Felix Tshisekedi: Opposition leader named winner in DR Congo presidential election

Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has won the long-delayed presidential election, the electoral commission announced early on Thursday to the surprise of many, as the vast country braced for possible protests over alleged rigging.

Tshisekedi, who received more than 7 million votes, or 38%, had not been widely considered the leading candidate and is relatively untested. The son of late opposition leader Etienne, who pursued the presidency for many years, he surprised Congolese last year by breaking away from an opposition effort to unite behind a single candidate.

Some observers have suggested that President Joseph Kabila’s government sought to make a deal as hopes faded for a win for ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who received more than 4 million votes, or 23%.

It was not immediately clear whether opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, who had pushed hard for Kabila to leave power and vowed to clean up DRC’s widespread corruption, will contest the results after leading in polling. The constitutional court has 14 days to validate them. Fayulu received more than 6 million votes, or 34%.

‘This is the coronation of a lifetime’

This is DRC’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960. Kabila has ruled since 2001 in the troubled nation rich in the minerals key to smartphones around the world and has amassed vast wealth. He is barred from serving three consecutive terms, but during more than two years of election delays many Congolese feared he’d find a way to stay in office.

“This is the coronation of a lifetime,” the deputy secretary-general of Tshisekedi’s party, Rubens Mikindo, said above the cheers at party headquarters. “This is the beginning of national reconciliation.”

Scores of people in the capital, Kinshasa, danced after the election results were announced long after midnight, but observers waited to see how other Congolese would respond, especially after Fayulu this week warned that the results were “not negotiable.”

Activist groups on Wednesday urged people to “be ready to massively take to the streets” if results didn’t match “the truth of the ballot boxes.”

Attention turns to Congo’s powerful Catholic church, which has said its 40,000 election observers at all polling stations found a “clear winner” but was barred by electoral regulations from saying more.

If the church found Fayulu won, “how will population react?” Stephanie Wolters, analyst with the Institute for Security Studies, posted on Twitter ahead of the announcement. She added, will the African Union “consider a power transfer ‘enough’ or will they push for investigation and real result?”

The delayed results come after international pressure to announce an outcome that reflected the will of the people. The United States threatened sanctions against officials who rigged the vote.

The largely peaceful election was marred by the malfunctioning of many voting machines that Congo used for the first time. Dozens of polling centers opened hours late as materials went missing. And in a last-minute decision, some 1 million of the country’s 40 million voters were barred from participating, with the electoral commission blaming a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

Defiantly, tens of thousands of voters in one of the barred communities held their own ballot on election day. Fayulu won easily.

Congo’s government cut internet service the day after the vote to prevent speculation on social media. As the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place outside.

Some Congolese weary of Kabila’s long rule, two turbulent years of election delays and years of conflict that killed millions of people said they simply wanted peace. Some said they would be happy as long as Fayulu or Tshisekedi won, while recalling the violence that followed past disputed elections.

Many Congolese objected to Shadary, suspecting that Kabila would continue to rule from behind the scenes.

‘I deplore all the disorder’

Now DRC faces a new leader who is little known after spending many years in Belgium and living in the shadow of his outspoken father.

On Wednesday afternoon, hours before results were announced, some Tshisekedi supporters began to celebrate at his Union for Democracy and Social Progress party headquarters, with calendars already printed saying “Felix Tshisekedi president.”

The 56-year-old Tshisekedi took over as head of Congo’s most prominent opposition party in early 2018, a year after his father’s death.

Some Congolese have said Tshisekedi lost support by splitting the opposition. He was less visible in campaigning than Fayulu and did not make himself available to reporters after the vote. As he cast his ballot, he accused Congo’s government of deliberately creating a mess to spark a court challenge that could allow Kabila to extend his time in power.

“I deplore all the disorder,” Tshisekedi said.

Somalia's Puntland Elected New President

Somalia Punt-land

One of Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions on Tuesday witnessed a peaceful transfer of power, following a hotly contested presidential election that ousted the incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas in the first round of voting.

Said Abdullahi Deni, who is likely to continue Puntland’s close cooperation with the United States, defeated his closest rival, Asad Osman Abdullahi. He was sworn in for a new five-year term.

Deni has taken a hardline against the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab and a rival splinter faction that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, said Matt Bryden, head of the Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research.

“He has campaigned as a reformist, promising to strengthen government institutions, fight corruption and stabilise the economy,” Bryden said.

A former Somali federal minister for planning, Demi won 35 votes out of the 66 lawmakers that voted, the speaker of Puntland’s parliament, Abdihakim Mohamed Ahmed, said.

He replaces the incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, who served a single term and was eliminated in a first round of voting.

About Puntland

Puntland, on the tip of the Horn of Africa, has an often tense relationship with the federal government of Somalia.

Six years ago, it was a hotbed of piracy, and hundreds of attacks cost the shipping industry billions of dollars.

But a combination of maritime patrols, stronger Somali security forces and better security protocols by mariners mean attacks are now rare.

African Union and UN relaunch Central African Republic peace talks

CAR

Senior officials from the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on Tuesday began a visit to Bangui to “relaunch” the AU-led peace talks.

The senior officials are in Bangui “to revive international efforts for lasting peace in the country, through dialogue between the government and armed groups under the auspices of the African Union Initiative,” said a UN statement.

The AU mediation, launched in July 2017 and supported by the UN and the main partners of the Central African Republic, is criticized by diplomats and observers for its slow pace and a lack of results.

The visit – which includes Jean-Pierre Lacroix, head of the UN peacekeeping department, and Smail Chergui, AU peace commissioner – is scheduled to last until Thursday.

A parallel mediation has been launched by Russia backed by Sudan. Criticized by France, it brought together, at the end of August in Khartoum, three militias of the former Seléka coalition and the antibalaka group, a self-proclaimed self-defence militia.

At the end of September in New York, Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra stated that mediation for peace in his country was the responsibility of the AU, adding that Russia’s involvement in talks with armed groups was only for “facilitation” purposes.

The Central African Republic, has been mired in a deadly conflict for the past six years, which has displaced more than a quarter of its 4.5 million inhabitants.

Gabon Premier, hails international community over failed coup attempts

Gabon

The Gabon government has praised the military and international condemnation for the attempted coup d’etat staged by five soldiers on Monday, January 7.

Prime minister Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet paid a visit days after the incident to the premises of the state broadcasting outfit in the capital, Libreville.

From walls riddled with bullet holes to floors littered with broken glass, the gravity of the violence was clear. 

The mutineers forced their way into the studios of the national radio to announce a takeover of the government asking citizens to rise up and help restore democracy.

The army fought their way into the building and overpowered the plotters. Three of them are under arrest whiles two of them have been killed, the presidency confirmed on Monday.

“Our condemnation has been echoed beyond Gabon, since many diplomatic chancery of many friendly countries, international organizations such as the African Union, the United Nations, all these actors of the international community, have also condemned this act,” the Premier who is leader of government business said.

His boss, President Omar Bongo Ondimba, is currently in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, convalescing from a stroke that got him hospitalized for weeks in Saudi Arabia.

Ngondet urged calm as he heaped praises on the military for acting “with great professionalism, promptness and efficiency.” The country remains tense despite assurances of government control.

Sudan’s Mo Ibrahim wants ICC to drop Bashir charges

Sudan

The International Criminal Court, ICC, should drop charges of war crimes charges against embattled Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir if he agrees to step down amid growing anti-government protests.

This is a view advanced by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudan-born telecoms billionaire. He was speaking in an interview with the BBC, suggesting that Bashir agreeing to go could potentially save the country a civil war.

“If that is going to save lives, if it is going to save us from a bloody civil war, let the man go in peace. 

“Although I hate impunity, I mean people should be punished for their sins, but if that’s the price of letting the man go, fine,” the billionair whose foundation awards exemplary former democratic leaders with a $5m prize stressed. 

Bashir, who came to power in 1989, is wanted by the court for alleged genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

But since the indictment in 2009, Bashir has blatantly defied the arrest warrant by travelling to countries that are signatories of the Rome Statute including Uganda, Rwanda and Egypt.

South Africa is the only country where Bashir was troubled as a local human rights group lodged an application in court challenging the country’s failure to arrest a ‘war criminal’ despite the ICC obligations.

He eventually left the country before the end of the African Union summit he was attending, disregarding a court order that would have seen his detained and handed over to the ICC.

Migrants stranded at sea despair for future amid wait for EU port


ABOARD SEA-WATCH 3 IN THE MEDITERRANEAN, Jan 8 (Reuters) – G ermany said on Tuesday it could take in some of the 300 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean in recent weeks, but dozens – including five children – remained stranded at sea with no European country offering a safe port.
The Sea-Watch 3, a vessel run by a German humanitarian group, plucked 32 people from an unsafe boat off the coast of Libya on Dec. 22, and another German charity, Sea-Eye, rescued 17 others on Dec. 29.
The vessels – carrying a combined 49 people – have been sailing back and forth off the coast of Malta for days. The ships’ crews have expressed concern about the migrants’ mental state, exacerbated by bad weather and seasickness.
“The children, they are sick…, and there’s no sleeping because of the waves. We are dying slowly in this place,” said Diamond, a Nigerian man rescued by the Sea-Watch 3 who declined to give his last name.
Malta, the smallest European Union member state, is asking partners to take in some of the migrants, including another 249 people who were picked up by Maltese navy boats in the final week of 2018.
“The only sustainable outcome is a Europe-wide solution,” Kim Heaton-Heather, the Sea-Watch 3 head of mission, told Reuters aboard the ship. “Everyone is trying to get rid of their responsibility.”
Germany is willing to take in 50 migrants as long as other European countries also do their part, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Tuesday. The Netherlands had also indicated it was willing to welcome some.
Italy’s government has split on the issue, with the hardline anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refusing to host a single migrant while Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte offers to take in a small portion as long as Malta lets the ships dock.
Talks to divvy up the migrants are ongoing “and the Maltese government would like to see them concluded in the coming hours,” Malta’s government said in a statement.
“A long-term European solution for similar issues in the future should be a priority in order to avoid a repeat which puts even more burden on a member state like Malta which always abides by its obligations,” it said.
Since Salvini shut Italy’s ports to migrant-rescue ships last June, the EU’s executive commission often has had to conduct lengthy negotiations with member states to share out new arrivals before the rescue ships are allowed to dock.
Two dozen humanitarian groups, including Save the Children, asked on Tuesday for an urgent meeting with the Italian prime minister to try to end the standoff at sea.

Zambian online mock president Lungu for South African medical visit

Zambia

Zambians online have questioned the nature of a visit to South Africa by president Edgar Lungu, who is scheduled to meet his counterpart, president Cyril Ramapahosa and also undergo a routine health check-up.

According to a press statement released by Lungu’s Special Assistant for Press and public Relations , Amos Chanda, the president will discuss the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), before attend hospital for his routine annual medical review.

Latest from DRC

While several regional and global powers including the African Union, European Union, United States, Belgium and United Nations have urged DRC’s electoral commission to start releasing provisional results, this is yet to happen.

On Tuesday, representatives of opposition candidate, Felix Tshisekedi, said they have met with outgoing President Joseph Kabila’s camp to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

READ MORE: Kabila camp denies meeting opposition over ‘transition’

Seeking healthcare abroad

Zambians were however more interested in the news of the president’s health visit, using the opportunity to call out the government for not doing enough to provide quality healthcare in the country.

Several African leaders often resort to seeking medical care abroad. Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa and vice-president Constantino Chiwenga often seek medical care in South Africa.

Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe’s prefered healthcare destination is Singapore, while Gabon’s president Omar Ali Bongo is currently recuperating in Morocco.

Ramaphosa, Zuma put on united front at ANC rally

South Africa

Ramaphosa said Mandela, fondly known by his clan name, Madiba, also visited Dube’s grave after casting his ballot in the first democratic elections in 1994.

“Madiba said when he was at the gravesite, ‘Mr President, I have come to report to you that South Africa is free today, 27 April in 1994’, after casting his vote,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said on Tuesday he told Dube that South Africa had changed “immeasurably” and that the lives of South Africans had “improved”.

“We can report that SA is a nation among nations, as he had wished. A united, non-racial democracy founded on the principle of equal rights for all,” said Ramaphosa.

He said the country now had a progressive Constitution that not only recognised injustices of the past but required that necessary measures to achieve redress were taken. He praised the country’s institutions, independent judiciary, free media and active citizenry.

“Freedom has been unleashed and the darkness and the gloom that president Dube spoke about has passed,” said Ramaphosa.

Canary Wharf: second man falls to his death in 24 hours

City worker’ plunged from fourth floor of Cabot Place shopping centre

Foreign News

A second man has died after “falling from a height” at Canary Wharf, less than 24 hours after a commuter plunged to his death from an escalator.

The tragedy is understood to have taken place inside the Cabot Place shopping complex beside the busy commuter station, in the heart of London’s financial district.

Employees “described hearing a sickening ‘thud’ and screams” as the victim, a man in his 50s, plunged from the fourth floor of the complex at around 8.30am this morning, the Daily Mirrorreports.

“The noise was unlike anything I had ever heard before – I thought it must have been a gun shot – then I heard screaming,” Jordan Bruin, who manages a clothing shop within the centre, told the Mirror.

“I ran out of the shop and there was a guy lying on the floor, he had fallen from the top floor.”

A local man told the London Evening Standard that the man was “dressed professionally, like a City worker” and that a bag and mobile phone were lying close to the body.

Despite treatment from emergency services, he was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 9am.

The shopping centre was closed for around three hours after the incident, but has since reopened.

Yesterday, a 32-year-old man was killed in what appears to be a freak accident after falling from a moving escalator inside Canary Wharf tube station. Police are not treating the incident as suspicious.

CAF: confirmed Guines to host AFCON 2025

Guinea

Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad announced on Sunday that Guinea had agreed to host the African Nations Cup (AFCON) in 2025, potentially solving a crisis that ensued when Cameroon was stripped of this year’s AFCON.

Ahmad, who was on a visit to Guinea, along with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, said Guinea’s President Alpha Condé had agreed to a delay in hosting the tournament.

Guinea’s football federation had earlier protested plans by CAF to strip them of the AFCON 2023 hosting rights.

In 2014, CAF awarded Nations Cup hosting rights to Cameroon (2019), Ivory Coast (2021) and Guinea (2023).

But in November last year, CAF stripped Cameroon of this year’s hosting rights, citing insecurity and infrastructure delays. CAF then proposed that all AFCONs be delayed, with Cameroon hosting AFCON2021, Ivory Coast hosting the touranment in 2023 and Guinea, being pushed forward to 2025.

READ MORE: Is it time for CAF to revise process of awarding AFCON hosting rights?

While Ahmad also told reporters that Cameroon has agreed to host the Nations Cup in 2021, Ivory Coast, which has been offered AFCON 2023, has lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the decision to hand the 2021 tournament to Cameroon.

CAF is set to announce the host for this year’s African Nations Cup on Wednesday, choosing between bids from Egypt and South Africa.