a spot-kick of his own against the post in the final seconds of normal time.

Renard has managed national teams across Africa and is the only coach to have won the Cup of Nations with two countries — Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast three years later.

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Algeria emerge AFCON 2019 champions after win over Senegal

Algeria’s win against Senegal in this year’s tournament makes it the country’s second AFCON win in 29 years

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Algeria emerge AFCON 2019 champions after win over Senegal
Algerian team celebrate championship with trophy after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final match between Senegal and Algeria at the Cairo Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on July 19, 2019. Algeria won their first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title in 29 years, beating Senegal 1-0 late Friday in Egypt. (AFP)

Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.

Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.

For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.

It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.

With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.

Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.

As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.

The final whistle was greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged winners of the expanded 24-team event. 

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Four killed in Ethiopia during secessionist protest

The Sidama, the largest ethnic group in the southern region, have been agitating for their own semi-autonomous state

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Four killed in Ethiopia during secessionist protest
A young man rides a motorcycle along a parkway as young people of the Sidama ethnic group, the largest in southern Ethiopia, celebrate at Hawassa city over plans by local elders to declare the establishment of a breakaway region for the Sidama. - The Sidama are planning to declare the formation of their own region, a move analysts warn could spark bloodshed, further aggravating the many political and security crises facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. (Photo by Michael TEWELDE / AFP)

Four people have died of gunshot wounds in the southern Ethiopian city of Hawassa, where protesters have been demanding the establishment of a breakaway state, a hospital executive said Friday.

Security forces carried out arrests as violence spread to districts outside the regional capital on a second day of protests, state media reported.

The Sidama, the largest ethnic group in the southern region, have been agitating for their own semi-autonomous state, posing the latest political challenge to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Expectations had been high that they would unilaterally declare their own region on Thursday.

Ethiopia is already partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regions. The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity within a year of them requesting it.

The SLM, which has been leading calls for the new state, accepted government demands for a delay pending a referendum before the end of the year.

But other parties were unhappy and protests erupted Thursday.

Sidama activists have accused the security forces of opening fire on protesters who set tyres alight and lobbed stones on Thursday. 

“There are four people dead, three men and one woman,” said Zinaw Serniso, general manager of the Hawassa Referral Hospital.

One of the victims had been shot in the head while another was shot in the stomach.

Three of the victims died on Thursday, while the fourth, a woman, was admitted and died on Friday from injuries believed to have been sustained the previous day.

Regional police commissioner Tewodros Woldemichael told state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate that police were arresting people who had participated in violence. 

He acknowledged that unrest had spread outside the city. 

“Efforts are underway to put under control the violence which started in Hawassa and later spread to the neighboring Sidama woredas (district),” he said.

Hawassa residents said the city was calm Friday but that protests and clashes with security forces continued on the outskirts. 

Desalegne Mesa, a spokesman for the Sidama Liberation Movement, said party members in and around Hawassa had reported 19 deaths in total, though that number could not be independently verified. 

Desalegne called on the government to reduce the security presence in the Sidama region. 

In addition to regional and federal police, soldiers from the Ethiopian military have been patrolling the streets of Hawassa. It is unclear who has been shooting protesters. 

‘Brutal killings’ –

“The community is angry because of the delays of the government to answer their constitutional question,” Desalegne said. 

“The community has to remain stable and tolerant, and we’ll see what the government does to solve this problem in a constitutional way. It’s not good to solve problems by force.” 

Four killed in Ethiopia during secessionist protest
Youth from the Sidama ethnic group, the largest in southern Ethiopia, ride in the back of a truck at Hawassa city during celebrations over plans by local elders to declare the establishment of a breakaway region for the Sidama. (Photo by Michael TEWELDE / AFP)

Tessema Elias, a law professor at Hawassa University and an activist pushing for the formation of a new state, said a group of around five prominent Sidama activists had been arrested Friday.

He said the activists had been trying to convene a meeting to calm the population, and warned that their arrests could exacerbate tensions.

“There is a lot of misinformation going around,” Tessema said. “People are not informed and there are a lot of exaggerations. I am getting a lot of reports of very brutal killings but I cannot give an exact number.”

The Sidama issue is the latest headache for Abiy.

He has gained high marks abroad for his drive to reform the nation after decades of iron-fisted rule.

But change in this highly diverse country has also helped to fuel ethnic violence, displacing more than two million people.  

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