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Tshisekedi receives crucial support from African leaders

Fayulu expected to accept defeat in the interest of peace

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Felix Tshisekedi
Photo: EPA

Democratic Republic of Congo’s president elect Felix Tshisekedi received a chorus of congratulations from African leaders on Sunday and Monday in a growing sign that his disputed election win will not be questioned internationally.

Regional support is crucial for Tshisekedi after a disorganised election on Dec. 30 that runner-up candidate Martin Fayulu says was rigged and that Congo’s Catholic Church contested. Many worry that outgoing president Joseph Kabila will continue to hold sway, limiting Tshisekedi’s power.

The new president will be the first to take power through an election since Congo’s independence in 1960, when Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was toppled in a coup after less than three months in office. Congolese and their neighbours are anxious that the process remain peaceful in a country that has drawn regional armies into its civil wars over the decades.

International allies and neighbours had struggled to come to a consensus after the poll that observers said was marred by a series of irregularities including malfunctioning voting machines and polling stations that opened late or closed early.

In a surprise statement last week, the African Union asked for the final results to be postponed because of “serious doubts” over the conduct of the election, raising fears that a protracted dispute could fan unrest in the volatile country of 80 million people.

But since the Constitutional Court early on Sunday rejected Fayulu’s complaint and backed Tshisekedi’s victory, opposition to the vote appears to have softened. Tshisekedi is expected to be sworn in on Jan. 24.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated Tshisekedi on Monday, according to Reuters, and in a statement “called on all parties and all stakeholders in the DRC to respect the decision of the Constitutional Court”.

The presidents of Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi congratulated Tshisekedi in a series of Tweets on Sunday, echoing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – a bloc that includes South Africa and Angola – which also called for the transition of power to remain peaceful, backing off from earlier calls for a recount.

The AU has yet to comment since it noted the court’s decision. It postponed a visit by a high-level delegation to Kinshasa that had been scheduled for Monday.

Fayulu says Tshisekedi and outgoing President Joseph Kabila made a deal to cheat him out of a more than 60-percent win – an accusation they both deny.

On Monday he asked African leaders to “respect the sovereign decision of the Congolese people who elected me president”.

“Last week we had seen a risk of foreign intervention, if the heads of neighbouring states backed Mr Fayulu in a protracted dispute. Now that most of them have accepted Mr Tshisekedi’s win, the risk looks somewhat lower,” said research firm NKC African Economics in a statement on Monday.

Police in the capital Kinshasa blocked access to the headquarters of a party in Fayulu’s Lamuka coalition, where he had intended to gather supporters and protest against the confirmation of Tshisekedi’s victory.

Lamuka spokeswoman Eve Bazaiba told Reuters the building had been besieged and protesters dispersed, forcing Fayulu to abandon his plans.

Some Congolese hoped Fayulu would accept defeat in the interest of peace.

“He (Fayulu) needs to let it go. Going to the Constitutional Court and all that is just creating problems and for me it’s a waste of time,” said Kinshasa resident Patricia Mokabi.

“We are all Congolese, we are together whether it is Felix or Fayulu, they can work together.”

Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders told local media he would have preferred the process to be more transparent, and the verification of results to be more open.

Western countries also initially expressed doubt about the preliminary vote count. Since Tshisekedi’s victory was confirmed, their responses have been more muted than those of countries in the region.

France said on Monday it had “taken note” of Tshisekedi’s victory and that it would be sending its ambassador to the swearing in ceremony. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said at a press conference that the EU would take a position after meeting with the AU on Monday.

Russia’s foreign ministry noted the historical importance of the electoral transfer of power: “We consider these elections a milestone in the political life of the DRC.”

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Egyptian authorities detain 8 accused of funding plot to ‘overthrow the state’

The detentions came after the interior ministry said 19 businesses were raided by police on Tuesday in the capital Cairo

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eight people arrested and detained by egyptian authorities

Eight people have been detained by the Egyptian authorities on accusations of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and helping to fund a plot to overthrow the state, a judicial source said. Those being held included businessmen, journalists and political figures, who have been placed in temporary detention for 15 days, the source said, while Amnesty International described the “chilling” arrests as politically motivated. 

The detentions came after the interior ministry said 19 businesses were raided by police on Tuesday in the capital Cairo and the cities of Alexandria and Ismaila. The raids were in response to the businesses allegedly funding a plot “intent on overthrowing the state and its institutions” this month, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Related: Egyptian court adds 145 people to terrorism list

They were part of a plan along with groups “claiming to represent civil political forces” which sought to carry out “violent acts and unrest against the state”, it added. A total of 250 million Egyptian pounds ($15 million) was seized in the raids, according to the ministry statement.

The government did not detail the type of businesses targeted but said they were affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. Prominent human rights lawyer Zyad el-Elaimy, who was among those arrested, was visiting a friend in Maadi, a Cairo suburb, when police detained him in the early hours of Tuesday, his mother Ekram Youssef said. 

“Some people grabbed him so he started shouting at his friend. He eventually cooperated with them once the friend came,” she said. Elaimy played a key role in the movement that unseated autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and he subsequently served as a lawmaker for a year.

Hassan Barbary, another of those arrested, had initially been charged with joining and funding a terror group, according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. Two of the eight detained were reportedly facing accusations of collaborating to spread fake news. 

Rights watchdog Amnesty slammed Egyptian authorities for their “systematic persecution and brutal crackdown on anyone who dares to criticise them”.

“The crackdown leaves no doubt about the authorities’ vision for political life in Egypt; an open-air prison with no opposition, critics, or independent reporting allowed,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, the group’s North Africa research director.

Related: ‘Back at square one’: Sudan protest leaders plan fresh June 30 march

Since the 2013 military overthrow of elected Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi – who died last week after collapsing in court – there has been a widespread crackdown on dissent. Thousands of Islamists, as well as secularists, have been jailed following trials criticised internationally, while Egypt says it is countering terrorism.

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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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Boko Haram attack kills 8 in Chad

Security sources said the seven Chadian soldiers and the guard were killed in an ambush on Friday in Mbomouga in Chad’s Ngouboua area

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Seven Chadian soldiers and a local guard were killed in a Boko Haram jihadist ambush in Lake Chad, the latest in a surge of attacks in the region, security sources said on Sunday. Boko Haram militants have been waging a decade-long insurgency in northwest Nigeria, but the conflict has spilt into Lake Chad where Nigeria borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Security sources said the seven Chadian soldiers and the guard were killed in an ambush on Friday in Mbomouga in Chad’s Ngouboua area, and another 13 people were wounded. “The Boko Haram forces lost six of their people and left behind two weapons,” one security source said.

Among the soldiers killed was a gendarme colonel, the source said. Another source said three army officers were killed in the attack. Since 2018, Boko Haram has carried out at least nine attacks on Chad. But the jihadist group has stepped up attacks outside Nigeria after a period of calm last year

Last month, militants killed four people in an attack on a Cameroonian island on Lake Chad and Boko Haram killed another 13 villagers in eastern Chad. In March jihadists killed at least 23 Chadian soldiers in an attack on an army post in the group’s deadliest attack on the country’s military.

Since 2015, troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have been grouped into a mixed, multi-national force in a bid to help fight Islamist militants.

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