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Pro-Biafran group IPOB calls off Nigeria election boycott

Opinion is divided between those who wanted to boycott the election and those keen to vote.

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A member of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) party talks with people about why not to vote in the upcoming general elections in Aba - AFP

A pro-Biafran separatist group said Friday it had lifted its call for a boycott of Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections this weekend.

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) wants independence for the Igbo people who are the majority in southeast Nigeria, and had urged its supporters not to vote on Saturday.

IPOB’s self-styled “supreme leader” — former London estate agent Nnamdi Kanu — has said the action was part of a wider call for a referendum on sovereignty.

But he tweeted late Thursday that the boycott was lifted as all the group’s “preconditions and terms have been met, signed, sealed and delivered”.

Kanu, who is in his 40s, disappeared after an army raid on his home in the southeastern city of Umuahia in September 2017. He re-emerged in Israel in October and is now in Britain.

The IPOB high command confirmed the decision in a statement on Friday, but neither it nor Kanu gave further details, which it undertook to publish later.

This will likely fuel speculation of a deal between the group and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, which stood to lose out if Igbo voters — who tend to support the PDP — stayed at home.

The five states in southeast Nigeria have just over 10 million registered voters and have long been a stronghold for the PDP.

The party’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar has chosen an Igbo politician, Peter Obi, as his running mate.

Abubakar, a former vice-president, has said he is in favour of restructuring Nigeria’s federal system by devolving more power from the centre.

The southeast has long complained it has been marginalised by successive governments and military regimes since the end of the civil war in 1970.

The conflict, which killed more than a million people, started after a unilateral declaration of an independent republic of Biafra in 1967.

No Igbo politician has held high office since 1983, when Alex Ekwueme was Shehu Shagari’s vice-president.

Shagari and Ekwueme were ousted in a coup led by army general Muhammadu Buhari, who has been a  civilian president since 2015.

On the streets of Umuahia, the capital of Abia state, opinion was divided between those who wanted to boycott the election and those keen to vote.

Emmanuel Odiwonma, a market trader in Aba, said people in the region had been treated as “second-class citizens” and was happy to stay at home.

But pensioner Edmond Okoli, said: “If you boycott the election, you’re encouraging the person you don’t want to win, it is stupid” 

The arrest of Nnamdi Kanu on treason charges in October 2015 sparked a wave of street protests across the southeast, leading to clashes with the security forces.

The region has been largely calm in the run-up to the election, but there has been a noticeable increase in military and police checkpoints, AFP correspondents said.

In recent days, hundreds of young IPOB supporters marched in several towns, calling on local people to stand up against the federal government.

Two electoral commission offices in Abia and neighbouring Anambra state caught fire this month, destroying election materials. But there has been no claim of responsibility.

Security analyst Don Okereke said President Muhammadu Buhari was unpopular in the southeast partly  because it is a mainly Christian area and many Igbos are businesspeople.

Nigeria is emerging slowly from recession caused in part by a slump in global oil prices.

“People want business to pick up again, they attribute the economic slowdown and the high level of unemployment to Buhari’s administration,” he added, predicting a high turnout.

But one trader in Aba, Leonard Munachimso, expressed doubts: “Many of us, as Biafrans, didn’t even get our PVCs (permanent voter cards), so we can’t go out and vote.

“I don’t think many of us will go out to the poll.”

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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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