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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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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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