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Opposition lose seats in Sierra Leone parliament after court ruling

Nine of the deputies were kicked out immediately and replaced by candidates of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP)

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Opposition lose seats in Sierra Leone parliament after court ruling

The Sierra Leone high court on Friday revoked the parliamentary seats of ten leading opposition party legislators, wiping out their majority in the chamber and prompting clashes with police on the streets of Freetown.

The court took the action against 10 of the 16 deputies of the he opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) who were being prosecuted for alleged breaches of electoral law linked to the legislative elections which took place in March 2018.

The court also ordered an election re-run for a parliamentary seat near Freetown.

Nine of the deputies were kicked out immediately and replaced by candidates of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) who had come second in last year’s elections. The tenth will be replaced in a by-election.

APC lawyers said they intended to take the case to the supreme court.

Just minutes after the court ruling, violence erupted between APC supporters and police at the party headquarters in Freetown. 

Dozens of people were arrested for rioting, including senior party executives and former ministers, according to a police source.

“Our supporters were teargassed in our party office for hours, by the police, the main opposition party’s secretary general Alhaji Foday Yanssaneh told AFP. 

“Our party office was also vandalised and looted during the riot by the police. It’s is very sad day for our democracy,” Yanssaneh added. 

The court decision effectively wipes out the APC majority in parliament, 

The figures as they stand now are SLPP 58 seats and APC 57 seats

“It’s a victory for our party and the rule of law,” ruling party  spokesman Lahai Lawrence Leema told AFP amidst jubilations at their party headquarters.

Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits but the former British colony remains one of the world’s poorest nations and is only gradually recovering from a 1991-2000 civil war which left some 120,000 dead.

A 2014-2016 outbreak of Ebola and falls in the price of raw materials also dealt the country further major blows.

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Sudan swears-in ex-UN official Abdalla Hamdok as Prime Minister

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who already headed the TMC, was sworn in as the new soveriegn council’s chairman

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Sudan swears-in ex-UN official Abdalla Hamdok as Prime Minister
Abdalla Hamdok, appointed Prime Minister of Sudan. (File photo)

Sudan has taken further steps in its transition towards civilian rule with the swearing-in of a new Sovereign Council and Prime Minister.

A government is expected to be formed within a week, after which the new institutions can tackle the daunting task of rescuing a failing economy and ending three different internal armed conflicts.

Abdalla Hamdok took the oath as transitional Prime Minister moments after flying in from Ethiopia, where he spent years working as a senior economist for the United Nations.

“The government’s top priorities are to stop the war, build sustainable peace, address the severe economic crisis and build a balanced foreign policy,” he told reporters.

Hours earlier, the 11 members of a civilian-majority Sovereign Council were also sworn in, marking the first time that Sudan was not under full military rule since Omar al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup.

The body replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down the Islamist ruler in April.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who already headed the TMC, was sworn in as the new ruling council’s chairman.

Vigilance –

Wearing his usual green beret and camouflage uniform, Burhan took the oath in a short ceremony, one hand on the Quran and the other holding a military baton under his arm.

He will be Sudan’s head of state for the first 21 months of the 39-month transition period, until a civilian takes over for the remainder.

The Sovereign Council includes two women, including a member of Sudan’s Christian minority, and it will oversee the formation of a government and of a legislative body.

The inauguration of the civilian-dominated ruling council, which held its first meeting in the afternoon, was widely welcomed but some Khartoum residents warned they would keep their new rulers in check.

“If this council does not meet our aspirations and cannot serve our interests, we will never hesitate to have another revolution,” said Ramzi al-Taqi, a fruit seller.

“We would topple the council just like we did the former regime,” he said.

The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding its pariah status.

Sudan’s new rulers are expected to push for the lifting of the country’s suspension from the African Union that followed a deadly crackdown on a sit-in in June.

The ruling council will also seek to have the country removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for his role in massacres in the Darfur region, where a rebellion broke out in 2003.

He appeared in court on Monday on corruption charges, for the opening of a trial in which an investigator said the deposed leader admitted to receiving millions in cash from Saudi Arabia.

Pictures of the 75-year-old autocrat sitting in a cage during the hearing instantly became a symbol of his regime’s downfall.

The sight of their former tormentor in the dock was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Sudanese, but many warned the graft trial should not distract from the more serious indictments he faces before the ICC.

Challenges ahead –

Amid celebrations of the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable within the protest camp that brought about one of the most significant moments in Sudan’s modern history.

One reason is the omnipresence in the transition of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a member of the sovereign council and a paramilitary commander whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.

His Rapid Support Forces sprang out of the Janjaweed militia notorious for alleged crimes in Darfur.

Pacifying a country still plagued by deadly unrest in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile will be one of the most urgent tasks of Sudan’s transitional institutions.

The other daunting challenge that awaits the fragile civilian-military alliance is the rescue of an economy that has all but collapsed in recent years.

It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December 2018 that sparked the wave of protests fatal to Bashir’s regime.

Hamdok, who turned down an offer by Bashir to become finance minister last year, said Sudan’s economy had great potential but admitted in was in tatters.

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Nigeria’s President Buhari inaugurates 43-member cabinet

The 43-member cabinet was inaugurated at a ceremony at the state house in Abuja almost three months after Buhari’s swearing-in

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Nigerian President Buhari inaugurates 43-member cabinet

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday handed out jobs to his new cabinet, insisting the government was able to meet Nigeria’s challenges despite criticism that his lineup favoured ageing loyalists. 

The former military ruler faces a raft of problems for his second term in office.

They range from curbing a grinding Islamist insurgency and spreading insecurity to fighting rampant corruption and bolstering a fragile economic recovery.

The 43-member cabinet was inaugurated at a ceremony in the presidential villa in Abuja almost three months after Buhari was sworn in for his final four years in power.

“Our nation continues to face tough challenges and we are prepared to meet them,” he told ministers at the televised swearing-in event.

Buhari maintained key ministers in departments including finance, foreign affairs, transport and education and opted to keep the crucial petroleum portfolio under his control.  

Critics blasted him for packing his new cabinet with veterans from his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party instead of opting for more technocrats, youth or women.

There are only seven women in the new government, and the two youngest ministers are aged in their mid-40s. 

Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed, who held onto her position, told reporters that bolstering much-needed income would be a key focus.

“The whole of government will be geared towards improving our revenue,” she said.

Among other key players to stay in place were former Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola on the works and housing briefs, Rotimi Amaechi at transport and Geoffrey Onyeama as foreign minister. 

Timipre Sylva, former governor of oil-rich Bayelsa state, became the junior petroleum minister under the supervision of Buhari as the President followed his predecessors over the past two decades and kept control of the vital sector. 

Rauf Aregbesola, a new appointee, was named interior minister and Bashir Magashi took over at defence. 

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Ugandan and Rwandan Presidents sign pact to end row

Both leaders had exchanged accusations of spying, political assassinations and internal meddling

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Ugandan and Rwandan Presidents sign pact to row | News Central TV

The Presidents of Rwanda and Uganda on Wednesday signed an agreement in Angola to ease months of tensions after the two leaders exchanged accusations of spying, political assassinations and meddling.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni were once close allies but their relations have turned deeply hostile in a dispute that damaged trade between the East African neighbours. 

Trade has been severely disrupted since late February when Rwanda abruptly closed the border with its northern neighbour, severing a major economic land route.

In May, Ugandan police accused Rwandan soldiers of entering the country and killing two men, drawing an angry denial from Kigali.

On Wednesday, the two leaders agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty and that “of the neighbouring countries”, according to a statement issued after the signing.

They undertook to “refrain from actions conducive to destabilisation or subversion in the territory of the other party (and) acts such as the financing, training and infiltration of destabilising forces”.

The two leaders also agreed to “protect and respect the rights and freedoms” of people “residing or transiting” through their respective countries and to resume cross-border activities “including movement of persons and goods… as soon as possible”.

After the signing, Kagame said he did not anticipate any problems in working “more specifically with President Museveni to address what we have agreed to address”.

“It may take a bit of time to understand each other but I think we have come a long way,” Kagame told a news conference.

READ: Kagame, Museveni agree to talks over growing tensions

“We are going to address all these problems….indiscriminately,” he said, adding: “We are not going to be found wanting.”

‘No destabilisation or subversion’ –

For his part, Museveni said “Uganda is fully committed to enforcing this agreement” which is set “to improve the political and economic relations between our countries”.

“We have agreed on a raft of issues… largely meant to improve our security, trade and political relations,” he said.

Heads of state including Angolan President Joao Lourenco, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi — who facilitated the talks —  as well as Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso witnessed the signing in the Angolan capital, Luanda.

Lourenco hailed the accord saying it showed the two leaders’ “willingness to overcome conflict”.

Left unresolved, the row between the two strongmen would risk dragging in their neighbours, threatening economic integration and regional stability in an already conflict-prone swathe of the continent.

READ: Uganda, Rwanda, sued over border closure

The standoff escalated dramatically in March when Rwanda publicly accused Uganda of abducting its citizens and supporting rebels bent on overthrowing the government.

Museveni — who has admitted meeting, but not endorsing, anti-Kagame rebels — harbours his own suspicions about his erstwhile ally. His officials have accused Rwandans in Uganda of spying, and some have been detained or deported.

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